Civil liberties official rebukes council member who targeted school board member’s ‘defund the police’ stance

Jamaica Miles speaks at a rally in front of City Hall in Schenectady on April 1, 2021.

Jamaica Miles speaks at a rally in front of City Hall in Schenectady on April 1, 2021.

SCHENECTADY – A city council member’s failed bid to denounce a Black school board member’s call to defund the police drew a rebuke from a member of the local chapter of the state Civil Liberties Union during Monday’s City Council meeting.

On Sept. 7, the council’s Public Safety Committee declined to take action on a proposal by Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas to denounce School Board member Jamaica Miles’ call to defund the police department.

The matter was debated at length during that meeting and a subsequent City Council meeting.

Zalewski-Wildzunas had said her request was timed ahead of the city’s 2022 budget presentation in October. She had also said Miles’ remarks were undermining the police’s work in the community.

Melanie Trimble, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Region Chapter said during Monday’s meeting it was “truly chilling to see individuals of an elected body use their authority to condemn an activist” for her views.

Trimble said the civil liberties union was relieved the council dismissed the action.

“The issue of defunding the police and deciding where to allocate city dollars for the safety and health of the community is central to the work of the city council, and it is outrageous that some of its members would seek to use their authority to silence someone, rather than consider their ideas – when police have continued to abuse their power with impunity in Schenectady and beyond, the question of how to fund and oversee them is a fiscal and moral imperative.”

Trimble said it was “unnerving” that council members were so willing to abdicate their responsibility of overseeing and funding the police “in favor of the status quo,” and at the expense of Miles.

“The individuals on the council who supported this resolution may think that singling out an individual associated with the Black Lives Matter movement is not racist,” Trimble said of Zalewski-Wildzunas and Majority Leader John Polimeni, who also supported the resolution.

“But ask yourself if you would have even proposed such an action if the individual were white,” Trimble said. “We think not.”

Trimble said the organization implored the council “not only to reject the thinking embodied in this resolution concerning Ms. Miles but also to look for ways to repair the damage the council has done in providing evidence that confirms the public’s perception of the city’s racist underpinnings.”

Reach Gazette reporter Brian Lee at 518-419-9766, [email protected] or @bleeschenectady on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County


Try doing some homework, Marincic. For once in your life.

In 2006, the ACLU of Washington State joined with a pro-gun rights organization, the Second Amendment Foundation, and prevailed in a lawsuit against the North Central Regional Library District (NCRL) in Washington for its policy of refusing to disable restrictions upon an adult patron’s request. Library patrons attempting to access pro-gun web sites were blocked, and the library refused to remove the blocks. In 2012, the ACLU sued the same library system for refusing to temporarily, at the request of an adult patron, disable Internet filters which blocked access to Google Images.

On June 21, 2018, a leaked memo showed that the ACLU has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm marginalized groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declared in guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.” The ACLU had previously defended the free speech rights of the KKK and Nazis.

In light of the Supreme Court’s Heller decision recognizing that the Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms, ACLU of Nevada took a position of supporting “the individual’s right to bear arms subject to constitutionally permissible regulations” and pledged to “defend this right as it defends other constitutional rights”.

A Roselle Park, N.J., homeowner won her battle over posting signage on her property that uses colorful language to disparage President Biden and express continued support for the previous president, Donald Trump.

The town, located 12 miles outside of New York City, voluntarily withdrew its case against homeowner Patricia Dilascio and her daughter Andrea Dick on Tuesday. Roselle Park authorities were also seeking $250 per day in fines that had been accruing since earlier this month, when a lower court judge ruled the posters violated obscenity laws.

In an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the defendants, attorneys made the “uncomplicated case” that the signage is protected by the constitution.

“The First Amendment exists specifically to make sure people can express strong opinions on political issues — or any other matter — without fear of punishment by the government,” ACLU of New Jersey Executive Director Amol Sinha said after a Superior Court judge ruled in the defendants’ favor.

Dino Casieri voted for Donald Trump in November, and While he doesn’t question the legitimacy of the election, he is adamant: “Biden is not my president.” Those five words are printed on a lawn sign outside his home on State Road in Plymouth, Massacshusetts. The sign, which he put up after the election, drew sharp criticism from town officials, whom he said threatened to fine him if he didn’t take it down.
“They were attacking only me for having this sign up, when they sent me two certified letters telling me they were going to charge me $300 a day if I had my sign up,” said Casieri, noting that there are other political signs in his neighborhood.
After the town threatened him with fines, he called the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which quickly sent a letter to town officials to argue that the bylaws are unconstitutional.
“People have a right to express their political views all year round,” said Ruth Bourquin, managing attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Because they [town officials] recognize that we were making valid points that they were suspending enforcement of these two ordinances and are considering rewriting the ordinances or repealing them.”

(sources: Wikipedia, NBCBoston, NY Daily News)

And I could go on.
I’ve been a card-carrying ACLU member since 1997 and even though I disagree with some of the sentiments above, I support the ACLU’s dedication to protecting Americans’ civil rights. It’s a cryin’ shame so many of your type can’t be so flexible.

Thank you ACLU- pay no attention to ignorant fools who attack you. Thank you for attending the City meeting and speaking out against the crypto-racist leaders who try to hold power at any cost.

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