With 1.7 million members nationwide, and affiliates in every state, the ACLU has been a pillar of Constitutional preservation for nearly 100 years.
Working to ensure that all people are awarded the civil liberties spelled out in the Constitution, the group seeks equal treatment under the law, freedom of speech and religion, and the right to privacy.
Locally, the ACLU of Georgia is monitoring and lobbying 132 pieces of legislation, and keep a strong focus on issues pertaining to free speech and protest rights, the school-to-prison pipeline, and statewide voting rights.
Through litigation, community engagement, and lobbying, the group pursues these goals to protect the people of Georgia and beyond.
Although started in 1920, the group still faces some misconceptions about its work, namely that it is a partisan or political-affiliated organization.
“We only ask our staff and members for a commitment to defend the Constitution,” said Chris Bruce, Chief Lobbyist and Policy Council for the ACLU of Georgia. “I am here to let you know that we are completely 100% non-partisan.”
Originally founded to combat civil liberty violations after WWI, the ACLU has continued its work, defending a broad spectrum of Constitutional rights, including racial injustice, as in the 1967 Loving case.
“The ACLU’s commitment to civil liberties and the Constitution has remained consistent over the years, but as we know, the surrounding political environment and technological advancements have raised the importance of certain civil liberties,” Bruce said.
This changing environment and technological advancements are ever-apparent in a post-9/11 world, where the right to privacy is increasingly salient. Current work of the ACLU includes computer hacking legislation and ensuring safe security systems.
“In 1920, nobody thought about computers,” Bruce said. “But it is something that we have taken on because you have a right to privacy, no matter what age or era.”
The state-affiliate is also focused on the 90,000 people incarcerated in Georgia, with 2/3’s of them not convicted of any crime, but held because they can’t afford to pay bail. And, in the current political environment, the ACLU of Georgia is educating individuals on their rights to legal and peaceful protests. Informing people of their limitations and reasons a protest could get preemptively shut down ensure successful demonstrations of free speech.
“We do not go in alone,” he said. “We work with a lot of other organizations and community partners to make sure that legislation and the people are heard.”
Along with the cash bail bill and work on voting rules, the ACLU of Georgia is also focused on LGBTQ rights, and a Mobile Justice app, with which citizens can record and submit incidents of over-policing, racial profiling, or examples of excessive force.
For more information on their current initiatives, visit www.acluga.org.