Supporters of recalling Gov. Gavin Newsom equate mask recommendations with tyranny. Photo by Chris Stone

The executive directors of three American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in California, along with the board chair of ACLU California Action, Thursday announced their opposition to the recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The statement was issued by ACLU California Action Board Chair Connie Tcheng along with the ACLU Southern California, Northern California and San Diego & Imperial Counties chapters.

“We are united in urging California voters to say ‘no’ to our state sliding backward to a time when constitutional freedoms and other legal protections were in effect only for select groups within our richly diverse population,” Tcheng said. “The ACLU’s California affiliates call upon our members and all Californians, to reject this ill-conceived recall.”

It is the first time that the ACLU in California, which was started in 1923, has weighed in on a recall attempt in the state. The groups say the recall’s organizers are using false claims about Newsom’s response to COVID-19 to reverse the results of the 2018 election.

“The pandemic is only a smokescreen,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “It’s the convenient hook that sponsors of this recall have latched onto. But there have been no less than five efforts to recall this governor, including one that was attempted just two months after he took office, long before the pandemic began.”

The ACLU also said that the recall effort is attempting to undermine Californians support for:

  • Immigrants’ rights by specifically attacking state laws limiting collaboration between local agencies’ collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Criminal justice reform by specifically supporting the death penalty, which the ACLU calls a form of cruel and unusual punishment and should be considered a violation of the U.S. Constitution
  • Gender, sexuality and reproductive justice by calling California’s LGBTQ-inclusive sex education “controversial” and claiming that California limits parental rights

In a statement to City News Service, recall organizer Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, said, “No surprise here — the ACLU is just another Democrat front group that benefits from the dysfunction of the Sacramento Swamp.”

The ACLU denies that their opposition to the recall effort is partisan, noting that the issues at stake during the recall have been a priority of the California ACLU affiliates for a long time.

“In its 98 years in California, the ACLU has never endorsed or opposed a candidate during an election and is not doing so now,” ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties Executive Director Norma Chavez-Peterson said. “The ACLU opposes this recall effort because it aims to reverse advances in immigrants’ rights, gender equity, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform and students’ rights. With so much at stake, we will not be silent.”

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