The killing of Trayvon Martin brought hundreds of people to the headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Thursday to rally against the extremist legislation that the organization pushes, and the deadly real-life consequences it has. George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Martin in February, could be protected by Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was later ratified by ALEC as a model for other states and supported in over two dozen legislatures by numerous ALEC politicians.
A diverse coalition of advocacy organizations, watchdog groups, activists, and national leaders stood in front of ALEC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., to protest the "Kill at Will" legislation, which was written by ALEC corporate member the National Rifle Association (NRA). The groups protesting at the event included the National Urban League, the NAACP, ColorOfChange, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, ProgressNow, the Center for Media and Democracy/ALECexposed.org, Common Cause, People For the American Way, ProgressNow, Presente, Public Campaign, UltraViolet, Faith in Public Life, the National Council of Churches, USAction, Moveon.org, and others.
Leaders of the groups attempted to deliver a letter asking the ALEC chairmen of the public and private boards to "fully disclose ALEC's financial relationship with all NRA entities, including any contributions, sponsorships, in-kind support or other support ALEC has received, and we ask your joint board to pledge to desist from supporting and promoting lethal 'Shoot First' legislation." (ALEC's board chairs are Indiana Rep. Dave Frizzell and the head of the lobbying firm CenterPoint 360, W. Preston Baldwin.) The leaders were locked out of ALEC's headquarters.
"I am Trayvon Martin"
Participants at the rally held signs that read: "I am Trayvon Martin," "Don't Shoot me -- I'm a Mom," "(A)LEC (L)obbying (E)xemplifies (C)orruption," and others. The Nation Magazine's John Nichols called the convergence in DC a "renewed civil rights coalition," noting that beyond the "Kill at Will" legislation, which has provoked a vibrant national conversation on racial profiling, ALEC promotes other legislation that targets minorities, including restrictive "voter ID" laws.
"We've come to pull back the curtain so that the world can meet the team of ghost-writers who have written these kill-at-will laws and spread this poison around the nation," said Marc Morial, president of National Urban League. "People need to understand that the same team of ghostwriters ... is poisoning the constitutional right to vote [by] spreading around the nation these despicable voter ID laws."
The Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) Executive Director Lisa Graves echoed this statement, saying that Martin's death symbolizes the larger issue of ALEC's disruption of our democratic process: "It's not about just Florida -- this bill is in many states. And it's not just this bill; it's a number of these 'cookie cutter' bills. ... When you look at the paths of these bills, you see ALEC's footprints." She also noted a number of corporations that have funded ALEC's operations and told the crowd about CMD's research -- that the NRA co-chaired the ALEC task force where other controversial bills like "voter ID" and the Arizona anti-immigrant law known as "SB 1070" were ratified as ALEC models.
Leaders who addressed the rally included: Hilary Shelton, Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy of the NAACP; Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League; Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange; Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy; Mike Livingston, Director of the Poverty Initiative of the National Council of Churches; Diallo Brooks, Director of Field Mobilization of People For the American Way; Doug Clopp, Deputy Director for Programs of Common Cause; and Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in the Public Life.