The Trump presidency looks to be a dark age for American civil liberties, but also, not coincidentally, a golden era for membership in the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization was recently dubbed a “main Trump antagonist” by the similarly antagonistic Washington Post.
“We’ve seen a tremendous influx of new members,” says Doug Honig, communications director at the ACLU of Washington (ACLU-WA), noting that membership in the state has essentially tripled since election night. In response, state ACLU officials devised an event called Flights & Rights to reach out to new members who have made an initial donation, but may be uncertain how else they can affect change in Trump’s America.
Each month ACLU-WA partners with a Seattle brewery to provide free refreshments during a presentation on civil-rights issues. This month, on Tuesday in the series’ new home at KEXP Studios, Pike Brewing provides the buzz while the state chapter’s legal director, Emily Chiang, leads a discussion on how litigation can be used to advance civil rights. “People are incredibly interested in knowing more about civil liberties,” says Honig, “and in finding a sense of community with other people who share their concerns about what the Trump administration is doing.”
That concern is easy to come by in Seattle, but Flights & Rights offers more than a gathering of politically aligned IPA enthusiasts. Rather, it’s one of many deliberate efforts to engage with an unusually young breed of new ACLU members who—likely for the first time since they reached voting age—fear their civil liberties may be endangered.
According to Honig, national ACLU membership has been rising steadily since November, with noticeable spikes in membership on election night, on Inauguration Day, and after Trump signed an executive order forbidding travel from seven Muslim-majority nations—an order the ACLU played an integral part in challenging through litigation. “This is really unprecedented,” Honig says. “We saw a significant increase in membership after 9/11, because of Bush-administration policies like the Patriot Act, but this far outstrips even that.”
Like other chapters across the nation, ACLU-WA is using its increased resources to accomplish more, recently hiring a new staff attorney to focus on immigration-related issues. Its efforts to preserve constitutional freedoms now under fire from the Trump administration have already made an impact, but they can’t do it alone—that’s where the free beer comes in handy. Flights & Rights, KEXP Studios Gathering Space, 472 First Ave. N., 520-5800, kexp.org. Free with RSVP. 21 and over. 6 p.m. Tues., March 28.