Pubdate: 13 March 1999
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 1999 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Jay A. Miller
Note: responding to Mayor Richard Daley's announcement 
         that he would copy New York City's plan to confiscate
         the cars of suspected drunk drivers.


CHICAGO - We agree with Mayor Richard Daley that people driving while
impaired by drugs or alcohol pose a serious threat to public safety.
But if the city comes up with a new plan to address this problem, we
hope it does not follow the lead of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Instead we hope Mayor Daley chooses to respect basic civil liberties.
If the city acts responsibly, the American Civil Liberties Union will
not need to intervene.

We do, however, take strong exception to the mayor's related remark,
reported in the Chicago Tribune (Page 1, March 4), that the ACLU files
suit "against anything." The mayor's remark suggests that our past
legal challenges have been frivolous. The record is to the contrary.

Beginning in the Depression, when we defended the right of assembly of
unemployed workers wrongfully arrested by city police, we have
prevailed in an unbroken string of successful free speech and
association cases against the city. For example, in the 1940s, in a
landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, we helped establish that a speaker
could not be gagged because of a hostile response from the audience.
Our court successes in the 1950s led to the dismantling of the city's
film censorship board. In the late 1960s, we represented political
activist Dick Gregory in the U.S. Supreme Court and established that
the city's vague disorderly conduct law could not be used against
peaceful demonstrators when they marched to the late Mayor Daley's
home to protest segregation in the schools.

More recently the ACLU has prevailed against the city in protecting
free speech rights of firefighters to speak with the press, artists to
display controversial art and street performers to entertain. We also
protected the right of Dr. Quentin Young and others to peacefully
demonstrate at the 1996 Democratic Convention.

The ACLU repeatedly has stepped in to halt systemic abuse by the
city's police. In the late 1950s, an ACLU study called "Street
Detention" exposed the city's practice of denying counsel to arrestees
by moving them from station to station then trying to beat confessions
out of them. That effort paved the way for another ACLU landmark
Supreme Court case, in which the court guaranteed people in custody a
right to counsel.

During the 1968 Democratic Convention, we prevented the city's police
from obstructing news photographers. We stopped police spying in the
1970s in our suit against the city's infamous Red Squad. In 1983 we
extinguished a decades-old practice of unlawful sweep arrests. We
presently are awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the
constitutionality of the city's anti-loitering ordinance, under which
city police arrested 45,000 people without any proof of wrongdoing.

Finally we have fought hard to ensure that the city treats all people
equally. In the 1970s we put an end to the city's policy of strip
searching women but not men when they were arrested for minor
offenses. The construction of the Chicago High School for Agricultural
Sciences was stymied on racial grounds until we filed suit in the
early 1990s. And this past summer, the city agreed in a court
settlement with the ACLU to abandon its unconstitutional support of
Boy Scout troops that discriminate against people on the basis of
sexual orientation.

We are proud of the ACLU's vigilant protection of the Bill of Rights.
None of our cases has been frivolous. To the contrary we believe these
and many other successful ACLU challenges have made our beloved city a
better place to live.

Jay A. Miller, 
Executive director, 
Illinois ACLU
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