ACLU Launches ‘Freedom Cities’ Grassroots Organizing Initiative in Miami

ACLU Event Headlined by Actress and Author Padma Lakshmi and Singer MILCK

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 13, 2017 10:15 am

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MIAMI — During an event over the weekend attended by more than 1,500 people in Miami and livestreamed to more than 200,000 at 2,341 house parties across the nation, the American Civil Liberties Union launched a national grassroots initiative to organize communities to promote policies at the local level that respect the constitutional rights of all residents.

The “Freedom Cities” initiative was driven by the Trump administration’s continued attacks on the diverse communities that represent the heartbeat of our nation. These attacks include the Muslim travel ban and immigration executive orders that trample due process rights for immigrants.

The ACLU’s “The Resistance Training: An ACLU Town Hall” was held at the University of Miami’s Watsco Center on Saturday. It included the participation of experts covering issues as varied as women’s health, protesters’ rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and religious freedom. It also featured Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi as keynote speaker and L.A. songwriter and vocalist MILCK, who moved the crowd with an powerful rendition of the Women’s March anthem “Quiet.”

The event’s primary goal was to ensure individuals know their rights. The ACLU also invited communities tuning in to assert those rights and call on their elected officials to turn their municipalities into “Freedom Cities.” They unveiled a list of template ordinances that citizens can propose to ensure their communities can become places where the Constitution is upheld.

“To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, who said it best: people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, their religion, national origin, or sexual orientation,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “That ideal is underpinned by the Constitution and we at the ACLU feel every individual has a role in defending the rights enshrined in that document. You don’t need to be a lawyer to defend civil rights — you just need to care. And over the past few months we’ve seen an outpouring of caring energy unseen in the past. It is time to engage communities.”

The ACLU’s membership has nearly tripled to 1.5 million members since Donald Trump became president. Events such as the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and protests in Miami against Miami-Dade County officials’ decision to turn over fathers and mothers to immigration authorities signal this renewed energy to promote the protection of constitutional rights.

“I first came here when I was four, joining my mother, a nurse who’d left me back in India two years prior. She’d ended an abusive marriage, and because of the stigma of divorce, arrived in America in search of a better future,” said Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, who spoke at the event. “I’m a mother, and I want my daughter Krishna to live in a country whose policies are governed by compassion, not by fear… I don’t have to be Muslim or Mexican to be offended by what’s happening. As Americans we should all be offended.”

Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida Executive Director, said, “This country urgently needs a new mass civil rights movement that employs social media and the new forms of electronic communications to fight back against a national regime that is bent on rolling back the fundamental rights of Americans. And it is appropriate that is starts here in Miami, home to so many of the major targets of Trump’s policies, including the LGBT and immigrant communities.”

The town hall also featured the ACLU’s newest organizing tool,, a new grassroots mobilization platform to help organize the mass resistance to President Trump’s unconstitutional policies. will use digital tools to communicate with, and help train, volunteers to resist those policies. seeks to amplify organic, bottom-up grassroots actions as a one-stop hub for anyone looking to engage with their community and influence the national debate.

More information about the new platform is available here:

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