Protesters and Civil Liberties

Abogado Aly Civil

The year of 2017 saw a huge swell in public protests stemming from racial unrest and displeasure with systemic injustices targeted at certain groups of people. Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the grassroots activist group Black Lives Matter has staged public protests, marches, and social media campaigns designed to bring awareness to the plight of people of color against law enforcement and the criminal justice system. On the other end of the spectrum, though, white nationalists and white supremacists have also taken to the streets with torches to protest the immigration policies they view as lax and the perceived vilification of white and caucasian Americans. Each group independently caught pushback from both the media and their communities, who bemoaned the damage to public property and the need for increased crowd control and first responders.

These two forces came to a head in Charlottesville, when a clash between a white nationalist group and a combination of Antifa (anti-facist) and Black Lives Matter protesters ended in fist-fights, property damage and destruction, arson, and the death of a young white woman.

Sympathizers of both Black Lives Matter and White Nationalism have accused the other side of hurling “hate speech” and inciting race-based violence against the other. Both claim the other uses inflammatory verbiage, divisive rhetoric, and skewed-if-not-wholly false information to debase the other and forward their own agenda. To that end, speakers or activists considered too political on one side or another have been barred from speaking on various college campuses. While the administrators of these institutions of higher learning tend to call on “security concerns” when prohibiting “extremists” from either side from speaking on campuses, many believe that these higher ed institutions are sheltering their students and suppressing certain viewpoints in violation of the first amendment.

Calls to “stop hate speech” on both sides have reinvigorated first amendment fanatics who are nervous about how far we’ll be able to limit free speech in the name of reducing violence. The first amendment as it’s written prohibits the US government from passing laws that infringe on the people’s right to free speech. We have made some important caveats, though, the classic example being that a person can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater to purposefully incite panic. We also prohibit organizing terrorist threats against the US.

While we can’t legally stop people from saying what they want, the administrators of some of the biggest social media websites can claim that it’s against their terms of service to post racially insensitive or discriminatory information or to actively champion such causes as ethnic cleansing or white supremacy. Unlike the government, social media platforms are private businesses who can set terms and conditions under which they will permit users to utilize their services. Twitter and various white nationalist groups have been caught up in a cat-and-mouse game over how to ensure that twitter’s crawlers catch white nationalists and only white nationalists, but their algorithm isn’t great, and their terms aren’t clear.

The future of free speech as it pertains to potentially offensive and inflammatory information is yet to be determined, but as our society proves more and more divided, we’ll have to come to a new truce sooner rather than later to avoid more deadly clashes.

Texas Companies Under Heat for Violations Against Americans with Disabilities Act

Abogado Aly Americans With Disabilities ActA new online article done by the “Austin Business Journal” discusses recent action taken by Texas civil right groups. The civil rights groups are suing cab companies for violations regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. The two civil rights groups in question are ADAPT and Texas Civil Rights Project. They have filed over 30 lawsuits across Texas against Uber, Lyft, and Yellow Cab stating that these companies do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

ADAPT is a grassroots organization fighting for equal rights for people with disabilities. The Texas Civil Rights Project is a non-profit organization focusing on educating people and aiding litigation for economic, social, and racial injustices. ADAPT and Yellow Cab have been battling in litigation for years regarding the companies disability practices. Uber and Lyft are new to the industry; however, they have been completely absent in their efforts to make their service accessible for people with disabilities.

These startups are content with catering to a more young mobile group rather than complying the Americans with Disabilities Act because it makes their business move faster. Lyft, for example, does not have cars that are wheelchair accessible, in Austin, yet. Yellow Cab has been known to leave people with disabilities waiting for hours.
Both Yellow Cab and Lyft have released statements saying that their companies are committed to servicing the entire community with emphasis on people with disabilities.

Other businesses in Texas have been sued as well. Some of these businesses include residential lofts and condominiums, the Austin Club, La Michoacana Meat Market, and a Pizza Hut. Nightclub roof decks that are only accessible by stairs are a violation of the disabilities act and are also being sued. Medical facilities that do not provide deaf patients with an interpreter are also subject to litigation.

These are basic civil laws that many businesses seem to be ignoring. These civil rights groups have to take the law into their own hand and make a stand against businesses not complying with this basic civil law.