The American Civil Liberties Union is sending a powerful, multilingual message to President Donald Trump about civil rights by posting the First Amendment in English, Spanish and Arabic on billboards across the country.
The goal of its “We the People” campaign is to send a message to Trump that Americans’ rights ― particularly those of immigrants, Latinx and Muslims ― are protected by the Constitution.
“Trump came to power on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, and it was particularly bad when it came to Muslims,” ACLU communications staffer Stacy Sullivan told The Huffington Post. “We thought this would be a good time to remind the public ― and Trump ― that the First Amendment applies to Muslims and Latinos, and everyone else in this country, too.”
The First Amendment protects people’s right to practice their religion without facing discrimination. It also protects free speech, a free press and the right to protest.
The signs simply write out the language of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The first signs went up last week in Times Square in New York, as well as at 30 bus stops in Washington, D.C. Another billboard went up in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The group is aiming to put up more signs in other cities and in other languages in the coming months, Sullivan said.
The ACLU chose to post the signs in Spanish and Arabic specifically because American and immigrant communities that speak those languages ― particularly the Muslim and Latinx communities ― are not only numerous in the U.S. but also are “most under threat,” said Sullivan.
The Trump administration has targeted Muslims with two executive orders barring travel from Muslim-majority countries ― which have both been blocked by the courts ― and Latinos with deportations and plans to build a wall on the Mexican border.
“It’s a way for us to state our solidarity with those communities under threat,” Sullivan told HuffPost, “and to say what [Trump is] doing is really un-American.”
While the signs are a pointed response to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, they are also a commentary on the president’s attacks on the other First Amendment freedoms: of the press, speech and protest.
Trump has called the media the “enemy of the American people” and attacked reputable media outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, by labeling them “fake news.”
Trump has also criticized people who exercise their right to free speech and protest by suggesting that anyone who burns an American flag as a form of protest should lose citizenship.
“From his attempted Muslim ban to his calls for media suppression to his remarks endorsing the use of violence against those who protest against him, President Trump has shown disdain for the rights and freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a news release. “We thought it was a good time to remind people of these rights.”
The “We the People” campaign, developed by ad agency Emergence Creative for the ACLU, is simply about sending a message to Trump that people’s rights need to be upheld and to all people in America that their rights are protected by law.
“This campaign is intended to remind people that the Constitution is for all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are or what language you speak,” Romero said in the release. “‘We the People’ means everyone.”
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