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The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF), along with representatives from other North Carolina civil rights organizations, were deeply alarmed by racially inflammatory comments attributed to Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell (pictured) in the Raleigh News & Observer on Sunday, September 7, 2008. The groups launched an investigation and filed a formal public records request, demanding public records and documents from Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell pertaining to DWI checkpoints, driver’s license checkpoints, arrests, jail bookings and information pertaining to whether Johnston County has fully complied with North Carolina state law that prohibits racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement. 

The ACLU-NCLF and other local civil rights groups allege that Sheriff Bizzell’s statements in the September 7th article constitute direct evidence of racial discrimination and hostility toward Latino citizens and residents of Johnston County.  Examples of such statements attributed to Bizzell include: 

  • Pointing to tiendas that have cropped up amid local barbecue joints, saying, “You can’t even read the durned sign. Everywhere you look, it’s like little Mexico around here.”
  • Condemning undocumented Latino immigrants for “breeding like rabbits” and for spreading a culture of drunkenness and violence, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
  • Claiming that undocumented Latino immigrants “rape, rob and murder” American citizens, fail to pay taxes and drain social services, again despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. 
  • “How long is it going to be until we’re the minority?”
  • “Mexicans are trashy.”
  • “When people think about illegal Mexicans, you know the first thing they think of? — driving drunk and shooting.”

“Blanket assertions like this about an entire class of people, again despite overwhelming     evidence to the contrary, if put into practice, are the very essence of racial and ethnic profiling by law enforcement that are prohibited  under state law,” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive  Director of the ACLU of North Carolina.  “Our investigation aims to find out whether Sheriff Bizzell or any of his deputies have engaged in racial or ethnic profiling or discrimination in how they enforce the laws in Johnston County.”

...

RALEIGH – Seventy-five North Carolina-based groups and thousands of North Carolina residents are calling on state, federal, and Johnston County officials as well as Global TransPark Authority Board members to investigate the actions of Aero Contractors, a contract air carrier that has been identified as a participant in the CIA-sponsored “extraordinary rendition” program and which uses the facilities of state-funded Global TransPark as well as the Johnston County airport in Smithfield. Working for the CIA, Aero Contractors has flown persons kidnapped in various countries to secret locations in other countries, where they were held incommunicado and tortured.

“The strong grassroots support for this campaign should serve as a wakeup call for state officials,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, an attorney with the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation who coordinates the Muslim/Middle Eastern Community Outreach Project. “ North Carolinians are not willing to play host to a company that operates torture flights.”

The groups will hold a press conference on Wednesday, March 21 st, at 2:00 p.m., in the Press Room of the Legislative Building. Visuals on North Carolina’s involvement in the CIA torture program will be displayed in the Bicentennial Plaza. Speakers at the press conference will include: Representative Paul Luebke, State Representative from Durham; Representative Earl Jones, State Representative from Guilford County; Barbara Zelter, North Carolina Council of Churches; Rabbi John Friedman, Judea Reform Congregation, Durham; Father Steven Patti O.F.M., Immaculate Conception Parish, Durham; Christina Cowger, Coordinator of NC Stop Torture Now; and Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU-NC Legal Foundation.

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