New Racial Justice Coalition in California, Angered by Governor's Veto, Seeks Passage of Racial Profiling Bill 3/17/00

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from the ACLU News, http://www.aclu.org

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 3/13: The American Civil Liberties Union and other major civil rights, grass roots and community organizations announced the formation of a Racial Justice Coalition to address racial profiling by police through a series of statewide town hall meetings and a demonstration in Sacramento next month.

The coalition was founded in the wake of Governor Gray Davis's veto last September of a law requiring law enforcement to collect data on the race and ethnicity of people stopped by the police, in an effort to counter the phenomenon of racial profiling, known familiarly as "Driving While Black or Brown" (see http://www.aclu.org/news/1999/n092899a.html).

Although the bill passed by a two-thirds majority in the California Legislature, Gov. Davis vetoed the measure, saying that he did not believe racial profiling is a serious problem in California. The bill was reintroduced by State Senator Kevin Murray, the author of the original bill, on January 24th of this year.

"Governor Davis' veto was an insult to people of color in California," said Michelle Alexander, Director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU. "If Governor Davis doesn't know that racial profiling is a serious problem in this state, then he doesn't know the people he claims to represent."

"On the other hand," she added, "if Governor Davis does know that racial profiling is a serious problem, he apparently lacks the moral and political courage to do something about it. Either way, we refuse to accept his veto."

Members of the broad-based coalition include the state ACLU affiliates, California State Conference of NAACP Branches (California NAACP), California League of United Latin American Citizens (California LULAC), the California Urban League, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Asian Law Caucus, La Raza Centro Legal, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area (LCCR), United Farm Workers (UFW), and numerous local organizations.

Walter Wilson, Legislative Director of the California NAACP, said that there are few African American men alive today who haven't been affected in some way by this "DWBB."

"Racial profiling is not a figment of our imagination," he said. "If Governor Davis thinks that we are going to forget this veto, he's wrong. We won't rest until discriminatory police practices are part of the distant past. The question is what side of history Governor Davis wants to be on."

Commenting on Davis' attempt to soften the impact of his veto by encouraging "voluntary" data collection, Van Jones, Executive Director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said, "His message to law enforcement was loud and clear: Protecting the civil rights of people of color is optional. We disagree. Protecting the civil rights of all people should be mandatory."

The coalition plans to hold town hall meetings on the issue in cities across California, including San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Monterey, Los Angeles and San Diego.

"We are organizing town hall meetings throughout California to give a voice to Latinos, African-Americans and others who have been targeted and harassed by law enforcement on the basis of race," said Marcos Contreras, Statewide Director of California LULAC. "Latinos are routinely targeted by law enforcement, whether they live in the cities or rural areas. Governor Davis turned his back on Latinos last year, by refusing to sign the bill. He has a second chance to do the right thing, and we will be watching him."

In addition, on April 27, the coalition is sponsoring a demonstration at the State Capitol in Sacramento, demanding that Governor Davis sign the new racial profiling bill when it reaches his desk this year.

"We are organizing a demonstration at the state capital to demonstrate the political power of our communities, and to send Governor Davis the message that we will not tolerate his deliberate indifference," said Renee Saucedo, a staff attorney at La Raza Centro Legal.

"The only good thing about Governor Davis' veto is that it inspired the formation of this new, powerful coalition," added the ACLU's Alexander. "The collective power of communities of color has been grossly underestimated. But like a sleeping giant, we are waking up. Ready or not, here we come."

A schedule of the town hall meetings in California can be found online at http://www.aclu.org/news/2000/n031300a.html.

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