We know 2020 has been a rough year. For the ACLU of Minnesota, it was a year when we confronted new attacks on our civil liberties, including unprecedented challenges to our right to vote. It was also a year when we witnessed, in an agonizing 8 minute and 46 second video, the consequences of our failure to adequately confront threats that have existed for centuries.
This year we grieved, we raged, we protested, we organized, we sued, and we charted a new course on policing -- one that reflects the reality that, for Black and Brown people, police too often mean punishment and not safety.
And, in many cases, we won. Here are our Top Ten Victories of 2020.
1. Created a Record-Shattering Campaign to Appoint an Independent Prosecutor for the Murder of George Floyd.
We spearheaded a campaign to move the prosecution of the police officers who killed George Floyd from County Attorney Mike Freeman to the Attorney General -- leading to more serious charges against Derek Chauvin and charges against the other three officers. The campaign engaged nearly 200,000 people, more than 75,000 of whom made calls to the Governor, Attorney General and County Attorney to demand an independent prosecution.
2. Won the Mailing of Absentee Ballot Applications to Voters and the Waiving of the Ballot Signature Requirement.
We won a legal victory that resulted in absentee ballot applications being mailed to 2.3 million registered voters, and the ballot envelope signature requirement being waived. Because of our victory, voting was more accessible for more people during this unprecedented pandemic – and Minnesota kept its top spot for statewide voter turnout.
Our organizing team, led in this project by Elizer Darris, worked for more than three years with a coalition of community partners to pursue justice for Myon Burrell. Darris, who spoke at Burrell’s hearing before the Minnesota Board of Pardons, praised the commutation of Burrell’s life sentence and said, “I know [Burrell] is a man of character; I know he is a man of his word.”
In a legal victory, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that segregating transgender students violates the state Constitution and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. "It means a lot to see that courts protect transgender students like me. Today's decision makes it very clear that segregating trans students doesn't just dehumanize us, it violates our legal rights,” said the plaintiff, N.H. after the ruling.
5. Secured a Nearly $8 million Divestment from Minneapolis Police, to be Reinvested in our Communities.
We worked with allies to organize a multi-phase campaign calling upon the Minneapolis City Council to pass the Safety for All Budget, which shifts nearly $8 million from traditional policing into non-violent responses and community resources and services. It’s a critical first step towards communities that are safe and healthy for all.
In a pivotal legal victory, a judge ruled that the policy of holding undocumented people for ICE after they would have otherwise been released violates the law.
7. Mobilized Members and Volunteers for a Get Out the Vote Campaign that Prioritized Historically Disenfranchised Voters.
We organized a months-long campaign to turn out the vote in historically disenfranchised communities, including people who were formerly incarcerated. Our team and volunteers sent mailings, commissioned posters, hired a mobile billboard, and made thousands of phone calls and text messages to educate Minnesotans about their rights and help them vote.
We settled a police brutality lawsuit against the City of Worthington for $590,000 on behalf of our client, Kelvin Francisco Rodriguez. The officer’s assault on Rodriguez was so severe that it broke several of his ribs and punctured his liver and pancreas. “We hope this settlement ensures that Worthington police will end their excessive use of force and instead work to protect and serve everyone,” said ACLU-MN attorney Ian Bratlie.
9. Waged an Ongoing Legal, Policy and Organizing Battle to Protect People in State and Federal Prisons from COVID-19.
We continue to exhaust every available avenue to protect people in Minnesota jails and prisons from the pandemic. We have urged officials to release people from custody, written a draft executive order, hosted educational events, and filed three lawsuits. One District Judge recently ordered the Minnesota Department of Corrections to show cause "why they should not be ordered to perform their legal duty" to keep prisoners safer during the pandemic.
10. Won a Legal Victory Ensuring that People with Disabilities and Language Barriers Can Access the Ballot.
In another major legal victory, we won a lawsuit to ensure that people with disabilities and people who encounter language barriers can get assistance at the polls from a person they trust.