ACLU of Southern California Establishes Hotline for Discrimination Complaints

September 20, 2001 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES – The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California announced today that broad, diverse coalitions at the national and local levels are emerging to advocate for a careful, balanced, and deliberative approach to questions of security and civil liberties and civil rights.

“We’re just as concerned with security as anyone else,” said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “In fact, our national organization strongly supports a comprehensive airport security plan. But we must not blindly support everything with the label ‘anti-terrorism’ or ‘security’ on it. Too many of the proposals on the table curtail civil liberties without enhancing security.”

At a local level, the ACLU of Southern California is working in coalition with other groups, including the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, to coordinate local groups’ responses to discrimination, harassment, and threats targeting immigrants generally and, in particular, Southern Californians who are Muslim or are of Arab, South Asian, Northern African, and Middle Eastern descent.

The ACLU of Southern California has set up a hotline to receive complaints related to discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion during this time of national crisis. That number, (213) 977-5291, began receiving calls within an hour after being established.

“It is critical at this time that we come together here in Southern California, home to the largest Arab American community in the nation, to affirm our values of fairness, inclusion, and strong Constitutional rights,” said Ripston.

“During this horrible period in our country, the Muslim and Arab-American communities find themselves in a difficult position as we contemplate how our nation should transition into the ‘post-attack’ period,” said Sarah Eltantawi, Communications Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

“On the one hand, Arab-Americans and Muslims are in full cooperation with authorities in the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice. But on the other hand, Muslims and Arab-Americans, who have historically been the victims of profiling based on race and/or religion, know how quickly civil liberties can erode when profiling is allowed on any level.”

“Therefore,” she continued, “the Muslim and Arab-American communities call on our fellow Americans to vigilantly protect the civil liberties of all of its citizens. Anything less would erode the fundamental values of America that we all love and agree we should defend.”

“We ask all readers and viewers to refrain from condemning entire groups for the acts of individual extremists,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “We are concerned about hate incidents and crimes committed against individuals who that appear to be Middle Eastern or foreign-born. The horror of what happened will only be made worse if, in the aftermath, more innocent people are harmed in retaliation.”

National organizations of every political stripe released a 10-point statement of principles today demonstrating their solidarity with the nation and its leaders and offering guidance for the preservation of freedom and civil liberties in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, and the hijacking crash in Western Pennsylvania.

The national coalition unveiled in Washington today included a broad array of civil liberties, civil rights, ethnic, religious, privacy, and government watchdog groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, and around 100 other groups.

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