ACLU in CA Launches Statewide Ad Campaign to End "Driving While Black or Brown"

April 14, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, April 14, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California today announced a statewide print and radio advertising campaign to end the phenomenon known as “Driving While Black or Brown,” or “DWBB.”

The advertising campaign is part of a joint effort of the ACLU’s three state affiliates in Northern California, Southern California and San Diego and Imperial Counties. The ACLU is also urging support for a bill that would track incidents of racial profiling in the state.

At a news conference held today in San Francisco, the ACLU of Northern California, joined by African American and Hispanic victims of police profiling, said it planned to present real-life stories of racially discriminatory traffic stops at an April 20 hearing on the bill before the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Sponsored by Senator Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), S.B. 78, the “California Traffic Stops Statistics Act,” would require the police to collect data on race and traffic stops for research and statistical purposes. Last year, then-Governor Pete Wilson vetoed AB 1264, Murray’s first attempt to require data collection on racial profiling.

“The ACLU is determined to put a stop to racist police practices in our neighborhoods and on our freeways,” said Michelle Alexander, Director of the ACLU of Northern California’s Racial Justice Project. “Left unchallenged, the problem of DWBB stops creates resentment and distrust of law enforcement in communities of color.”

Minority law enforcement organizations including the National Black Police Association and the National Latino Peace Officers’ Association are urging support for the bill, Alexander noted.

Since last October, a special ACLU of California hotline has received nearly 1,000 calls from people reporting stories of race-based police traffic stops.

The ACLU’s new advertising campaign — urging victims to call the hotline — features bilingual highway billboard ads and radio ads. The hotline numbers are 1-877-D.B.-STOP (1-877-392-7867) in English and 1-877-Páralos, (1-877-727-2567) in Spanish.

The English language billboard, created pro bono by Carol H. Williams Advertising, features a photograph of three young African American men with the tag line, “If I had a dollar for every time I was pulled over by the police…”

In Northern California, the billboards will be posted in 32 locations on Bay Area highways and major city streets.

A similar billboard geared to Spanish-speakers, created pro bono by HeadQuarters advertising agency, reads: “@%&! Otra vez me paró la policía por ser Latino,” (“Once again, the police stopped me for being Latino.”)

Radio ads in English and Spanish will air throughout the state. In Northern California, radio stations KMEL, KPOO, and KPFA have already been airing the radio ad for several weeks; the ad is also airing in Southern California on KPWR.

In the English language ad, two men driving in a car notice that the police are following them:

Guy #1: Everywhere I go, they’re there. I’m tellin’ you.

Guy #2: Alright be cool. Hold on … Why are we scared? We didn’t do anything wrong.

Guy #1: Yeah. (Pause) So why are they pulling us over?

The ad concludes with a message from the ACLU urging listeners to report incidents to the hotline. The Spanish-language version, “Vamos a parar a los que nos paran!” (“Let’s stop those who stop us!”) will air in Northern, Central and Southern California radio stations.

At the news conference today, Raymond Marshall, president of the State Bar of California, described his own experience of being stopped and questioned by the police for no apparent reason. The stop, which took place as Marshall and his wife were pulling into their own driveway late one night, was never explained by police.

“Being stopped because of one’s race is all too frequent, regardless of your age, status, or any other criteria,” Marshall said.

“I don’t understand the objection to trying to collect data, which will either validate the complaints or vindicate the police,” he added. “We need to use the data to promote police practices that further confidence in the police force and the justice system.”

Alexander added that the ACLU has also received reports of race-based police stops of Latinos in the Central Valley.

“These kind of stops happen all the time here,” said Francisco Duarte, pastor of Presbyterian congregations in Corcoran and Fresno. Duarte, a speaker at the news conference, said numerous members of his congregation have been stopped on the basis of race, including his son.

As the ACLU urged support today for a statewide traffic stops bill in California, Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, reintroduced the “Traffic Stops Statistics Act” to study the issue on a national level. That bill has also received strong ACLU support.

The ACLU’s news release on the national traffic stops bill is at:

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