Federal Appeals Court to Hear Two ACLU of Michigan Cases This Week

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
April 19, 2005 12:00 am

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Racial Profiling and Free Speech Rights at Issue

DETROIT — An appeals court will hear two cases this week that were filed by the ACLU of Michigan. In the first case, the ACLU is arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs in a racial profiling lawsuit known as “Bicycling While Black;” the second case is a challenge to a city ordinance that makes it a crime to engage in a public protest unless a permit is obtained at least 30 days before the event.

“The communities that have been impacted by the actions of the government are very different, but both have had their civil rights violated,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “We’re very hopeful that the outcome in both of these cases will be positive.”

The ACLU of Michigan filed the “Bicycling While Black” case in April 2001 on behalf of 21 young African American men against local officials and police officers in Eastpointe. The legal challenge to the racial profiling practice began after the police chief stated in a 1996 memorandum that he instructed his officers to investigate any black youths riding through Eastpointe, a predominantly white city. The children represented were pulled over, questioned, searched and some of their bikes were confiscated and sold.

“Even though many of the young people who were victimized by the profiling of the police department are now adults, the profiling that occurred may stigmatize them for the rest of their lives,” Moss said.

In the free speech case, the ACLU of Michigan filed a challenge to Dearborn’s 30-day ordinance requirement in January 2003 after protesters were ticketed at a rally for participating in a march without a permit, a crime punishable by up to 90 days in prison and a $500 fine. The 30-day requirement makes it impossible to hold even a peaceful demonstration to effectively influence imminent public policy. According to the ACLU brief, the intention of the ordinance was to discourage gatherings specifically of the Arab community. The ACLU is representing the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a national civil rights organization with offices in Dearborn, and Imad Chammout, a Dearborn resident and local business owner.

Judges Bryce Martin, Donald Lay and Deborah Cook of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in both cases. The “Bicycling While Black” case will be argued today by ACLU volunteer attorney Mark Finnegan. The Dearborn 30-Day Rule case will be argued by ACLU volunteer attorney Bill Wertheimer.

The appeal brief in the “Bicycling While Black” case is available online at www.aclumich.org/pdf/briefs/bicyclingwhileblackappealbrief.pdf

The appeal brief in the Dearborn free speech case is available online at www.aclumich.org/pdf/briefs/dearborn30dayappealbrief.pdf

The Dearborn brief is available online at www.aclumich.org/pdf/briefs/dearbornbrief.pdf

The ACLU reply brief is available online at www.aclumich.org/pdf/briefs/dearbornaclureply.pdf

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