Narcotics Group raided a dance club called the Club Whats Next and
rounded up 117 young men and women under the pretense that they were
frequenting a drug house.
Although the majority of college-aged patrons at the dance club had
done nothing illegal, some undercover cops had purchased drugs from a
few individuals, casting the light of suspicion on everyone.
Jennifer Thompson was one of the many patrons who were handcuffed,
strip searched, cavity searched and falsely arrested. Women were taken
into a restroom and told to remove their blouses and bras within sight
of male officers. One male officer commented on the size of a young
womans breasts, asking if they were real.
The winter issue of the ACLU Rights Review newspaper goes on in this
vein: Most of the men were taken into a mens bathroom and told to
raise their shirts, drop their pants and underwear, and to bend over
and cough. Some were told to put a finger into their anus. Those who
were still handcuffed had their pants and underwear pulled down to
around their knees by police officers. One man was stripped on the
side of the road after he had left the club.
The upshot of this unconstitutional strip- and body cavity search was
a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU settled the case in December, forcing the police department
to institute new policies and training to prevent unlawful searches to
ever occur again. Flint and Genesee County must also pay victims of
the incident a total of $900,000.
But suppose it was you? Just minding your own business, wrapping up
the night at a dance club in Petoskey or TC? Who would you call?
Its popular in America to heap scorn on the ACLU and its
card-carrying members. The stereotype of the American Civil
Liberties Union is that its made up of liberal crackpot lawyers who
spend much of their time driving around looking for Nativity scenes to
shut down at Christmas.
But those whove been victims of the powers-that-be know that those
stereotypes are wrong.
Though the ACLU has always been viewed as powerful, few people know
that just a handful of brave and outspoken
activists around the state of Michigan are responsible for the
organization... notes the
Here are some of the cases that Michigans ACLU has been involved in recently:
Ending naked detention in the Saginaw County Jail. Shades of Abu
Ghraib: from 1999 to 2005 the jail had a policy of stripping inmates
naked and forcing them to remain in a cell called the hole, where
they could be viewed by jail personnel and inmates of the opposite
If the prisoner declined to strip, guards forcibly removed the
clothing, often by spraying chemicals in their faces, forcing them on
the ground and cutting off their clothing.
Multiple lawsuits resulted in an end to this practice, along with
Saginaw County paying $1.5 million for Callously disregarding the
basic human dignity of individuals awaiting trial.
No crime being homeless: In Ann Arbor, a number of homeless people
live on public land near a highway. Caleb Poirier is one of them --
he was arrested and charged with trespassing. The ACLU filed a brief,
arguing that it is unconstitutional to arrest a person for sleeping
on public land when there is no place else for him to sleep. The
prosecutor dropped the charges.
Illegal home entries in Leelanau County: Last October, the local
ACLU demanded that police officers put an end to the practice of
entering homes without warrants and forcing college-age students to
submit to breathalyzer tests.
In one incident, police entered a Leelanau County home illegally,
walked into a womans bedroom at 3:30 a.m., woke her up, and forced
her to take a breathalyzer test.
A terrorist? Daniel
Allen of Macomb County bit a neighbor during a fight and wound up
being charged as a terrorist because hes HIV-positive. The ACLU is
preparing a brief, arguing that this is not how Michigans statute on
terrorism is intended to be used.
Unjustly labelled a sex offender: In a case also reported by
Northern Express, a young man had sex with his girlfriend (now his
wife) when he was 18. A teacher reported the relationship to police,
and although criminal charges were dismissed, he was required to
register for life as a sex offender. In November, an appeals court
agreed with the ACLU that this constituted cruel and unusual
punishment, and took him off the list.
These are among the many other News of the Weird-style incidents that
the ACLU is involved with in Michigan. Who knows? Perhaps someday
theyll even throw you a line when no one else will help or listen.
Check them out at www.aclumich.org. Like me, you may even decide to
become a card-carrying member.
A Threat to Your Right to Know
Currently, six bills are being considered in the State House of
Representatives which would allow Michigan communities to post legal
notices on websites, rather than in local newspapers.
The bills would allow legal notices to be listed on one of the following:
the municipalitys website.
the website of the local newspaper.
on the local public TV channel.
This issue has got the Michigan Press Association and its member
newspapers in an uproar over the publics right to know (not to
mention lost revenues from legal notices).
We receive few, if any, legal notices at Northern Express and have
no vested interest in this matter, but one could argue that the
Internet is too diffuse a medium to trust with legal notices.
By its nature, the Internet encourages people to flit from
site-to-site on a moments notice, seldom spending much time in any
one place. And its also crowded out there, with millions of
websites competing for your attention.
Thus, it would be all too easy for the general public to miss legal
notices -- even those inveterate city government watchers who are
inclined to search out such things.
Better to keep them in the local newspaper of record, where they
are sure to be seen by someone, if only your pet parakeet...