ACLU's Call to Redeem the Dream and End Racial Profiling

August 25, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON–At a national rally here tomorrow, American Civil Liberties Union leaders and activists will join in calling for an end to racial bias in the criminal justice system and passage of legislation to address racial profiling, referred to as “driving while black or brown” or “DWB.”

“As many law enforcement organizations and public officials have come to recognize, it is not enough just to be ‘against’ racism and racial profiling,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office and a speaker at tomorrow’s rally. “We now look to our national leaders, including those who seek the office of the presidency, to identify where discriminatory practices exist and commit to ending them.”

Tomorrow’s “Redeem the Dream” rally, as it is called, marks the 37th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. The event caps three days of local workshops, town hall meetings and panel discussions on the crisis of racial bias in law enforcement, organized by Martin Luther King III, the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the New York-based National Action Network.

During the rally, the ACLU will staff two booths offering “Five ways you can stop racial profiling;” volunteers and activists will circulate through the crowds with action alerts.

Specifically, the ACLU is urging rally participants to fight for passage of the “Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act,” a bill that would begin tracking incidents of racial profiling on U.S. highways and provide hard data about the racial disparity in traffic stops.

The bill, sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), unanimously passed a House committee last March, but to date, Congress has refused to call a vote on the matter.

The ACLU is also taking its message to the airwaves: earlier this week, the organization launched a series of radio and television public service announcements (PSAs) in English and Spanish. The PSAs feature reality-based scenes that convey the humiliation and outrage suffered by innocent people who are stopped by the police, and provide a toll-free complaint hotline for victims of “DWB,” 1-877-6-PROFILE.

Next month, the ACLU plans to release an update to its widely read 1999 report, “Driving While Black: Racial Profiling On Our Nation’s Highways.” The current ACLU report and related information, including daily updates on DWB, is online at

“Our country cannot long remain a world leader in justice, freedom and democracy when entire segments of its population are identified as criminal simply because of skin color,” Murphy said. “It is time to pass legislation that will take the first modest step toward righting a serious wrong.”

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