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Building Movements for Change

September 24, 2012

George Friday and the Local Civil Rights Restoration platform

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Rights Now

George Friday began working as a community organizer at the age of 14. She had complained to her teacher about an assignment, and the teacher responded by belittling Friday’s opinions while referencing her race and class. After Friday rallied her friends and fellow students, the teacher was dismissed and student input began to be included in teacher evaluations. Today, Friday continues as a dynamic grassroots leader with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), a UUSC partner that empowers people to challenge oppression and build communities that protect their civil rights.

As BORDC’s national organizer, Friday works to mobilize diverse local coalitions through the Local Civil Rights Restoration (LCRR) platform. One of the first steps is bringing people from different communities together to share their challenges and envision how working together can strengthen their capacity to influence the issues they care about. As Friday says, “If we’re going to build movements for change, we need to know each other.”

The LCRR platform provides an important tool for taking action to protect civil rights: model legislation for city or municipal councils that limits the ability of local police to carry out discriminatory federal policies. Specifically, LCRR concentrates on policies that result in police profiling of individuals and communities because of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and political ideology. Under the LCRR Act, local police are prohibited from participating in federal programs such as Secure Communities and other surveillance and data-collection initiatives run by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Friday supports coalitions across the country through all phases of the LCRR process. An LCRR campaign begins with outreach to potential partners to learn about their issues and begin building strong and resilient relationships that will sustain the coalition. The second phase includes intensive public education and outreach on the issues that coalition members are dealing with.

The local public’s understanding and support of proposed reforms is as important as the reforms themselves. Friday and BORDC stress that legislation offers no real protection if the affected communities are not aware it exists. Human rights work is not just passing fair public policy; it is growing resilient movements for the protection of all people’s rights. “What our work is really about is building a movement for power,” says Friday. Without that movement, any gains or impacts that a community makes will be fleeting.

With UUSC’s support, BORDC recently brought together 25 coalition leaders in Chicago to begin building a national network of civil liberties activists. Guided by Friday and her colleagues at BORDC, activists from all over the country shared their successes and challenges, strategized for the future, and built the foundation for enduring relationships that will support their work for years to come.

Anna Bartlett is a former associate in UUSC’s Civil Liberties Program.

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