The past year has brought multiple crises – from the continued murder of Black people by law enforcement, to the direct and collateral harms of COVID-19, to systematic efforts to restrict the fundamental right to vote, and more.
Thanks to ACLU supporters like you, we stood ready to face these crises – and we are ready for whatever comes next.
For the rest of this month, we invite you to tune in as we share some of our accomplishments from the past year. While we achieved many successes in 2020, much work remains before we can consider South Carolina a state where We the People means everyone. Thank you for being part of this work.
Read more about this work:
Launching our Organizing Team
This past year, our country faced unprecedented tests: the global pandemic, social movements, and a monumental election. Our resilience and adaptability have faced profound challenges, while our understanding of community and solidarity have gained a deeper meaning. The ACLU of South Carolina’s organizing program grew to meet these challenges and deliberately invested in building people power in our state.
Across the country, we experienced a new wave of large-scale organizing. In light of COVID-19, mutual aid efforts jump started by grassroots groups mobilized to keep those in their community fed, housed, and taken care of. In Charleston, we participated in organizing efforts with the South Carolina Housing Justice Network to fight the epidemic of eviction across this state. While we were all at risk, our attention turned those who lived in especially vulnerable environments: prisons and jails. Working closely with people with incarcerated loved ones, our organizing and legal departments worked together to educate the public. And, in partnership with grassroots groups, we hosted forums and offered a space to organize direct actions such as phone zaps and social awareness campaigns.
The summer of 2020 was a grave social and moral (re)awakening. The disenfranchisement, racism, and police violence that Black and Brown people continue to face in this country was front and center. From the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, to the murder of Breonna Taylor; protest and vigils exploded across the country. Government entities, lawmakers, and law enforcement were forced to reckon with the constant devaluation and endangerment of Black life. On June 17th, 2020, Orangeburg Department of Public Safety (ODPS) announced updated policies prohibiting the use of “chokeholds” and a “duty to intervene.” These actions were swiftly implemented through a collaborative effort of local advocacy, Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler, and Director Mike Adams of ODPS. On August 8th, 2020, the Orangeburg City Council gave the first reading to repeal loitering and vagrancy ordinances during a special session. These changes are far from enough to rectify the centuries of harm and injustice faced by Black communities. However, these wins signify the power of organizing and social pressure.
Charleston experienced weeks of organized protests in support of racial justice. In the birthplace of the first police force in the form of a “slave patrol,” this was especially pertinent to the city’s history. Unfortunately during the last weekend of May, a peaceful protest was met with police violence and the arrest of 46 people. The ACLU of South Carolina has continuously organized with our partner organizations, such South Carolina for Criminal Justice Reform, to hold the Charleston Police Department (CPD) accountable. During multiple Public Safety Committee meetings, we stacked the docket with folks who experienced police brutality on Sunday, May 31st. We’ve sent multiple letters questioning CPD’s retaliatory actions against peaceful protestors and residents of the Eastside community. Finally, in response to an increased police presence, we organized with Charleston BLM and the Lowcountry Action Committee to create public education content encouraging civic engagement. It was no easy feat to hold an entire law enforcement agency accountable, and unfortunately CPD has not yet taken responsibility for their actions. Regardless, we were proud to build trust, power, and community with those in our city.
This year has shown us that in order to shift power and create true accountability, we must meaningfully invest in community organizing. The massive protests, policy wins, and investment in communities over police is a testament to people power. Right now we have an obligation to dismantle America’s racist and exploitative system and replace it with a new system built on a foundation of justice. The ACLU of SC is proud to be a small part of the movement for an equitable and just South Carolina.