Our Civil Liberties Heroes of 2014

December 22, 2014

Every year, the ACLU of Michigan works on hundreds of legal cases and pieces of legislation that touch lives all over the state.

Through cases covering concerns from free speech to government abuse, we have the honor to meet members, supporters and clients who show the passion, bravery and faith in civil liberties that has supported the ACLU through a century of work defending our rights.

This year has been no different. Take a look back with us and listen to the stories of some of our civil liberties heroes for 2014.

As the year winds down, we hope you'll help us continue to help people speak out by making a donation today. After all, freedom can't defend itself. 

Jewel Hall 

Please note that by playing this clip you may place a cookie on your computer. To learn more, view the ACLU of Michigan's privacy policy


Gabe Novak, a student at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music, had to spend three days and two nights in jail for playing guitar and entertaining families on vacation. Viola player Christopher Waechter was told he couldn't play his music on the sidewalk.

In the fall, the two accomplished musicians joined with us to file a federal lawsuit against the City of Saugatuck to defend our free speech rights.

The suit challenges the city’s misguided attempt to use laws intended for business establishments to squelch the individual musicians’ right to perform on sidewalks. As Gabe says, "If we don’t have free speech rights in our public spaces, where are we going to express ourselves?"

Every year, we take on free speech rights from across the state and distribute thousands of Know Your Rights cards. Not only does our free speech work help people like Gabe and Chris, but we address political protest, journalists’ rights, and freedom of expression online.

Atiya Haynes

Please note that by playing this clip you may place a cookie on your computer. To learn more, view the ACLU of Michigan's privacy policy

Atiya Haynes could be downhearted. After all, the 17-year-old honor student and community volunteer was suspended for the rest of her senior year from the Dearborn Heights school district, another casualty of misguided zero tolerance laws.

Aided by the ACLU of Michigan, Haynes was able to avoid expulsion from public schools statewide and to enroll in another school district without risking graduation. Now, the college-bound Haynes is speaking out on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of U.S. students who are at risk of being forced from public schools each year by policies that ignore individual disciplinary concerns and shoehorn students into one-size-fits-all policies.

Without donations from people passionate about defending students' rights and creating thoughtful disciplinary policies, we couldn't have stood by Atiya's side. That's why she thanked members and supporters in a personal video message.

Tamesha Means


“They didn’t tell me what was happening to my body,” recalls Tamesha, recounting her ordeal at a Catholic-affiliated hospital. “Whatever was going on with me, they discussed it amongst themselves. I was just left to wonder, ‘What’s going to happen to me?’”

Tamesha was rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Mich., when her water broke after only 18 weeks of pregnancy. Based on the hospital’s religious directives, doctors sent her home twice even though she was in excruciating pain. There was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive, and continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health.

Tamesha’s bravery in sharing her story puts a face on the ordeals that many women suffer through at religiously affiliated hospitals, but she's not alone.

Thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, the ACLU of Michigan has intervened on behalf of other women this year as well. We’ve challenged faith-based hospital policies that put female patients at risk, and we’ve successfully opposed a bill that could’ve allowed religion to be used as a loophole to disregard appropriate standards of medical care.

Detroit Residents Opposing the Water Crisis 

Please note that by playing this clip you may place a cookie on your computer. To learn more, view the ACLU of Michigan's privacy policy

As a massive residential water shut-off campaign continues in Detroit, we have stood in respectful awe of the hundreds of resilient residents organizing for change. And we are proud to say we’ve stood alongside them.

This year, the ACLU of Michigan worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to release When The Water Runs Dry, a documentary film that gives voice to the residents and activists fighting the Detroit Water and Sewage Department’s push to disconnect water service to some of the neediest Detroiters.

Detroit residents have come together not only to provide immediate aid to neighbors (mostly low income children, seniors, and the disabled) but also to demand a moratorium on the shut-offs. Local organizations are continuing to ask thoughtful questions in the fight for the affordable access to water, like Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, People’s Water Board, National Action Network-Michigan Chapter and Moratorium Now!

Through the support of our members and supporters, the ACLU of Michigan has worked as expert consultants in water rights litigation and distributed information to ensure that residents facing service termination know their rights.

Related Issues: