New org to bring ACLU speaker

by Nathanael King / Beacon Staff • April 6, 2017

Emerson Action, a recently-formed political student group, invited an American Civil Liberties Union official to campus to give a “Know Your Rights” workshop Thursday, April 6.

Danika Frank, a junior writing, literature and publishing major, said Emerson Action began early this semester when she created a campus branch of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, a reproductive rights advocacy group where she interned last fall.

When other students, including Katja Vujić, a fellow junior writing, literature and publishing major, decided to form an Emerson chapter of the ACLU, the two groups combined and became Emerson Action. Frank said they decided to merge because they felt they would be stronger together and because of the difficulty of starting new organizations at Emerson.

Frank said Emerson Action aims to combine on-campus activism with community education and civic engagement.

Senior journalism major and Emerson Action member Morgan Sung said the organization hosted a couple events earlier this semester, including a sign-making meeting for a Planned Parenthood rally, but this will be the first workshop it’s held.

“We wanted to do something after the [Women’s March on Washington] that was more active than just marching and making signs,” Sung said.

Next Wednesday, Emerson Action plans to host a “Letter to the Editor Workshop” with a representative from the ACLU and two Emerson faculty members to teach students the best way to write to government officials and make their voices heard.

Matthew Allen, field director of ACLU of Massachusetts, said his presentation Thursday will explain how to exercise constitutional rights in police interactions.

Citizen knowledge of rights—like the protection against unreasonable search and seizure—could improve police accountability and serve the interests of individuals, Allen said.

President Donald Trump’s plan to hire 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents poses an increased risk of constitutional rights violations for undocumented immigrants.

He recommended that students enact change by educating their community.

“If you see someone being stopped and frisked on the street, you can be a good ally by watching that interaction, not interfering with the investigation, but recording it and ensuring no violation [of rights] is taking place,” he said.

There has been a marked increase in requests for these workshops across the country, Allen said.

Frank said Emerson Action is not pursuing SGA recognition, but may next semester. She encouraged students to come to events and give feedback about the community’s needs surrounding sexual health and social advocacy.

“The whole point of the Emerson Action thing is that people can make real change in their communities,” she said. “This is a very stressful political climate, and I think it’s easy to fall into a state of inaction.”