ACLU in Austin

This past weekend, the American Civil Liberties Union held its annual nationwide staff conference in Austin -- "a symbolic move," says ACLU of Texas Executive Director Will Harrell, "to give respect to the reinvigorated Texas affiliate but also to commune in one of the country's most troubled spots, where things are deeply off-kilter from our perspective." Over the four-day conference, which was closed to the media, about 280 Unionists from all 50 states discussed longstanding topics -- for example, race and criminal justice -- as well as newer issues, such as civil liberties in the post-Sept. 11 world, and federal attempts to create a national identification system. Staffers also used the conference to exchange information about the nation's courts, in order to gauge the courtroom climate and prepare strategies. Among those in attendance was new national executive director Anthony Romero, who came on board last year and supports a bottom-up organizational model.

Meanwhile, Harrell says enthusiastically, "It's the dawning of a new day for the ACLU in Texas. It's about killed me, but now we've got momentum." And money, too: In the past two years, the Texas affiliate's major donations have tripled, its annual budget has doubled, and membership has grown by 45%. With only four staff statewide (three in Austin, one in its new East Texas regional office), the ACLU still must rely on volunteers to help pull projects together. Their ranks are also growing: 25 volunteers have already signed on to help with the upcoming legislative session. Harrell expects three more state staffers to come on board within the next year.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Lauri Apple
Will Council Take a Stand on PATRIOT Act?
Will Council Take a Stand on PATRIOT Act?
Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman's pro-civil-liberties resolution stalls on the dais

Aug. 15, 2003

With Minimal Drama, Saltillo Project Lurches Forward
With Minimal Drama, Saltillo Project Lurches Forward
Capital Metro hires a planner and appoints community advisors for the rail-yard redevelopment

Aug. 8, 2003

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle