Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation. 

March on Washington:
This coming Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington. The cultural and political manifestations of this anniversary can be seen in recent movies and upcoming anniversary marches. Researchers and commentators have assessed Dr. King’s dream 50 years later.

This Pew Research Center report notes that King’s dream remains an elusive goal. Their polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans acknowledge that more work needs to be done. Most of that majority thinks “a lot” more work needs to be done to achieve racial equality.

The contours of racial injustice in some ways look different today than in King’s time. Exploding incarceration rates have not been equally distributed across racial categories. In 2010 black men were more than six times likely as white men to be incarcerated in federal or state prisons and local jails. Much of the incarceration boom can be traced to a wasteful war on drugs that incarcerates too many low-level drug offenders. Across the country, blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite using marijuana at similar rates.

In many ways, racial injustice looks very similar to the days of the civil rights movement. This article notes that, in Chicago, neighborhoods are just as segregated today as they were in 1960 (even if the mechanisms are different), rates of poverty and unemployment are higher for blacks today than in 1960. The same article notes that Chicago Public Schools in 1960 were half black and half white, though individual schools were segregated by race. Whites moved to suburbs or put their kids in private schools. Last year, only 9% of Chicago Public School students were white. The same problems continue, just with different underlying mechanisms.  Similarly, blacks experience similar or worse disparities in poverty rates, median household incomes, homeownership rates, and median household wealth as they did in the sixties and seventies.   

This article speculates on the things Martin Luther King Jr. might march for today, 50 years later. Sadly, he would have an unquestionable abundance of reasons to march.

Manning Updates:
This weak, Chelsea Manning came out as a transgender woman. The military immediately declared its unwillingness to provide her proper medical treatment. As noted here, “The ACLU stands with Chelsea Manning, and will support Ms. Manning's pursuit of appropriate healthcare and lawful treatment while at Fort Leavenworth.” 

Ms. Manning's announcement came after her sentencing this week. Though manning was acquitted last month of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for violations of the Espionage Act.  As Ben Wizner said here,“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system."

As ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio notes,“Not only should Chelsea Manning not have to pay the price of a 35-year prison term for sharing information with the press in the public interest, but she should also not have to experience the added punishment of going without necessary medical care."


The National Security Agency misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court multiple times about the scope of its surveillance of Americans. This information surfaced after the NSA declassified three secret court opinions that show the agency may have collected and stored as many as 56,000 emails by ordinary Americans over three years. Said the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, “the documents serve as a reminder of how incredibly permissive our surveillance laws are, allowing the NSA to conduct wholesale surveillance of Americans’ communications under the banner of foreign intelligence collection. This kind of surveillance is unconstitutional, and Americans should make it very clear to their representatives that they will not tolerate it.”