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Contact: media@aclu.org

National Guard Terrorist Unit Reportedly Targeted Mother's Day Peace Rally

SAN FRANCISCO -- Following revelations that an intelligence unit recently spied on a peace rally organized by families of slain American soldiers, the American Civil Liberties Union today called on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to take immediate steps to stop the California National Guard from spying on people who engage in peaceful protest. The ACLU also filed a California Public Records Act request with both the governor and the California National Guard seeking documents relating to the peace rally and the Intelligence Unit.

"We were shocked to read that a small group of mothers, grandmothers and their supporters were the target of a National Guard terrorist unit," said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. "We fear that the surveillance of the Mother's Day peace rally is just the tip of the iceberg and urge the governor to take immediate action to prevent this from happening again."

The Mother's Day incident was revealed in the San Jose Mercury News, which disclosed that a handful of peaceful, anti-war protesters at the Sacramento Capitol were spied on by a special intelligence unit of the National Guard. The May 8 rally was organized by Gold Star Families for Peace, Raging Grannies, and Code Pink.

California affiliates of the ACLU, representing more than 90,000 members, are calling on the governor to immediately take the following steps:

  • Disband the National Guard's Intelligence Unit or impose strict regulations on the unit. Strict regulations include prohibiting the monitoring and collection of information on individuals and organizations engaged in First Amendment protected activity; prohibiting dissemination of information already collected to other government agencies; creating clear guidelines and definitions that protest activity -- including civil disobedience -- is not terrorism; and regulation of file storage and data retention to ensure regular purging of any databases and storage systems.
  • Under the California Public Records Act, release all information related to the May 8 incident and other incidents in which the National Guard has been used to monitor protected First Amendment activities. This includes all documents related to the protest held at the Capitol on Mother's Day and any other anti-war demonstrations in the past year, as well as all correspondence from members of the Intelligence Unit related to Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace or Raging Grannies.

"We have seen a disturbing increase of government spying on First Amendment activity over the last few years," said Dorothy Ehrlich, Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California. "We call on the governor to take immediate action and put a stop to this illegal activity. The National Guard should not be spying on the families of slain American soldiers who fought and died to protect our First Amendment rights."

The ACLU letter to the National Guard is online at http://www.aclunc.org/police/050630-guard-letter.pdf.

The ACLU letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger is online at http://www.aclunc.org/police/050630-arnold-letter.pdf.

 

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