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At Liberty

Podcast At Liberty
Podcast At Liberty

At Liberty


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  • The Untold Story of Black Pittsburgh's Alternative to Police
    February marks Black History Month, an opportunity to celebrate the contributions Black Americans have made to society. And today, we're going to be celebrating that. But before that. Given the themes of this episode, we want to acknowledge the brutal murder of Tyree Nichols and the violence towards high schooler Tauris Sledge, both by police. This horrific violence only adds to the urgent call for alternatives to policing in America. And this conversation today is about imagining and realizing those alternatives. As it turns out, it's been done before, and Black Americans have always led the way. This conversation was recorded before recent events, so we don't address them directly, but we do dive into the possibility of a better vision for our country. Advocates are rightly calling for communities to slash police budgets and reinvest that funding into community health services. These calls have been met with varying degrees of buy in, with some claiming that they are too idealistic or even naive. But all we need to do is to look to Black history to prove that these naysayers are wrong. This has been done before. This is the story of our country's first ambulance service, an alternative to policing that became a model used across the country. Freedom House was founded in Pittsburgh's historically Black neighborhood, The Hill, in 1967. Back then, police were responding to all health emergencies, a service they were not effectively providing, particularly to Black communities at a time when the US was deeply segregated and reeling from the civil rights movement. Freedom House provided both life saving health care and career advancement for Hill residents who are both underserved and often overlooked by society. Here to talk with us about the Freedom House, its ongoing legacy, the importance of community based emergency response, and why alternatives to policing are both so important and so possible, are John Moon, former Freedom House EMT and retired assistant chief of Pittsburgh's Emergency Medical Service, and Brandon Buskey, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project.
  • Louisiana's Former Death Row is Now Holding Kids
    Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola Prison, is the largest maximum-security adult prison in the US. Angola is the perfect symbol for the criminal legal system’s ongoing legacy of racism. It’s transformed from a slave plantation to a camp for mostly Black laborers exploited by convict leasing, all before becoming a prison. For over a century, Angola has been a site of human rights abuses, which continue to this day. This fall, a new chapter of horror began on its grounds: the detention of children in the same cell block that once held incarcerated people awaiting the death penalty. In August, the ACLU and partner organizations filed a class action suit, Alex A v. Edwards, seeking to block the transfer of children to Angola. The lawsuit is pending, and in October, the state began moving children as young as 14 into Angola, a move that violates state and federal laws. Here to talk to us about how we got here and how the ACLU and community partners are continuing to fight the avoidable and unconstitutional detention of children in Angola are Gina Womack, executive director and co-founder, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, and Tammie Gregg, Deputy Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
  • Roe's 50th Year Undid Its Promise
    January 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that codified the right to an abortion. But this year on January 22nd, we’ll largely remember this anniversary as the one that wasn’t. For 49 years, Roe helped to allow people who could become pregnant decide what was best for them and their families, but on June 24th, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. Since then, bans on abortion have taken effect in 13 states, and courts have blocked abortion bans in 9 others, according to the New York Times abortion ban tracker, though this is constantly changing. On this anniversary episode, we are going to look at the reality that people are facing in a post-Roe America, both those seeking care and those providing it. Without Roe, a key component of reproductive care has become illegal or restricted for more than 20 million people, throwing many into painful and life-threatening situations. We are joined by Community Organizer, Kaitlyn Joshua, who experienced firsthand how new restrictions on abortion endanger the lives and wellbeing of pregnant people and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an ob/gyn, reproductive health educator, author, and Executive Director of Mayday Health, an organization focused on providing information on abortion access and options for people, regardless of where they live.
  • The Dangers of Drag Censorship with Peppermint
    Last year, the LGBTQ community faced an onslaught of scrutiny and threats, from bills banning trans youth from participating in sports, to bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth. Towards the end of the year, another front for legislative and violent attacks emerged: drag shows. As drag reality competitions and drag brunches become increasingly popular, backlash in the form of armed protests and intimidation of drag performers has followed. In November, an Oklahoma bakeshop had a molotov cocktail thrown through its window after hosting a drag show. Later that same month, a shooter entered a Colorado Springs drag show and opened fire, killing five people and injuring over 20 more. In December, far right groups such as the Patriot Front and Proud Boys showed up to a drag story hour in Columbus, Ohio, armed while others held up signs with slogans like "groomers not welcome" and "groomers are child abusers." These are, unfortunately, not one offs. GLAAD reported that drag events faced 141 protests and serious threats in 2022. Towards the end of 2022, lawmakers in six states proposed bills to ban drag in public or in the presence of minors. Amidst this wave of anti-drag legislation and violence, drag performers and host venues across the country are moving to higher security or cancel performances altogether. Despite this risk, drag performers are mobilizing to resist this most recent wave of discrimination and can count on the ACLU to support the fight against drag censorship. Here to talk with us about drag censorship and the tools to defend this expression are Peppermint, notable drag performer and ACLU's Artist Ambassador for Transgender Justice, and Emerson Sykes, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Speech Privacy and Technology Project.
  • Dahlia Lithwick on the Law's Hidden Heroes: Women
    Happy New Year. It's so good to be back with you. Often on At Liberty, we detail what is happening in the field of civil rights and public interest law, from an issue perspective. This week we're doing something a little different. We're highlighting the people behind that work, specifically the contributions of women and non-binary people to the movement of resistance law. Women weren't always allowed to be lawyers. In fact, in 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court said that women had no constitutional right to practice law. Thanks to women who fought back, that is no longer our reality. And actually, it's quite the opposite. Women are now seen, celebrated and remembered at the highest levels of the practice. This advancement is due to the work of hidden figures throughout history, like Pauli Murray, for example, who you'll hear more about today. We're sharing a conversation between two women lawyers. ACLU's very own senior staff attorney, Gillian Thomas, is in conversation with Dahlia Lithwick, legal journalist and author of the new book Lady Justice. Together, they discuss Dahlia's new book that traces the history of women in law and highlights the work of women lawyers, most notably since 2016, who've taken up the mantle to fight back against injustice that oppresses the most marginalized and threatens all of us. Dahlia argues that in a constitutional democracy, like our own power is for the taking and that women have heeded that call and stepped into their arena to fight.

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