In 2015, we continued many long and hard-fought battles against powerful and well-resourced institutions – the U.S. government, the NYPD, the NY Fire Department, the FBI, and the California Department of Corrections. The opposition had big teams of lawyers and seemingly endless supplies of money to maintain the status quo. But with your steadfast support, and the shared belief that we must persist in the face of injustice, we achieved a number of significant victories. Please share these victories with friends and family for they are yours as well!
- Indeterminate Solitary Confinement. Five years ago, thousands of people in California were being held in indeterminate solitary confinement, some for decades at a time. This year, as a result of our lawsuit, Ashker v. Governor of California, the state of California will end this barbaric practice and has already begun transferring people from the “social death” of solitary to general population.
Transforming solitary in the largest state has created a model for others to follow. We should see a lot of progress in the next few years.
- No Fly List. Following our lawsuit, Tanvir v. Lynch, the government removed our clients, four American Muslims, from the No-Fly List. The FBI had placed them on the list for refusing to spy on their religious communities. One of our clients had not been able to visit his gravely ill grandmother; another had been separated from his wife and three young daughters for roughly five years; a third had been unable to see his wife for nearly two years. Together we brought them hope and justice.
- Reforming NYPD. The massive NYPD reform process from our landmark case Floyd v. City of New York is officially underway this year! The case resulted in historic ruling ordering reforms to end unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices in NYC. New policies regarding bias-based policing, trainings for 36,000 NYPD officers on constitutional policing, new forms to document stops, and, most importantly, a community-driven reform process, are in progress.
- Bush Administration Accountability. After 9/11, the INS and the FBI conducted dragnet sweeps of hundreds of Muslim and Arab men based on their religion and ethnicity. “Disappeared” into prisons, they were abused for months before being cleared of any connection to terrorism. CCR sued Attorney General John Ashcroft and other former cabinet-level Bush officials for their role in ordering these abuses. After 13 years of litigation, a decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals this month allowed CCR’s claims against these officials to stand.
- Discrimination in FDNY. In 2015, the New York City Fire department, the nation’s largest, is the most diverse it has ever been in its 150-year history, thanks to CCR’s lawsuit United States and Vulcan Society v. City of New York. The department still has a long way to go to reflect the diversity of our city, but there is no turning back now. Journalist Ginger Adam Otis chronicles the case and the century-long struggle to integrate the FDNY in her new book Firefight. Check it out!
- Muslim Profiling and Surveillance. This year, after several attempts by the de Blasio administration to dismiss our case challenging the NYPD’s blanket surveillance of Muslim Americans in New Jersey, an appeals court ruled in favor of our clients, stating that courts cannot accept at face value the NYPD’s claim that religious profiling of Muslims was necessary to protect “national security.” The court warned that “what occurs here in one guise is not new. We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese-Americans during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind…” The case is now heading to trial. In light of the toxic rhetoric regarding Muslims in the air, this will be a key civil rights fight in 2016. Stay tuned!
- Academic Freedom/Palestine Solidarity. In 2014, Professor Steven Salaita was fired from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for his personal tweets criticizing the Israeli government for killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians during the so-called “Operation Protective Edge.” CCR represented Prof. Salaita in a civil rights lawsuit against the university and this year we settled the case. The settlement is a big victory for academic freedom, it compensates Prof. Salaita for the unconstitutional retaliation by the University, and sends a strong message to other university officials that there is no Palestinian exception to the First Amendment.
- Connecting with CCR. This year, CCR launched a new, beautiful website to showcase what we are able to do with your support. We wanted to show the humanity of the work, the larger picture behind each project, but also the nuts and bolts of CCR’s cutting-edge litigation. Responsive layouts, powerful visuals, filterable pin boards, and interactive case timelines take visitors from individual issues like torture accountability, discriminatory policing, and corporate human rights abuses to the stories behind the cases, their political intersections, ways to get involved, and the lasting impact of being in this together. We wanted to provide an experience that was intuitive, moving, and engaging for fellow activists, journalists, and law students alike. Reception has been great. We think we succeeded!
As Frederick Douglass once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Thank you for standing with CCR and our clients as we continue to demand justice and accountability. From Guantánamo to corporate accountability for torture, we hope 2016 will bring more demands and more justice.