A group of several dozen hoodie-wearing protesters staged a die-in at the hotel this morning, noting the group’s role in spreading Stand Your Ground laws that helped protect George Zimmerman after shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, a mass rally has been called for Thursday organized by the Chicago Federation of Labor, and other actions are expected throughout the week.For the hoodie wearers, it's all about the controversial "stand your ground" law that has altered the way many self-defense cases, including the Zimmerman case, are being handled in Florida and in some 30 other states that have some form of "stand your ground" statute. ALEC has been key to getting these laws onto the books.
The protests highlight the role organized labor could play in opposing ALEC. Other progressive organizations like environmentalists and civil rights activists oppose ALEC’s agenda, but none possess the resources and membership size of unions.
That fact has prompted Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, to plan hearings on "stand your ground" laws after the August recess. He has sent a letter to some 300 corporations who are or may be backers of ALEC asking what their position is on "stand your ground." It states:
“I write to seek information regarding your company’s position on “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model by an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),” Durbin wrote. “In 2005, ALEC approved the adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation entitled the ‘Castle Doctrine Act.’ This model legislation was based on Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law, and it changes the criminal law regarding self-defense and provides immunity for certain uses of deadly force.Forty years. That's how long ALEC has been quietly chewing away at our laws, another termite of democracy, hollowing out worker protections and engaging in other shenanigans by getting its corporate-drafted, "model" statutes passed and signed into law.
“Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model “stand your ground” legislation in 2005 and the present day. I acknowledge your company’s right to actively participate in the debate of important political issues, regardless of your position, and I recognize that a company’s involvement with ALEC does not necessarily mean that the company endorses all positions taken by the organization. Therefore I am seeking clarification whether companies that have funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.”
Since corporate representatives sit on all of ALEC's task forces, along with selected state legislators known for doing their bidding, Durbin's letter may get little response. But at least it's an attempt to shine some light on the organization's activities and impact in this one specific area. ALEC ought to be the subject of a slew of such hearings on its whole range of operations.