Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Former Government Officials and ACLU Clients Are Among Featured Speakers
WASHINGTON - More than 1,500 “card-carrying” members of the American Civil Liberties Union converged on the nation's capital today for the organization’s third membership conference, an event the ACLU called a rallying point for activists to mobilize in support of civil liberties at a time when the administration has asserted unchecked powers in the name of national security.
“This is our democracy, our America, and we are here in Washington to reclaim it,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The hallmark of the past five years has been the administration’s stunning dismissal of the rule of law and its willingness to trample on our Constitution. It’s time to stand up against these abuses of power.”
The membership conference opens with two provocative “conversations” about civil liberties: the first between Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and ACLU President Nadine Strossen, moderated by NBC News correspondent Pete Williams, and the second between MSNBC political commentator Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow of Air America, moderated by the ACLU’s Romero.
“The national conversation about civil liberties cannot be one-sided, and our membership conference is the ideal forum in which to hear from all viewpoints,” said ACLU President Nadine Strossen. “The ACLU has been engaged in this conversation since our founding in 1920 and we will always be there -- with our members -- to advocate aggressively for our fundamental freedoms.”
During the conference, ACLU members will meet with and hear from many top political leaders and newsmakers, including Donna Brazile, Joe Wilson, John Dean, Alberto Mora, Cecelia Fire Thunder and Mary Beth Tinker. The conference will also feature performances by legendary recording artist Deborah Harry; reggae artist Maxi Priest; and comedians Jim Morris and Greg Proops.
Conference events begin this afternoon and run through Tuesday. Many of the plenary sessions will be webcast live at www.aclu.org. The session with Justice Scalia, which is the first plenary at 5:00 p.m. EDT today, will be carried live on C-SPAN-1. This will be the first time that an ACLU-sponsored event with Justice Scalia has been televised.
The full agenda is online at www.aclu.org/conference.
• Slam for Civil Liberties by spoken-word artists Steve Connell and Sekou (tha misfit), who will present a specially commissioned piece on government abuse of power, with the all-female hip-hop troupe Decadancetheater. (October 15, 9:00 p.m.)
• Torture, Secrecy and Surveillance: Holding Government Accountable, with Anthony D. Romero, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, and ACLU clients who have challenged the administration’s national security policies. (October 16, 12:30 p.m.)
• ACLU Gala Tribute to Civil Libertarians honoring philanthropist Peter Lewis and veteran ACLU members, with performances by Deborah Harry, Philip Glass and Maxi Priest. (October 16, 7:00 p.m.)
• Abuse of Power: Law, American Values and the National Interest with John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel; Alberto Mora, former General Counsel of the Navy; Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro, moderated by NPR’s Jackie Northam. (October 17, 1:00-2:30 p.m.)
• A multi-media Action Center to mobilize members on a wide range of civil liberties issues, including the administration's ongoing abuse of power, the First Amendment and racial justice.
• Youth Stand Up for Freedom featuring young ACLU clients and presentation of the Tinker Award by Mary Beth Tinker, an ACLU plaintiff in a landmark Vietnam-Era student free speech case (October 17, 2:45 p.m.)
• Hill Visits: ACLU activists will converge on Capitol Hill to lobby their federal lawmakers to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Americans (October 17, 9:30-12:00 p.m.)
Founded in 1920, the ACLU is the nation's premier guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
Headquartered in New York City, the ACLU has 53 staffed affiliates in major cities, more than 300 chapters nationwide, and a legislative office in Washington. Anthony D. Romero has been Executive Director of the national ACLU since 2001; Nadine Strossen was elected president of the National Board in 1991.