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The ACLU of Washington Bill of Rights awards for 2011 were presented to social justice attorney Peter Greenfield, community advocates Paula Zambrano and Patricia Flores, and youth activist Gaby Rodriguez. The honorees accepted the awards on Nov. 4 at the ACLU’s Bill of Rights Celebration Dinner in Seattle. Featured speaker at the event was Paul Butler, author of the innovative book Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.
The William O. Douglas Award, the ACLU-WA’s highest honor, is given for outstanding, consistent and sustained contributions to the cause of civil liberties. A longtime staff attorney with Columbia Legal Services, Peter Greenfield has devoted four decades to representing vulnerable populations, domestic violence victims, and those daring to challenge police practices on constitutional grounds. As a cooperating attorney for the ACLU, Greenfield has represented clients in appeals involving issues of religious liberty, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and freedom of expression. He handled the landmark 1974 case Spence v. Washington, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protected a war protestor's right to display an American flag with a peace symbol on it.
Greenfield is a 1967 graduate of Reed College and a 1970 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. A respected leader in the legal community, he has served as president of the King County Bar Association. Since 1992, he has been a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He has also served as an ACLU National and ACLU-WA board member and continues to serve on the ACLU-WA Legal Committee.
“Peter exemplifies the best tradition of advocacy on behalf of the disenfranchised. He has demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing civil liberties for all,” said ACLU-WA board president Jesse Wing. “He has tackled many difficult issues and done so with notable success, serving as an inspiration to people who believe that law should uphold justice.”
The Civil Libertarian Award honors people who have made a recent outstanding contribution to the ACLU-WA or civil liberties in Washington state. Community leaders Patricia Flores and Paula Zambrano have done a tremendous amount of work to mobilize the Latino community in Yakima to oppose the misguided gang bill promoted by the Attorney General in this year’s legislature. Flores and Zambrano organized parents to engage in the legislative process through community meetings, petitions, and letters. Recognizing the problems caused by racial profiling in immigration enforcement, they have also been active in opposing the spread of the Secure Communities program, a flawed program targeting vulnerable immigrants.
The Youth Activist Award is presented to a young person whose activism exemplifies work to defend and extend liberty and justice for all. This year’s recipient, Gaby Rodriguez, conducted a creative social experiment in which she spent six-and- a-half months of her senior year at Toppenish High School observing the responses she received to being “pregnant.” To heighten awareness of the issue, Rodriguez wore an extended belly and kept her secret from an entire student body. She documented her experience as a “pregnant teen” and ended the project by “going public” at a school assembly, describing the attitudes she had encountered. Rodriguez’ efforts shined a spotlight on an important issue which the ACLU-WA is pursing as part of our work on education equity. Illegal discrimination faced by pregnant and parenting teens is major contributing factor to their high rate of dropping out from school. She currently is attending Columbia Basin College in Pasco.
Our thanks to Bill of Rights Award Committee members Jennifer Fan, Matt Adams, Amit Ranade, Jesse Wing, and Sherri Wolson.