American Civil Liberties Union throws ‘block party’ to celebrate return to Modesto

To celebrate the return of a Stanislaus County chapter, the American Civil Liberties Union co-hosted a Social Justice Block Party in Graceada Park on Sunday.

The Stanislaus Chapter of ACLU Northern California was chartered in September, said Tom Crain, chairman of its steering committee. An ACLU chapter within the county was founded decades ago, but it withered, he said. The last mention in Bee archives of an ACLU office in Modesto was in 2011.

Members of the steering committee are getting their bearings and will “hit the ground running” in January, including electing a board, Crain said.

Sunday’s block party was intended to help the chapter establish its presence in Modesto and join with partner organizations. Among those with information tables set up near Mancini Bowl were Stanislaus Humanists, MoPride. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the Great Valley Museum, NAACP Modesto-Stanislaus Branch, Modesto Peace/Life Center, Indivisible Stanislaus, Be the Change Turlock and the Stanislaus County League of Women Voters.

In January, the chapter intends to hold an ACLU-specific event, Crain said, likely on the topic of immigration. By that time, it also should have a contact phone number and post office box established.

The Stanislaus Chapter was established through the ACLU of Northern California, which is based in San Francisco. ACLU NorCal is heavily involved on the national level, Crain said, so the local chapter will work with it in support of the congressional bill HR 2694.

That’s the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, “to eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.”

An important issue at the state level, Crain said, is Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, for the re-enfranchisement of people who’ve served their time on criminal convictions but remain stripped of the right to vote. “We want to make sure they get the right to vote again. There’s about 50,000 parolees who don’t have the right to vote, and they should have it.”

The Democratic Women’s Club of Stanislaus County had Crain and fellow ACLU steering committee member Larry Giventer as guest speakers Saturday. An invitation to the meeting said local chapters are the “ACLU’s eyes and ears in their home communities, alerting us to questionable choices made by school boards, city councils, county boards of supervisors, law enforcement and other local decision-making bodies.”

To keep up with the Stanislaus chapter, visit its Facebook page, ACLU NorCal Stanislaus Chapter.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.