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Friday, February 4, 2011

"Reject the cynical tactics of the ACLU of Washington."

Posted by on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 6:02 AM

This post is by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and State Representative Charles Ross of Yakima, the prime sponsor of McKenna's gang bill.

Rob McKenna
  • Rob McKenna
In 2010, in response to the murder of four police officers by parolee Maurice Clemmons, Gov. Chris Gregoire championed a constitutional amendment expanding the authority of judges to deny bail to particularly dangerous criminals. With overwhelming support of Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, the amendment was passed by nearly 85 percent of voters. On the fringe of the debate, the ACLU of Washington opposed the amendment. It was a reminder that, certainly as far as criminal justice matters are concerned, the ACLU is far out of step with mainstream thinking.

This year the ACLU stakes out another extreme position, bashing a bipartisan bill to reduce gang violence. Instead of taking our offer to help improve the bill, the ACLU launched a cynical campaign of fear and deception. We regret that The Stranger’s Eli Sanders (Gangbanger, Jan. 25, 2011) bought into the ACLU’s tactics, falling for their arguments and accusing the bill’s authors of political motives.

The bill is the result of years of consideration by city leaders, police, and prosecutors. They’re concerned about the violence overwhelming communities, taking the lives of young people and catching innocent victims in the crossfire. Hardest hit are those in poor, ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

In some of these neighborhoods, indiscriminate shots fired into homes have become routine. In Wapato in 2009, a teenager unaffiliated with gangs was hit in the face by a stray bullet. He had made the mistake of looking out his window at a gang-related disturbance outside. Just last week, a National Guardsman and another young man walking home from a Yakima high school were shot by gang members.

These kinds of incidents are why, year after year, families from Yakima and other gang-plagued towns beg the Legislature for help.

Yet the ACLU urges their members to blanket legislators with a computer-generated message suggesting the legislation allows “court orders that can prohibit lawful behavior such as travelling through certain areas, spending time with certain people, or wearing certain styles of clothing.”

Wrong! In fact, the bill being considered by the Legislature at the request of the Attorney General’s Office allows protection orders against active and documented members of criminal street gangs — organizations that exist primarily to deal drugs, commit robberies and control territory.

This concept comes from states that have used similar laws to reduce gang crimes. We took the idea of anti-gang injunctions, like those used in California, added a wall of civil rights protections—like an automatic expiration date on the protection order—and then borrowed language from a law that protects victims of domestic violence. It adds up to a constitutional, yet powerful new tool for neighborhoods under siege.

If a prosecutor presents “clear and convincing evidence” to a judge that a person is an active member of a criminal street gang, the judge may order that person from engaging in a range of activities, including blocking entrances to public places, dealing drugs or wearing gang colors. Breaking those conditions is a gross misdemeanor. Yes, the subject of a protection order might be blocked from an otherwise legal activity — like carrying a gun — because he’s been shown to be involved in dangerous criminal organization. Still, the subject of the order is not charged with a crime unless he violates the conditions of the order.

Thankfully, many Washingtonians live a safe distance from the violence that ensnares many poor communities. But some who are shielded from the bloodshed find it irresistible to engage in intellectual debates about the rights of criminal gang members to wear whatever they want, whenever they want, while associating with whomever they want (including other criminal street gang members). Meanwhile, many low-income kids aren’t safe playing in their own yards. That’s why those on the right, left and center should reject the cynical tactics of the ACLU of Washington, and come together to combat gang violence.


Comments (29) RSS

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Joe Szilagyi 1
Explain how your law doesn't infringe upon freedom of speech or assembly, please.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 4, 2011 at 6:06 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 2
So, the way I read this, you want to deny the constitutional rights of someone who has not been charged with a crime, right? What law school did you go to, dumbass?
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on February 4, 2011 at 6:53 AM · Report this
JF 3
@1,2 I take it you two are part of the group shielded from the bloodshed?
Posted by JF on February 4, 2011 at 7:15 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 4
Absolutely not. But I guess I must have missed that part of the constitution that says "feel free to ignore this if you don't like it."
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on February 4, 2011 at 7:22 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 5
I'm anything but pro-gang and as far removed from that demographic as you can get. I'm just a big fan of, oh, the rule of law and our Constitutional rights. What McKenna is pushing is basically going to guarantee to

A) Drag Washington into a lawsuit or three
B) be used as pointless campaign fodder by him
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 4, 2011 at 7:26 AM · Report this
When the very headline of the article tells me that I should be ignoring defenders of the first amendment, there's really no reason to read the rest. I look forward to your little pseudo populist political stepping stone bill going thud.
Posted by Sean on February 4, 2011 at 7:26 AM · Report this
Yeah, ACLU, don't you know that cynical campaigns of fear and deception should be left to the Republicans?
Posted by justinf on February 4, 2011 at 7:39 AM · Report this
If you're going to accuse the ACLU of a "cynical campaign of fear and deception" you outta at least say what you think their motives are.



Fallen to the Dark Side?

Don't make us guess!
Posted by Alden on February 4, 2011 at 7:43 AM · Report this
The ACLU is a positive force in defending the rights of all people, including Rush Limbaugh, because they value the rights of all. What the ACLU has attacked your bill on, and which you have not addressed is, what happened to Due Process. The Federal Constitution requires that Due Process be provided before rights are infringed, but your proposed new law would eliminate the need to have an actual trial before infringing rights. Instead you wish to create a class of citizens who are not entitled to legal representation before having their 1st and 4th amendment rights infringed. The difference between Gov. Gregoire's amendment to the state constitution and your current bill, is that one is constitutional, and the other violates Due Process. Bad law cannot be justified by it's purpose, because it can and will be challenged in the courts and overturned. This bill will cost the state millions in legal fees, when everyone but the A.G. knows it is wrong.
Posted by dumbscreenname on February 4, 2011 at 8:21 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 11
@10 of course some people in the AG's office know it's wrong--do you assume they care?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 4, 2011 at 8:24 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 12
Joe, of course they know. But I'm sure they're not allowed to say anything.

@10: Don't forget the second amendment. Looks like they'd like to take that away too.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on February 4, 2011 at 8:33 AM · Report this
The ACLU's mandate is to protect civil liberties, not fall into step with mainstream thinking. They're valuable precisely because they're willing to be part of that 15% minority if it means doing the right thing.
Posted by tired and true on February 4, 2011 at 8:47 AM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 14
Gosh, all this bashing of the ACLU by McKenna couldn't be red meat for his republican base in the run up to his campaign, could it?

No, I'm certain politics has nothing to do with this.

Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 4, 2011 at 9:04 AM · Report this
null 15
I don't even know where to begin with this idiotic post from a guy I voted for.

"the ACLU urges their members to blanket legislators with a computer-generated message suggesting the legislation allows “court orders that can prohibit lawful behavior such as travelling through certain areas, spending time with certain people, or wearing certain styles of clothing.”"

Thanks for belittling one of the only ways your average American knows how to communicate their opinion to senators and representatives: by being shown how to via email by an organization that holds similar values.

Not everyone is a white guy who wears a fucking suit and went to law school. We have jobs and bongs and video games. Blanket copy/paste emails as directed by the ACLU is probably second only to voting in this modern democracy. What the fuck else are people supposed to do? Spend millions on lobbyists?

" the judge may order that person from engaging in a range of activities, including blocking entrances to public places, dealing drugs or wearing gang colors."

So you're going to have a judge tell a kid who fucking hates the system that he can't do stuff that is already illegal? Are you fucking stupid? Let's be patronizing douchebags as disenfranchise poor people who already hate us. Then let's use this stupid bill as a way to tell them they can't even do legal stuff either. I'm sure they will give a fuck. I mean, they already do such socially responsible things as randomly firing guns out of their house. Being told they can't deal drugs by a guy in a suit who loves the system is really gonna be effective. Fucking idiots.

This is yet another bill that takes away liberties and I can't believe our AG is this stupid. Wait, yes I can, because he is a Seattle politician.
Posted by null on February 4, 2011 at 9:10 AM · Report this
If it's not political then state right now, McKenna, that when you run there will be no mention of this bill in your campaign. Doing so would certainly establish your credibility.

The ACLU is not running for office. They have a broad mandate to protect civil liberties of all citizens even ones with which they don't agree. I sincerely believe that their motivations are not cynical and your use of that description indicates a sensitivity to the group rather than just this one issue.

What I truly don't understand is why we are not going after the illegal activities of these gang members in the first place and using that to get them off the streets? At the point of sentencing there could be probationary rules limiting their contact with other convicted gang members and neighborhoods. That way police are using resources looking for actual criminal acts and not just that someone is wearing a red bandana.

This just seems like a lazy way of sweeping it under the carpet for nothing more than a headline showing you are tough on crime.

Sorry McKenna, you want me to believe this isn't political then take it off the table in the campaign.
Posted by kmq1 on February 4, 2011 at 9:14 AM · Report this
I think protecting individual rights from government abuses is a good thing to do, but ACLU types seem like fanatics who don't understand the need to strike a balance between personal freedom and the public interest.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 4, 2011 at 9:14 AM · Report this
The bottom line is if you associate with a gang your rights can be taken away even if you have committed no crime. Awesome.
Posted by Jack D on February 4, 2011 at 9:25 AM · Report this
I've been thinking about starting a gang called McKenna For Governor. Now, we'd unfortunately have to do some criminal stuff, so I'm thinking perhaps some "McK" graffiti tags or something. Then, we'd need to hang out with McKenna, perhaps at some political events, so it's "clear and convincing" he's associated with us. Finally, we'd need to get a judge to take away McKenna's rights, even though he's committed no crime, so he'll stop wearing our gang clothes -- suits and ties and so forth.
Posted by Jack D on February 4, 2011 at 9:34 AM · Report this
Porcupine 21
a balance between personal freedom and the public interest

Hmmm, I think I heard that one before. Isn't that the line the Chinese leaders keep repeating?
Posted by Porcupine on February 4, 2011 at 9:36 AM · Report this
leek 22
I didn't find it very useful (the bill itself is 50 pages and the analysis doesn't make the problems with it as clear as Mr. McKenna's post here), but here's the link to the actual bill.…

For myself, tired and true @13 expressed it best. The ACLU is there specifically to take on the role of defending all Americans' civil liberties. I don't care if they're mainstream--I care that they pursue this goal regardless of whether everyone likes who they end up protecting.

This reminded me to send in my ACLU membership renewal, so thanks!
Posted by leek on February 4, 2011 at 9:41 AM · Report this
leek 23
Jack D, representing the awesome.
Posted by leek on February 4, 2011 at 9:42 AM · Report this
Are we to assume that the "cynical" tactic of sending boilerplate emails on political issues will magically transform to a legitimate form of free speech once McKenna's supporters start doing so for his campaign?
Posted by Angry Sam on February 4, 2011 at 10:49 AM · Report this
It takes a special kind of douchebag to run for office by abusing the power of the office they have and then claim others use "cynical tactics."
Posted by dwight moody on February 4, 2011 at 10:51 AM · Report this
Cascadian 26
I can't wait for this guy to lose the gubernatorial election in 2012 to Jay Inslee and be replaced at AG by a Democrat.
Posted by Cascadian on February 4, 2011 at 10:53 AM · Report this
@26, McKenna said it himself, "With overwhelming support of Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature...

In the vast majority of cases, voting for a Democrat is the conservative thing to do.
Posted by LJM on February 4, 2011 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 28
Full of weak arguments.

Plenty of unconstitutional bills have bi-partisan legislative support. I'd ask the legislature nicely to not tie up the judicial system overthrowing this crap.

But maybe this is a novel anti-checks and balances power play? Passing so much unconstitutional garbage that the court's backlogs become overwhelmed... interesting...
Posted by Westlake, son! on February 4, 2011 at 12:45 PM · Report this
For the sake of argument - if it's unconstitutional to tell gang members not to hang out with other gang members, would it not also be unconstitutional for a judge to issue a restraining order in the absence of a felony conviction?
Posted by Sean P. on February 4, 2011 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 31
You'd think there would be an easy answer to that, wouldn't you? But the fact is, if a judge says it's constitutional, it's constitutional. Or at least until a higher judge says he's wrong.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on February 4, 2011 at 1:39 PM · Report this
zombie eyes 32
McKenna's a trained poodle jumping through flaming hoops earning his bisquit from Pavlov.
Posted by zombie eyes on February 4, 2011 at 7:06 PM · Report this

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