Mighty Ira (2020) Movie Script

[waves splashes]
[car horn honking]
[ambulance siren wailing]
[indistinct chatter]
[Ira] I have, uh, always
resisted coming back.
[train rumbles]
You have to understand,
this was like a shrine to us.
This was like
a religious shrine.
[railway rumbling]
And it was as if you'd had
a beautiful treasured
gothic cathedral
and they had torn it down
and built a department store.
I'm a man on fire
Walking through your street
Behind bars
and you see that little EFA,
Ebbets Field Apartments
that must stand for.
So I used to say,
"If you're a Dodger fan,
you ended up believing
in civil rights
and civil liberties
and if you're a Yankee fan,
you ended up believing
in oil depletion allowances."
Aside from standing
on the ground geographically
where I know Ebbets Field was,
uh, standing here really has
no resonance for me
with that experience.
I mean, I see the sign out here,
but, uh, it's not real.
[interviewer 1] Ira, you want
to tell her what this is about?
Yes, they're doing a film
about me.
And... and I grew up in Brooklyn
and I was an old
Brooklyn Dodger fan
and I used to go to Ebbets Field
when I was your age
and my first season of rooting
for the Dodgers was 1947.
You know what 1947 was
in the history of the Dodgers?
It was the year that
Jackie Robinson first played
in Ebbets Field
which stood right over here
where these building are. Yeah.
Yeah, yeah.
And, uh,
that was really something.
[soft music playing]
I have to... I have to slide in.
I... I always regard it
as a form of sacrilege that
on the ground
where Jackie Robinson stole home
there might be washing machines
doing somebody's dirty laundry.
[Ira] It's been a long time
since I've been here.
I don't recognize it.
Yeah, that's exactly right.
That guy we met on the street,
you know, he knew about it.
But these kids, why would they
know any of this history
if somebody didn't teach it
to them,
if somebody didn't tell them
about it?
[upbeat music playing]
Yay, come dance with me
Over heartache and rage
Come set us free
Over panic and strange
I wanna see our bodies burning
Like the old big sun
I wanna know what we've been
Learning and learning from
Everybody want...
My first impression of him,
Ira Glasser seemed to me to be
a normal ordinary person.
[Jay Nordlinger] Young people
know who Ira Glasser is?
It would take a very special
kind of young person,
I would say, very special.
Nah, of course,
first impressions don't last
very long. [laughs]
A bald guy with a mustache
and a firm handshake
and a Brooklyn accent,
Ira wasn't about to kiss
anyone's ass.
-Only one desire
-One desire
-That's still in me
-That's left in me
- I want the whole damn world
-I want the whole damn world
-To come and dance with me -Come and dance with me, yeah
[indistinct chatter]
[Noam] Good evening, everybody,
welcome to the
Comedy Cellar Show
here on SiriusXM Channel 99
-and we have, uh,
two pretty important comedians--
-[man 1] About time they--
[Noam] Now... now hold on,
hold on.
Wait, I'll introduce the guest
of honor first
and then we can get--
Mr. Ira Glasser, who is, was...
was head of the
American Civil Liberties Union,
-from what years?
-'78 to 2001.
-[Noam] '78 to 2001.
Oh, I remember reading
somewhere, uh, that you were
credited with taking the ACLU
from like a small-time
mom-and-pop operation
to becoming the national force
that it is today, right?
-You're... you're that...
that Ira Glasser? That's--
I'm that Ira Glasser.
It was, you know, it was...
it was pretty well established,
uh, before... before me,
but, um, but it grew a lot.
Yeah, it grew a lot.
[tranquil music playing]
[Ira] Much of my political
growth and development happened
between the '50s and the '60s.
The '50s were known,
as I recall,
as the silent generation.
[man 2] The cafe lounge is a
perfect spot to loaf a while
and get acquainted
while you enjoy a beverage
or other light refreshments.
It were, I remember,
as a time of not only
a political quiescence,
but political intimidation.
We're spending an awful
lot of time, a lot of money, uh,
investigating things other than
the communists that we should
be digging out of government.
[Ira] People were forced to sign
loyalty oaths
and were fired if they didn't
and it was a time
when people were afraid
to go to political meetings,
when they were afraid
to sign petitions.
I don't remember there being
any student activism.
[man 3] While with half
the world already
under the yoke of communism,
those nations
still remaining free
look hopefully to the U.S.
That changed dramatically
and I mean, really,
it's a quantum leap in the '60s.
[crowd cheering]
There's a time
when the operation of the
machine becomes so odious,
makes you so sick at heart--
[Roger] People were
extraordinarily frustrated.
Their kids were being drafted,
the kids themselves were
in the streets, uh, protesting.
The civil rights movement
had come to a stopping point
with the passage of the
Public Accommodations Act
and the Civil Rights Act
and the Voting Rights Act
and, uh, yet, there still
wasn't much equality.
As the political climate
heated up a lot in the country,
I became less and less satisfied
with sitting at a desk
and editing a magazine
about what was happening
and I began to develop
a strong desire
to sort of get involved
more directly
in the political action.
[man 4] Robert F. Kennedy,
he wins the nomination
on the first ballot
and Mayor Robert Wagner,
a principal backer, introduces the candidate to the convention.
At the same time, uh,
Bobby Kennedy had begun
to emerge for me
as a kind of a unique figure
in American politics.
Being a United States senator,
I mean, seeing that
in my own family,
I think is a position,
a very lofty position,
in a position where you can
accomplish a great deal.
Somewhere in...
in the middle of his brother's
presidential administration
and in the years afterwards
when he was elected senator
from New York,
he began to be one of the few
and certainly the leading
white politician
who became genuinely engaged
with the civil rights movement.
And I wrote him this letter
explaining to him
about why I thought he was
a unique politician and uniquely
positioned to implement
and... and initiate the kind of
changes I thought he wanted,
I thought I wanted
and I thought the nation needed.
The idea that somebody,
you know, completely unknown
and without any
public credentials at all
could write a letter like that
to the United States senator
and actually get an appointment
to see him was ridiculous.
Whatever reason, uh,
I finally got this appointment
with Senator Kennedy
and I trudged down
to Washington to see him.
So, I sit down with him
and he asks me
a lean in question of some kind
and I proceed to tell him
why I think
he should run for president.
And so he just said
that this was, you know,
at best premature,
but he asked me to, you know,
stay in touch, which I took
as a great encouragement.
[soft music playing]
Then he said to me,
"Well, so what are you going
to be doing in the meantime,
I mean, and if you don't want to
continue to edit that magazine?
What are you thinking of?"
I said, "I do have another offer
that a former colleague of mine
at the magazine
who was now the executive
director of the ACLU in New York
and had just called me and said
that they were expanding a bit
and he was thinking
of creating a position
of Associate Director there."
And Kennedy said, "And?"
And I said, "I told him no."
For one thing, I was interested
in working for you
and for another thing,
I hardly knew
what the ACLU was."
I thought it was all lawyers
and I was not a lawyer.
I told him that its agenda
of issues focusing on litigation
around the Bill of Rights
was much narrower
than my range of interest
in the political life.
Actually, he said, "You're wrong
about the narrowness.
I think, if you work there
it will get you into all the
issues you care about."
He said, "You should consider
that offer seriously."
I was really sort of stunned
by that response
uh, because he was hardly a man
of the left
or of libertarian instincts.
This is the guy who worked
for Joe McCarthy
who had wiretapped people.
And I said,
"Why do you say that?"
And he says, "The ACLU
is a really unique organization
in American life.
It's founded on a set of,
sort of, root principles
of what this country is about.
Uh, values of liberty
and all the range of values
codified in the Bill of Rights."
A month or so later
after my meeting with Kennedy,
I accept this newly created
position of Associate Director
of the New York
Civil Liberties Union.
Good morning.
We are broadcasting this morning
the announcement
of Democratic Senator
Robert F. Kennedy of New York
that he will be a candidate
for the presidency.
I am announcing today
my candidacy for the presidency
of the United States.
And suddenly out of the blue,
Martin Luther King
is assassinated.
[Robert Kennedy] Could you lower
those signs please?
I have some very sad news
for all of you
and I think, uh, sad news
for all of our fellow citizens
and people who love peace
all over the world,
and that is that
Martin Luther King was shot
and was killed tonight
in Memphis, Tennessee.
[crowd gasping]
You get this news
and everything just freezes.
[Bryan Stevenson] I remember
growing up in this poor rural
segregated community.
I remember sitting there
and just sensing
all of this anxiety
and all of this fear
and all of this, uh, outrage.
Everybody in the
civil rights community
remembers King's death.
It was the death of a dream.
It was an assassination
that rocked this country with
civil disorders and violence.
The cities were burning.
There were lots of angry riots
in black communities
and burning of stores.
[soft music playing]
President Johnson declared
a state of emergency.
That declaration resulted
in the virtually unthinkable act
of armed regular army troops
deployed to protect the capitol
and the White House.
[alarm ringing]
[dramatic music playing]
So it was in the spring of 1968,
barely a year
since I had started
at the, uh...
at the Civil Liberties Union,
I was getting back in touch
with... with Kennedy's staff
hoping to... to...
to reignite the connection.
My thanks to all of you,
and now it's on to Chicago
and let's win there.
[crowd cheering]
[Ira] And then he was shot.
[people gasp]
[man 5] Lock the doors! Lock...
[dramatic music playing]
I still regarded the
New York Civil Liberties Union
as a temporary step,
but I had nowhere else to go.
I was having fun and fulfillment
where I was, so I stayed.
[soft music playing]
Twenty years later, I wake up
in a hotel room on some sort of
road trip for the ACLU
and realized, "Oh, my God!
I've been here for 20 years."
I really had no idea even then
that would lead
to a lifetime career
and moreover,
the career of my dreams.
[slow beat music playing]
My top priority when I first got
to the national ACLU,
I thought was going to be
racial justice.
Throughout its existence, the
American Civil Liberties Union
has defended unpopular causes,
but now in Illinois,
the ACLU is defending one
that's too unpopular
for some of its members.
Actually my... my top priority
turned out to be
organizational survival.
The first time I heard
the name Skokie, Illinois,
was probably '77 or '78.
[soft music playing]
Skokie is a suburb of Chicago
and Skokie liked to call itself
a village
even though 70,000 people
anywhere else
would be called a little city.
Mostly, middle-income families
living in one-family homes,
very suburban-looking,
a lot of greenery,
a lot of parks.
I don't know what else to say,
you ran a red light.
-Drive carefully.
-Okay, I will.
After the Second World War,
more and more American Jews
moved into Skokie
and that included about
7,000 Holocaust survivors
among the, say,
30 to 40,000 Jews
who were the total in Skokie.
We saw with my... with our
own eyes what did happen
and it could happen.
[woman 1] For months, American Nazi party leader, Frank Collin
has been trying to hold a
march through the streets
of Skokie, Illinois.
[man 6] Leader Frank Collin says
he's inviting Nazis
from all over the country
to march on Skokie on July 4th.
We can do it.
This is only the beginning
of dozens of marches.
White power!
[Frank Collin] I, uh,
just see myself as a soldier.
That's the way I look at myself,
a soldier who is doing his duty
to his fuehrer
and his commander.
Collin decided
that he was going to demonstrate
in the name of free speech
because his speech was being
interfered with,
but he was also going
to demonstrate, essentially,
Pro-Aryan, he would call them.
Collin said all these suburbs
are white and they're all
escaping Chicago.
I'm going to demonstrate
in the suburbs
where a lot of these people live
who are escaping the city.
[man 7] Mr. Collin,
do you condone violence?
Uh, at times I do.
[dramatic music playing]
Mr. Stern,
what does it mean to you, uh,
now that we are seeing
the apparent resurgence
of neo-Nazism in this country
and particularly here in Skokie?
Uh, the symbol, obviously,
has some meaning to you.
[dramatic music playing]
I got a call one night
from Mr. Collin saying,
"We had been planning
to go to Skokie to march
in front of the city hall
and we've just been served
with court papers to stop us
and the hearing
is tomorrow morning."
I must have called seven
or eight attorneys and one
after another they each said,
"David, my heart is with you,
but not this case."
I became the lead attorney
in the Skokie case
because in short,
no one else would do it.
The idea that people wearing
swastikas were going to come to
their streets was unthinkable.
The passion
with which some residents
in the town of Skokie reacted
was based on the fact
that there were people there
who had themselves
been survivors
of concentration camps.
I'm a Jew.
Well, this is my home.
The sight of people marching
with swastikas on their arms,
again, was like a nightmare.
[man 8] These people are part
of a 500-member
Skokie B'nai B'rith lodge
of which all are survivors
of Nazi camps.
They lead the fight
against the Nazis
marching in their community.
The Jewish leaders talking
to the officials in Skokie
made them understand
that it would no longer be
acceptable to the entire
Jewish community in Skokie
to have these people there.
I called my general counsel,
Ed Rothschild, who was a mentor
and a fantastic human being
and said, "Ed, we've just been
asked to take this case."
And he said, "David,
I order you to take the case."
I said, "Ed, I have the
authority to take the case.
Why are you ordering me
to take the case?"
To which he said, "David,
you have no idea what's coming
and if they come after you,
they're going to have to go
through me."
I kind of choke up when I think
of that because at the time I...
I had no clue
as to what was coming.
We're going to continue to do
what we've been doing
and that is use every possible
legal means at our disposal
to see that they don't come
because we don't want them here
The Nazis will not march
in Skokie.
Should the Nazis appear,
we will break their heads.
There will be violence
in the streets.
[man 9] Chicago's Nazi chapter
prompted angry
and sometimes led to violence.
[upbeat music playing]
What happened next was that
we went into court and, frankly,
all hell broke loose.
In symbolic terms
and in real terms,
uh, it highlighted
the issue of...
why would you ever want
to defend the rights
of people like that?
It basically forced me
to articulate reasons
for the First Amendment position
that the ACLU took
in the most hostile
and uncomfortable circumstances.
I can promise this,
that come hell or high water,
Supreme Court
or no Supreme Court,
arrest or no arrest,
violence or no violence,
Rabbi Kahane or no Rabbi Kahane,
we are going into Skokie,
by God, this year
and we don't care how much
violence they're going to bring
on our heads,
we'll give it back to them
three times as much.
[upbeat music playing]
I grew up in East Flatbush,
a kind of a working-class
white, Jewish neighborhood.
Growing up there, I spent
a lot of time in the streets.
There was no supervised play,
there were no adults anywhere,
there were no little leagues,
we just went out
and played in the streets.
You'd sing doo-wop on the
street corners, a cappella stuff
whoever was there.
Uh, you'd play stickball,
punchball on the streets.
There weren't a lot of cars.
Your parents would give you
a quarter and you go buy a
Spalding, which was a pink ball.
And that Spalding
was your summer activity.
And you would have
to figure out:
A, how do you not lose
the Spalding ball,
but, second, what can you do
with this Spalding ball,
punchball, stickball...
stickball in the open street,
stickball against the wall
where you have a strike zone.
That was where we learned
how to mediate conflict
and how to deal with bullies,
how to handle disagreements
whether it was about
whether you were safe,
or out on a play,
or... or anything else.
Uh, king-queen, box ball,
hit the penny--
Parents never got involved,
there were no social workers,
there were no coaches,
there was just us on the street
and I loved it.
Uh, and the other thing
growing up in Brooklyn,
we had the Brooklyn Dodgers.
[upbeat music playing]
The Brooklyn Dodgers were, um,
heroes to us
and in my neighborhood,
if you weren't
a Brooklyn Dodger fan, there was
something weird about you.
[man 10] The Brooklyn Dodgers,
the Ebbets fielders, the Bums,
the most colorful team
in the Major Leagues.
I didn't know any Yankee fans.
They were... they were really
like alien and they were, uh,
uh... at the time,
I didn't know any
New York Giants fan either, um,
they were the team
from Manhattan
or the Yankees from the Bronx
and that was like you needed
a passport to go there.
[Norman Siegel] You know,
I remember as a kid
when I went on a Friday night
to see the Dodgers
play the Cubs,
I don't know, I was seven
or eight, with my father
and I walked up the ramp
and I saw this green,
it was like,
"Ah, I've never seen..."
This is what heaven's
supposed to look like,
the lights were on,
and green grass, the field,
the white bases.
Ah, I close my eyes,
I still... I see it.
[Ira] I had that kind of
religious relationship
with the Dodgers,
that's who they were...
and that's what
Ebbets Field was.
Ebbets Field was a shrine to us
and it was our cathedral.
[man 11] What other team
could run the bases so nimbly,
so adroitly, so alertly,
and so much finesse?
The real genesis of my passion
for... for baseball
and my interest
came when I was
about nine years old.
Now, for a lot of kids,
that is normal.
I mean, they... they are aware
of baseball,
but... but, you know,
it's not until they're 8, 9, 10,
where they get engaged
in rooting for a team,
but for me,
being 9 years old in 1947
coincided with Jackie Robinson.
[man 12] Jackie Robinson,
a trailblazer
in the world of sports.
[upbeat music playing]
[Ira] Those teams from the late
'40s into the late '50s,
the Brooklyn Dodger team were
a team of legendary players.
These are five great, not just
ball players but people as well.
So, in the middle,
significantly, in my opinion,
is 42 Jackie Robinson.
Every one of them
was an outsized hero to us
and a player
of major accomplishment.
And on that team
of outsized heroes,
Robinson comes in in 1947
and for, certainly for me,
but for many of us,
I mean, he instantly becomes
our favorite player.
[Norman] Here comes this
four-lettered man from UCLA
who's telegenic,
uh, who plays the game
and he brings the team together
to another level.
I was really totally unaware
of the racial situation
in the United States.
There was nobody black anywhere
that I could see.
As a matter of fact,
I never saw anybody
who wasn't white and Jewish.
New York City had the reputation
for being what sociologists
at the time called
a melting pot
of racial and ethnic
and religious communities,
but the truth was, that was true
only if you looked at the city
as a whole.
In reality, the city was
a collection of very insular,
segregated tribes.
And I hear, by Red Barber,
the baseball announcer in the
course of the play-by-play
that when the Dodgers
are playing in St. Louis,
Robinson and the other
black players on the team
cannot stay at the same hotels
where the rest of the team
is staying,
cannot eat at the same
restaurants, have to be put up
somewhere else,
often in private homes,
black homes,
and that is how I first learn.
That's the first time I ever
hear about segregated
public accommodations.
That's how I learn
about segregation in hotels,
segregation in restaurants.
That's how I learn
about Jim Crow.
And that's where
I come to hate it.
And we don't hate it because
we have any prior commitment
to civil rights.
We don't know anything
about that.
We hate it because he's our guy.
When I went to Ebbets Field,
then and a year or two later
by myself,
there were black people
in the stands.
I would sit next to a 35-,
40-year-old black guy
and we were on the same side.
So you grew up in an atmosphere
of black and white together,
we shall overcome.
And that that was an experience,
uh, that I don't think
any 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds
in the country had,
ever had except
in the confines of Ebbets Field,
which I, years later, would
describe as probably the only
integrated public accommodation
in the country at the time.
So, this was the core,
and as you can see two blacks,
three whites
uh, and, you know, it was...
it was an era
where young people
like Ira and I,
we grew up on this stuff.
It was... it was what the world
was supposed to be about.
And... and then we found out...
I, for sure, when I went
to Mississippi and Georgia
in the summer of '66,
it ain't that way,
so what are you going to do?
So, we decided we make them live
by all those words
in the constitution about
equal justice for all.
That fight still goes on today.
[dramatic music playing]
[man 13] What happened in 1958?
Well, in 1958 one of the three
great villains of the world, uh,
the other two being Hitler
and Genghis Khan,
Walter O'Malley
took the Dodgers away
and moved them to Los Angeles.
[Ira] I was devastated
when they tore down Ebbets Field
after the Dodgers were kidnapped
and stolen to the West Coast.
I remember, you know,
describing it
as like losing a parent
when you're, you know,
when you're still a kid.
It is a loss from which you...
you never fully recover.
[dramatic music playing]
We were driving home
from some party in Brooklyn,
I make this left turn
on the way back to Manhattan
from where we...
where we had been
and there was Ebbets Field,
half torn away.
The car come to a jolting halt
and, uh, my later-to-be-wife,
sort of half asleep
in the front seat, she just
sort of startled to awakeness,
and I am sitting there, sort of
just stunned looking at this
half torn away cathedral.
And, um...
It's hard not to be emotional
even now about it.
It... it was a... it was a...
a... a unique place
for those of us
who grew up with it
and, um, so yeah, it was...
it was... uh, I've always rooted
for the San Andreas Fault
to take care of the Dodgers
in Los Angeles ever since.
[upbeat music playing]
[indistinct chatter]
[Noam] You were the man behind
the decision to defend the Nazis
-when they wanted a march
in Skokie.
-No, no.
Actually, at that time, I was,
uh, not the National Head
of the ACLU,
I was the Head of the
New York Civil Liberties Union.
So, I was really, had no part
in the initial decision.
I had a large part in defending
that decision, but...
but not... not in making it.
-And you defended it
-[Ira] Yes.
-And you would defend it again
today, if you had to?
The Skokie case began
in Chicago.
It didn't begin in Skokie.
There's a theme or a slogan
which we in the party have used
as regards Skokie
and that is
"The path to Marquette Park
leads through Skokie."
[soft music playing]
The first time I heard the name
Frank Collin
was when they called the office
and said the City of Chicago
is not letting me use the
city parks for my assemblies.
I want to use Marquette Park
which is several blocks away
from my office
on the southwest side of Chicago
and I want to hold
a public assembly there
to protest the fact that
African-Americans are starting
to move into Marquette Park.
[Ira] On one side of the park
was a kind of
a white ethnic community
that was feeling
severely embattled
by school integration efforts.
[Edgar Jackson]
Children who have recently moved
on the periphery of that area,
they are going to school
way back over here on 43rd
in Indiana, etc.,
because they fear to go to
school in their own district
because of this racist climate.
[indistinct chatter]
[Frank Collin]
This is our community.
This is our neighborhood
and we're going to keep it
our neighborhood.
You know, basically,
he felt it was his turf.
Collin tried to host a rally
in exactly the same place
that the Martin Luther King Jr.
Coalition wanted to have a rally
and that really is what became
the problem for Chicago.
[Philippa] Chicago wasn't
any more welcoming, however,
to the Martin Luther King Jr.
[upbeat music playing]
Eventually, the city of Chicago
in its wisdom decided
to make it pretty impossible
for any group it didn't like
to hold a rally
or a demonstration
in Marquette Park.
They're using Marquette Park
as a right to use that Park
facility, the First Amendment.
Wait a minute, man,
this is freedom of speech, man.
[Frank Collin] We are not
allowed to speak in public.
We are the only organization
in America
that's been banned our basic
right to First Amendment
speeches in the parks.
We cannot pass out literature
beyond Chicago.
They try to close
our headquarters.
We are constantly harassed
by the police.
I'm asking you--
All right, everybody--
First, the city, the Chicago
Park District said you can't
come and they lost that one.
And then they said, "Well,
you can only come if you use
one of the four forums
that we have designated
in all of Chicago."
And we won on that one.
And then, they added
a bond requirement.
[man 14] The Chicago
Park District said
the Nazis could come here
only if they posted
an insurance bond
to cover damages.
Now, the problem with the
$250,000, uh, bond requirement
in order to demonstrate
in a public park was that
no insurance company
will sell you one.
[David] The city and Mayor Daley
was determined to try
to shut him down.
Those insurance bond
requirements had been
the classic mechanism
by which white southern towns
used to ban
civil rights demonstrations
throughout the '50s and '60s
and that old bands
had always been struck down
as violative
of the First Amendment,
precisely because
they effectively banned
speech in public places.
We shall overcome
Because Frank Collin had been
shut out of his home park
down on the southwest side
of Chicago, it was his position
that he had to find a forum.
He said, "If we can't
demonstrate in Chicago,
I'm going to go to demonstrate
in the suburbs
surrounding Chicago."
So, he writes a letter
to a dozen suburbs,
11 of these suburbs ignore him.
Skokie reacted like a bull
to a red flag.
[woman 2] Residents have held
protest demonstrations and
the village has passed laws
to stop the Nazis from marching.
We don't want them here.
If they don't come here,
we'd be delighted.
[upbeat music playing]
The village of Skokie used
several approaches
to trying to prevent
his assembly.
The first approach was simply
to get an injunction
on the theory that
his speech was akin to obscenity
and it was so offensive
that it wasn't protected
by the First Amendment.
If you were an ACLU lawyer this
was what you were there for.
Thirty years ago, we Jews stood
and, in a sense,
watched the Holocaust
take place.
We spit in the graves
of six million Jews
if we allow the Nazis to march.
[dramatic music playing]
Uh, a week ago,
one of my constituents
came up to me and said,
"I hear that you're going to
make a speech at the ACLU
and I hear those people
go around defending communists."
And I said, "Oh, no.
You've got it wrong.
They defend communists
and socialists, fascists,
atheists, racists,
members of the Ku Klux Klan."
The fellow said,
"Well, it... it sounds like
a mighty nice organization."
People get up and say,
"Norman Siegel,
you're the lawyer for the Klan."
And I say, "No, no, no.
We represent the Klan,
but I'm the lawyer
for the First Amendment
and the First Amendment
is for everybody."
The ACLU is supposed to defend
the free speech of Nazis.
They're supposed to defend the
free speech of Black Panthers.
Why else do we have an ACLU?
[dramatic music playing]
[man 15] Did you ever have
to defend the rights of people
that you disagreed with?
-Oh, all the time.
-[man 15] Or even found...
even found repulsive?
Oh, yeah. Uh, one of my...
One of my, uh, most vivid
memories, I guess you'd say, is
we were, uh,
representing the Klan.
They wanted to use
the statehouse steps
for a demonstration.
Well, the statehouse steps are
used by pro-life and pro-choice,
they're... I mean, they're...
It is a public forum.
They get to use it. I hate them.
[Ira] Defending crazies
who walk around
with swastikas on their arms,
was the kind of a case
that every ACLU affiliate took
once or twice a year, uh...
You took them because...
because if you didn't take them,
the... the government would gain
the power to restrict speech
it didn't like.
It means you can't make
any exceptions to say,
"Well, it's all right to have
civil liberties here,
but not there."
That's a classic doctrine
of civil liberties.
This hazmat as Oliver Wendell
Holmes says, "Freedom for the
ideas we loathe."
[Roger Baldwin] Yes.
[man 16] And the case came up
in Skokie, Illinois, where that
principle had to be applied.
They should have a right
to parade
however offensive it was.
The first violation of rights
and the first target
of the violation of rights
is nevertheless.
If you give the government
the power to stop the right wing
from marching in the street,
they will acquire the power
to decide who they think
is dangerous enough to stop.
No matter who you are,
no matter what you believe,
you are entitled
to certain fundamental rights,
merely by virtue
of being a human being.
And those certainly include
equality of opportunity
before the law,
freedom of thought,
freedom of speech,
freedom of conscience.
All we say to America is,
"Be true to what you said
on paper."
[crowd cheering]
If I lived in China
or even Russia
or any totalitarian country,
maybe I could understand
some of these
illegal injunctions.
Maybe I could understand
the denial of certain basic
First Amendment privileges
because they haven't committed
themselves to that over there.
But somewhere I read
of the freedom of assembly.
Somewhere I read
of the freedom of speech.
Somewhere I read
of the freedom of press.
Somewhere I read that the
greatness of America is the
right to protest for rights.
[crowd cheering]
When Dr. King wanted to march
from Selma to Montgomery,
they had to go to the federal
court to get Frank Johnson,
the federal court, a Republican,
to then give them the permit
to march.
It is that power to single out
disliked viewpoints
which is what led
Martin Luther King to constantly
be prosecuted and arrested
and convicted and to write
his famous letter
from a Birmingham jail.
[Bryan] You can't understand
civil rights in this country.
You can't understand
the effort toward justice
if you don't understand
that people had to stand up
when others were saying
sit down.
That people had to speak
when they were being told
to be quiet.
And these restrictions
on speech, and on truth telling
have been part of the great
struggle for a just society.
[Ira] I was on the Donahue Show
once with Hosea Williams.
[Phil] This is the Reverend
Dr. Hosea Williams.
You know him as a follower
of the Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
a civil rights leader,
and you know we wouldn't do
a show like this
without a card-carrying member
of the ACLU.
Here's Ira Glasser--
[Ira] We were discussing
the rights of the Klan.
He was on that show ostensibly
to debate me about it
and he surprised everybody.
--head of the, uh, United
States Civil Rights Commission.
Well, Phil, one thing
we must understand, uh, a right
is not a right in America,
until it's extended
to every American.
And even though they beat
and brutalize us
in seeking that right,
if they take the Ku Klux Klan
off the cable today--
[Phil] The N... the NAACP
is next, you think?
-They're going to take the
NAACP off tomorrow.
-[Phil] You think so?
He understood
because he had been through it.
I was Dr. King's field general.
I organized a major march.
The problem with the black
struggle in America has been
black leaders like King didn't
have the ability to communicate
with the masses.
Once that ability to communicate
with the masses, things changed.
What you've got to be willing
to do is to say,
"If you're going to ban what he
says because you don't like it,
then when Dr. Williams goes
to Forsyth County,
where they threw rocks at him,
and the majority in that county
is going to ban him
from speaking."
Now, do you want... do you want
every little town to decide
which speech is permitted?
There isn't a necessary
between the First Amendment
and social justice goals.
Whether you're talking about
the civil rights demonstrations,
anti-war protesters,
gay rights demonstrations,
labor union organizing,
women's right to vote
if banning hate speech
had been in force
on college campuses in the '60s,
their most frequent victim
would have been Malcolm X
and Eldridge Cleaver,
not David Duke.
The First Amendment is what
permits people to organize
for social justice goals.
[upbeat music playing]
A court injunction
by Skokie officials
blocked the Nazi march,
but the Nazis appealed
all the way
to the U.S. Supreme Court
after Illinois judges refused
to hear their case.
The issue is still tied up
in the courts and the Nazis say,
they will not march here
until the legal hassle
is solved.
There were three ordinances
that the town of Skokie passed
and went into court
to try to enforce
which was what started the case.
We're comfortable with the
ordinances and we feel that
they are valid.
The permit ordinance which has
the $350,000 insurance provision
is similar to that
which was enacted recently
by the Chicago Park District.
If you allow the government
to impose such an insurance
bond requirement for anybody,
they could impose it
for everybody.
One, I think was a...
an ordinance that banned people
from marching in uniforms,
in military-style uniforms
which was later used against the
Jewish War Veterans in Skokie.
There were three lawsuits
all together
and I think that one could go
a little bit bonkers
trying to keep track of them.
A national organization
espousing Nazi doctrine
won an important legal victory
in the Supreme Court today.
[Ira] Ultimately, we won
the Skokie case in every court
because the courts upheld
the same principle
in the Skokie case
as the courts had upheld
in many previous cases.
Well, I said it's over,
you know, the Supreme Court
has made it clear,
there are First Amendment rights
here, it's over.
And on the contrary,
at that point, it became
a national phenomenon.
President Carter was asked
about the case during one
of his presidential briefings.
The President deplores
Nazi activity
in Skokie, Illinois,
but believes it best
to let the courts continue
to handle the matter.
[upbeat music playing]
[David] There was a show
at the time, Phil Donahue Show.
He invited me to talk
about Skokie.
People in Skokie have relatives
who died in ovens,
mothers, brothers, children,
and you step forward,
David Goldberger, to say
that the First Amendment
entitles these people,
however repugnant their views
to you to march?
Well, steps forward,
the ACLU steps forward,
an American lawyer,
and steps forward
indeed a proud Jew.
I suspect that's probably
one of the reasons
I have stepped forward
is that it is a tradition,
the Jewish tradition
is a tradition that tells us all
that we must protect
free speech.
Later, referred it to as one of
his most important broadcasts.
I guess I want to know
why are you concerned,
what... what is the...
what is the ACLU concerned
will happen?
What we're concerned about
is that what is... what is sauce
for the goose today
will be sauce
for the gander tomorrow.
What we will do to one group
that we hate today, can be...
be done so easily tomorrow
and it's been done
decade after decade.
[Phil] Give me a gander.
Well, look at the difficulty
the Martin Luther King Jr.
movement had going
into the southwest side areas
in order to protest the lack of
open housing down there,
for example,
and we represented them.
Look at the problems
that the anti-war movement had
in the '60s,
where they were called traitors.
People were accused of treason.
It just doesn't make sense
to cut these people off
by changing the laws
with for those that we hate.
Because what he did was he
packed the audience with people
from Skokie without telling me.
So it was quite a hot,
you know...
I don't believe that, uh...
my position is not that
anyone should hide.
My position... my position is
that there are many peaceable,
very effective ways
of communicating one's feelings
and ideas much more effective
than... than violence
or the threat of violence by...
by the people in Skokie.
He'll be the first one
to be shot.
-By... by the... the... the--
-By the Nazis.
But these ideas, I saw this
and I can show you my number
on my arm.
-I have been through this.
-We see this?
Please, can you help me?
Tell me what that means?
[man 17] This mean I've been
through Auschwitz, Buchenwald,
in a dozen other camps
and I saw this idea
in the swastika
what they do with the people.
We never had any doubt
that we would prevail legally.
Legally, the Skokie case
did not represent
a noteworthy precedent.
Politically and socially
and in terms of public opinion,
it did.
[dramatic music playing]
[Philippa] Jewish organizations
outside of Skokie got involved,
not officially organized people
of Skokie.
There was a lot of talk about
a counter-demonstration.
Their answer was,
"This is what we did
when the Nazis came in Germany.
We pulled down our shades
because we thought they would
go away and they didn't.
We're not going to make
the same mistake again."
He's not going to march
Nobody after Auschwitz is going
to carry signs
reading "Gas Jews" anywhere,
not in Marquette Park,
not in Skokie,
they're not anywhere.
We want the confrontations now.
[crowd protesting]
[dramatic music playing]
[upbeat music playing]
Welcome to a special
Firing Line Debate.
Our topic tonight is "Resolved:
The ACLU is Full of Baloney."
Now, it's not my place
as moderator to comment
on the wording of debate topics,
I only work here.
It's William F. Buckley's show.
[man 18] William F. Buckley Jr.,
rich, sophisticated,
a limousine kind of guy
who wouldn't be caught
without one.
This son of a millionaire
educated in Europe
and later at Yale
was the most articulate voice
of conservatism in America.
Before Reagan, before Rush,
there was Buckley.
Bill Buckley can properly
be called the founder of the
conservative movement.
National Review,
the conservative magazine
founded by William F. Buckley
Jr. in the 1950s.
Bill and National Review
were more or less synonymous
for a long time.
[man 19] And he's been the host
ofFiring Line since 1966.
[Jay Nordlinger] Firing Linewas
a wonderful platform for Bill,
a wonderful arena,
sometimes a debate
and sometimes a conversation.
The over winning social problem
in America is the loss
of moral coordinates
and the ACLU tries to clamp down
on religion wherever it shows
its public face.
The need for civilized
restraints has met
with encouragement to people
who want to parade in Skokie
with their Nazi banners.
The ostensible aims
of the ACLU are admirable.
It is a national pity
that it has now become,
to use Sunday-suited language,
a bunch of baloney.
The captain of the opposing team
also needs no introduction
to regular Firing Lineviewers.
He's the master baloney chef
himself, Ira Glasser.
Well, Bill, uh, you warned me
not to list what is commendable
about the ACLU
because you know as well as I do
that there's so much more of it
than the nonsense
you were describing.
The regularity and the constancy
of my appearances on Firing Line
with Buckley
did sort of elevate
my visibility and my persona
in a way that
it had not been before.
I think it's a pity
that an organization
which ought to be limited
to the enhancement
of civil liberties
is now embedded
for a civil liberty every time
they find a grievance group
that they want to defend.
The overwhelming bulk of the
ACLU's work has been in the
interest of most Americans
and most Americans know this.
You have to remember that
there were many fewer stations
at the time.
We had the three big
broadcast networks.
We had PBS.
Something special
On your public TV station
Tune in tonight
Tune in tonight
[Jay] Anyone who was
on television was a big deal.
The week goes by, the ACLU
hasn't discovered it, right?
-You think of yourself
as irresponsible and slothful.
that's what eternal vigilance
is about, you know,
and as long as there's folks
like you running around,
God knows--
The jousting with a major, uh,
public figure, uh,
like... like Buckley.
That's like saying that...
that faster grass grows,
the more people drown.
Both things happen
when it gets hot in the summer,
but you would hardly enhance
water safety
by buying a lawn mower.
-These things are not connected.
-I would... I would abandon
that metaphor if I were you.
-It's ridiculous argument.
It... it kind of hurts
that metaphor.
Yeah, it hurts you.
I would find people stopping me
in the subways in New York, uh,
which didn't happen before.
Bill Buckley was the
erudite conservative on race,
on everything else.
Ira disagreed with Bill Buckley
and took him on.
-You know--
-But Bill... but Bill, people
were being shot and lynched
for trying to vote because
of their color of their skin.
This was not an abstract issue.
This was the leading moral
crisis of your lifetime and mine
-and you came up short,
didn't you?
-[Bill] [inaudible]
[Ira] You came up short.
-Now, wait a minute.
-I'm astonished that you
don't concede that now.
-I really am.
-I hope you don't suggest that
anything I ever wrote, said,
or associated with--
They were intelligent.
They... they liked intelligent
discussion and discourse
and that's how Ira Glasser
became friends
with Bill Buckley.
[interviewer 2] Asking you
what your impression of
Ira and William F. Buckley's
relationship was.
[Norman] It was strange.
[soft music playing]
Here you've got this kind of,
uh, aristocrat from Yale
dealing with this street guy
from... from Brooklyn,
Ira Glasser, rough and tough.
[crowd gasp]
I think part of the attraction
we had for each other
in that relationship
was how different we were.
Bill was interested in a great,
great many things,
but he was not interested
in sports except for sailing.
[Bill] It was a few years ago
that I first sailed across
the Atlantic on Cyrano,
a passage I'm not likely
to forget.
Bill had lived a long full life
and had never been
to a ball game.
Ira sort of insisted
and further he insisted
that Bill take the subway.
[man 20] Subway, Buckley.
Don't worry,
you... you will be protected.
[man 20] Next thing you know,
he'll be hanging out
with the head of the ACLU.
By the way, that's Ira Glasser, the head of the ACLU.
Taking Buckley
to a baseball game was Ira's way
if Buckley was taking him
to the Metropolitan Opera.
[man 20] Bill Buckley who works
in New York hasn't set foot
on a subway there in 30 years.
So, what's going on here?
Mr. Limousine conservative
with Mr. ACLU liberal?
[Ira] I had this... this crazy
theory that, you know, if you
could take somebody like this
and expose him to real people,
it might change
how he saw things.
He's been sealed off
from reality for a long time
and this is, you know, we're...
we're bringing him out.
For Ira to... to sort of
bring him down, you know,
to... to a... a working person's
level was a victory.
Everybody has a lacuna
and this is mine.
-This is your lacuna?
[man 20] That's right. Lacuna,
it's a gap in one's knowledge.
I knew that.
While the game was going on,
Ira was explaining to him
all the nuances of the game
and Buckley was as gracious
and as nice.
I always thought it was like
a fish out of water.
[Cora] It was just remarkable
that this relationship
that grew up around controversy
and arguments in the public eye
ended up with a kind of
evening of the playing field.
[Ira] The central goal
in talking and working with
people who you don't agree with
is to persuade them
that there is a common interest
between us
in the rights that we have
and the rights
that we depend on.
There were issues that
Buckley and I agreed on.
We agreed, uh, that the
drug prohibition was a disaster
and was a violation
of personal rights.
I was one who suggested,
you know, "If we both have
the same position on this
that would really astonish our
enemies and amaze our friends
and maybe we should do
one of your shows on it."
Politics make strange bedfellows
and so do drugs for that matter.
we've got William F. Buckley
teamed with the head
of the dreaded
American Civil Liberties Union.
[Ira] He had a show
with Charlie Rangel,
a die-hard liberal congressman,
and I don't think I disagreed
with Charlie about anything
except... except the drug war.
And I think he came on the show
thinking that, uh,
I was going to support him
and Buckley was going
to attack him
and we both attacked him.
Would we grow it
or would we import it?
Whichever... whichever,
um, is cheaper.
I see. And that goes for...
it goes for the opium as well?
-Opium as well?
It is our position
that our policies will do better
for the drug addicts,
better for innocent people
and better, uh, to reduce crime
than your policies will.
[Charles Rangle] I respond
to him since he's identified--
All right, all right.
-Let me explain something
to you in a way that's--
-But it's got to be a question
-and a brief one.
-You have no idea how many...
-Answer, yes or no.
-...how many bills have--
I had a heart attack in... in...
in 1998, uh,
and, uh, it was only
a coincidence that
it happened the day after
we had dinner at his house,
I think.
Uh, but the next week, you know,
he called Trude,
not his secretary.
He called Trude at home here
to find out how I was
and, um,
I often wondered, you know.
I wondered if I would have
done that if he had,
had the heart attack.
He was always very charming
and... and very solicitous
and, you know,
he was the perfect gentleman.
[Ira] So this was a letter
that Bill Buckley sent
after my retirement dinner
to which I had invited him.
I think the next day or two,
he writes me this
cute short letter.
"Dear Ira, I have been to a lot
of tributes but never to one
that matched yours on Friday.
Everything about it was festive,
except maybe the Constitution."
"The beautiful hall,
the exuberance of the speakers,
I can't imagine how much time
was required to do it
with such art and wit.
I had to force myself
to remember how awful you
and your influence are.
It was very generous of you to
place me at your table and
Trude looked simply wonderful.
Bless you and any time
it is convenient,
think of Stamford
as a waystation for points east,
I... I remember the end of an
essay that was part of a book
written by a French theorist
that I read at Yale and...
two men are sitting
sipping coffee in a coffee house
in... in Paris
and one turns to this stranger
and said, uh,
"Excuse me, do you like Jews?"
-"Well, do you like Catholics?"
-[man 21] Yes.
"Uh, well, who do you like?"
"I like my friends."
I thought that was
a marvelous way to cut through
categorical qualifications
for friendship.
I like nice people.
[dramatic music playing]
Good morning, everyone.
There will be no march
by American Nazis this Sunday
in Skokie, Illinois.
Because we agitated for
free speech and won our right
to free speech back completely
that the demonstration scheduled
for Sunday in Skokie
is henceforth canceled.
In the end, after we won
the case finally, uh, in Skokie
and the Nazis had the right
to go and demonstrate,
they never did.
[soft music playing]
[man 22] Nazi leaders said
all along that Skokie was not
their real objective
and that they would probably
cancel Sunday's march in the largely Jewish community,
if they could rally
instead in Chicago,
closer to their headquarters.
Federal Judge George Leighton
ordered the Park District
to let the Nazis march
in a Chicago park on July 9th
without any bond.
This means that free speech
for the white people on the
southwest side is restored.
It's amazing how fast
democracy goes--
[interviewer 3] What would have
happened had he did march?
Well, I think there would have
been some bloodshed.
[dramatic music playing]
By the time he wins the right
to demonstrate in Skokie
and in Chicago,
in Marquette Park,
he doesn't go to Skokie,
but he does decide to do it
in Marquette Park in Chicago
because that is his turf.
That's where it all started.
That's really what
the Skokie case was all about.
[man 23]
They know where the bullhorn is?
[Ira] The same thing that was
about to happen in Skokie
did happen in Marquette Park.
[suspenseful music playing]
No, it's not a march,
it's just a rally.
Where... where are you gonna be?
Over at Marquette Park.
With an enormous amount
of police protection because
by that time, they're worried,
you know, he's going to go there
with his dozen people
and there's going to be a riot.
-Down with the--
Down with the fucking Nazi!
[man 24] I wonder if the Reds
are going to try anything today.
-It's a good-sized crowd.
-Where's our...
where's our banners?
-I don't see.
-You tell us.
-Where are the banners?
-They're out there somewhere.
Where are our people?
I don't see our... we should see
our white victory bash.
-It should have gone up
about 15 minutes...
-Don't worry about it.
-What the hell?
Is everybody here now?
-[man 24] Yeah.
We need an extension cord.
They didn't bring it?
-No, they didn't bring it.
-Oh, shit.
-Do you know where it is?
-Do you know where it is?
Do you know where it is?
He starts his little
and he gets drowned out
by these thousands
of demonstrators,
who in effect, he created.
This is ridiculous.
They can't even see us.
Look at this pathetic
situation here. Look at this.
Well, they can't even see us.
I hope they can hear us.
All right, can you put
the truck over it?
No, no. We gotta wait
for the extension cord.
All right,
we'll have to just wait.
What a pathetic... Goddammit!
Isn't this pathetic though?
They can't even see us.
-Isn't that really pathetic?
-[man 24] Oh, bullshit.
They should--
[Frank] Look at this.
They can't...
Nobody... No one will see--
[man 25] Scuffles broke out and the police moved in quickly
taking some of the combatants
to nearby police vans.
[Ira] So, when we finally win
everybody's right, not just his,
to free speech,
he is so outnumbered
by people who oppose him
that he gets vanquished in a way
that attempting to ban him
couldn't possibly have done.
He slinks away and that's
the end of the Skokie case.
The guy was crazy
and he was followed around
by at most 20 people.
There were never
very many members.
It had no resources.
Collin himself lived
in an apartment
right above their offices,
lived there
with a couple of other people.
It's fair to say he was a little
bit confused about his identity.
He actually was Jewish by birth.
The family changed its name
once his father,
who was a survivor of Dachau,
came to the United States.
The name had been Cohen
and it was changed to Collin.
The family didn't like
what he became,
so he was an outlier
even in his own family
and then he certainly became
an outlier
in terms of American Values.
All right, let's see.
Why don't we just take it
on the paper cutter
and cut it off here.
Then it'll look...
no, it looks good.
It looks like--
Frank Collin's father
supposedly is Jewish.
Why do you think
he's turned Nazi?
I'm not a psychiatrist.
[Philippa] Collin got a lot
of attention out of this.
I suppose one could say
in that sense he succeeded,
but not really,
because shortly thereafter,
he was actually kicked out
of his own party.
Probably the reason was
that the party had discovered
that he was sexually abusing
boys in the party's headquarters
and in 1980,
Collin was convicted of doing so
and was sent away to prison,
stayed, uh, in prison
for three years.
When he got out, he became
a new ager and saying very
carefully to anybody who asked,
"I'm not a Nazi anymore."
[serene music playing]
In retrospect, the Skokie case
was a defining pivotal moment
for the ACLU.
The reason it was defining
and pivotal is that...
the reaction to the Skokie case
threatened our existence.
[woman 3] It is not the first
time the ACLU has defended
an unpopular cause,
but this one has brought the organization financial trouble.
The ACLU stood up
for the principle of free speech
that had always said
it believed in
at a moment when its viability
as an organization
was threatened.
They accused the ACLU
of selling out.
We've got to protect people
based on the right involved
and not how we feel
about the individuals.
I feel that the ACLU should
spend more time and energy
protecting the civilized
rather than the uncivilized
and that things have turned
upside down
because of people like you.
They accused the ACLU of racism
because the ACLU was defending
free speech.
Turned out that the members
were very persuadable
by laying out the reasons
the ACLU decided
to oppose the city of Skokie.
By the 1980s,
the Skokie case enabled us
to understand, explain,
and rally, uh, people who agreed
with us, uh, to the principle
of free speech.
This is a quote
from Michael Dukakis,
a card-carrying member
of the ACLU,
American Civil Liberties Union.
Here it is.
This is the little piece
of paper that
you've been hearing about
that's caused all the trouble.
The ACLU functioned in a period
of... of great upswing
throughout the '80s and '90s.
Anyone in power is going
to violate civil liberties
sooner or later,
some more than others
and some less than others,
but we end up suing everybody,
including our members.
So, it was a period of enormous
growth infrastructurally
for the ACLU
and, therefore, for our ability
to defend civil liberties.
What you are talking about is
when a policeman who has
violated the Fourth Amendment
and violated the rights
of innocent people,
comes in and says,
"He thought he was doing it
the right way."
-A judge can say, "Okay,
we'll look the other way."
-[host] No, wait a second...
And what that will do
is encourage the police to do
what they already do,
which is violate the rights
of many innocent people
in order to catch a few
who are guilty.
That is not our system and your
proposal changes our system.
Let me go to Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Glasser says it would
violate the basic premise
that people are innocent
until proven guilty.
I've gotten the general
impression that Mr. Glasser
is not enamored
of these proposals.
Uh, I think maybe
it's the perspective that he...
that he comes from.
What counts in these struggles,
we have learned over
and over and over again
is never how much power
they have or what they do.
What counts
is how much resistance we offer
and what we do in response.
The tide of liberty
and individual rights, and equal
justice is clearly with us,
but only if we keep swimming.
Thank you.
[soft music playing]
[man 26]
The chaos in Charlottesville
had been building for months.
Since the city voted in April to remove the Robert E. Lee statue,
there have been three protests, counter protests, and
now violence.
Surely, Charlottesville
is a lot like Skokie.
This is clearly about
white supremacy and we're not
going to have it here.
The rally in Charlottesville
supposedly was generated by the
movement to pull down statues.
White supremacists
wanted to demonstrate
near a Confederate statue,
Robert E. Lee,
one of the Confederate leaders
was in a very central position
in that town.
[man 27]
Organizers of Saturday's
planned rally had said
it was meant to honor history
and save the statute.
In fact,
I think it's pretty clear
that white supremacists
were looking for a way
to flex their muscles.
At the very last minute,
after the permit
had been granted
for the August demonstration,
a member of the city council
sought to move
the demonstrators.
We are not backing down.
We are going to be in Lee Park.
Of course,
it stirred old memories.
These people are trying
to replace us
with Third World immigrants.
They are trying to replace us
with Muslims.
They put propaganda out in the
movies and in our school system
talking down to white people,
trying to make us
to blame for everything.
There was an attempt to get
an injunction to stop the
demonstration in Charlottesville
and on its face,
that's really no different
from the Skokie situation.
That's what led the ACLU
together with some other
to oppose that, saying that
it was viewpoint discrimination.
It was only because of hatred
of the ideas
of the white supremacists
that there was this effort
to move them away.
If you weren't already planning
on coming out
to Charlottesville,
you need to come out
to Charlottesville.
We're going to be demonstrating
in Lee Park.
I'm an American Jew.
I'm a woman.
I feel very strongly that those
are really horrible, horrible
people with noxious ideas,
but there's no question in my
mind that they had an absolute
right to demonstrate
under the American constitution.
I was at a conference
and I saw news flashes
constantly on my phone
about what was happening
and that was
extremely distressing.
White supremacists to the horror
and unpreparedness of all
law enforcement agencies
showed up
the night before the rally,
marching through campus
brandishing lighted torches.
I woke up listening to the radio
and hearing....
it's the first thing I remember
hearing when I woke up
was the chants
of the demonstrators,
"You will not replace us.
Jews will not replace us."
And you could imagine the chills
that sent down my spine
as the daughter
of a Holocaust survivor.
What had happened
in ensuing days, uh,
is not the fault of free speech
or the people
that champion free speech.
What happened in ensuing days
was the fault of the police
and the government
for not providing
ample protection.
[soft music playing]
[man 28]
Police say Fields used his car
to intentionally mow down
a crowd of anti-hate
demonstrators on Saturday
killing 32-year-old
Heather Heyer.
When Heather Heyer
was run down by an automobile,
there was literally not
a single police officer
in that vicinity at all.
In our reports, we kept noting,
I'm looking around,
I'm not seeing any police here.
There... there was no
police presence.
Now, in criticizing police,
the Charlottesville police chief
told CBS news, "Wait a minute.
I had officers and the help
of the National Guard
and they moved in
when the time was right."
[somber music playing]
I guess my question,
and I'm not trying to be
contentious for the sake of it,
it's... it's an honest question,
"If people show up with guns
and clubs,
some of them wearing
what looks like tactical armor
and they're chanting,
"Jews will not replace us."
At what point is it fair
for a Jewish person
who comes from a culture that
people have been hunted
and killed,
at what point is it fair
for them to feel
like violence is imminent?
Oh, no, no.
They... they can feel that,
but the fact of the matter is
is that a lot of that
is symbolic.
When people burn flags,
they got arrested
for inciting violence.
When people carry guns
in a demonstration,
in a society where they're
allowed to carry guns,
you got to make a distinction
between speech,
including symbolic speech,
and conduct.
Now the difficult question is
where does the speech
bleed into conduct
and at what moment
do the police step in?
Is it fair to have a concern
that if hate speech
incites violence
that you should control it?
Well, you know, the...
the key phrase there is
"incites violence."
You have to remember
that in Charlottesville, the
instrument of killing was a car.
[Noam] That's right.
The police did a poor job
of anticipating
and protecting speech
of both sides
in a volatile situation.
All right, now. But we're going
gonna have a little bit of
a traffic tie-up when he's--
I got three guys
taking are of traffic.
Yeah, but what are we
gonna do with the traffic?
If we send them this way,
they'll likely get a brick
No diversion, just stop it
until we're through crossing,
then we'll let it go.
The police have to be
good enough
and competent enough
to anticipate a volatile
situation and protect the rights
of both sides to speak,
but keep them separate and have
enough of a show of police force
to prevent the chaos that
happened in Charlottesville.
Can I ask you
a very difficult question?
-Which is, do you believe
that those protesters
who were there
in Charlottesville on that day
had the right
or should again have the right
to express their views?
I do, and that's not
a popular view.
And I will tell you why.
Uh, I'm not telling you why
it's not a popular view,
I think that's obvious.
But, um,
I think once we take away
the right to free speech,
we may never get it back.
My big concern with losing
free speech is
who makes the decision,
-what speech is allowable
and what speech is not.
And once you set it up
so that there's always
one group deciding,
that group can change
at any given time.
Well, what about when we
represented the Black Panthers
and they would stand there
with their guns
back in the '60s?
What about the defense
and justice team in Mississippi
and Louisiana in the '60s
who had guns all the time on
them and had them as a deterrent
to the people in the Deep South?
You can't have
a double standard.
Everybody's talking about the
First Amendment and we have
a preamble to our constitution
that is supposed to pro... uh,
promote domestic tranquility.
So it seems so clear
of what would be right
and what would be wrong.
-[man 29] Right. What's wrong?
-Because this is promoting
it is not promoting
domestic tranquility.
So Mr. Stoner should not be
allowed to say these things?
-Not on TV.
-[Mr. Stoner] Excuse me,
but I'm--
No, he should...
they should not.
-Hang on one second.
-[Mr. Stoner]
I'm the leading advocate
of peace and tranquility
in the country.
I advocate a program
where we'll only have
a white Christian America
-and then we will have
peace and tranquility.
-[man 29] Okay.
-No more lawlessness.
-[man 29] Now, the point--
Nobody says--
Let me ask you...
let me ask you this question
about domestic tranquility.
Thirty years ago,
25 years ago in the South,
what was disturbing
domestic tranquility
was civil rights marches.
-But that, no, to me that's,
it's very clear.
-[Ira] Well, to you.
-[woman 4] That is not.
-But you're not the one
who got to decide.
That is not domestic
We condemn in the strongest
possible terms
this egregious display
of hatred, bigotry
and violence on many sides,
on many sides.
It's probably too early to know
what the impact
of Charlottesville will be,
but I would hope given the state
of American First Amendment law,
all of the law that was built
before Skokie, that was built
in part by Skokie,
that's been built since,
I hope American judges
would understand
that their obligation
is to let speech be heard
and not to let what happens
in a really mishandled situation
in Charlottesville
prejudice their attitude towards
the really important goals
of the First Amendment.
[tranquil music playing]
Meeting Ben Stern was for me,
uh, a surprisingly
emotional experience.
I mean, this is a guy
who was arrested by the Nazis
in Poland when he was 15,
separated from his family
whom he never saw again,
uh, survived, escaped from
and recaptured and escaped from
and recaptured,
a bunch of concentration camps.
[Ira] The first time we met,
his daughter picked me up,
brought me to her house
for lunch, met him.
You know, he's a short
little 96-year-old man
and he had this kind of
almost pugnacious bulldog,
you know, jaw jutting out,
shakes my hand, smiles and says,
"I know we're not going to agree
and we're not going to change
each other's minds,
but we're going to be friends."
And it... and it happened
that way.
It happened that way.
He showed me all these pictures
of... he had his family tree,
uh, on the wall.
And he... he... he sort of drew
an imaginary line three-quarters
of the way down and said,
"Everyone on top of that line
is dead. They were all killed."
[Ira] All the reaction of the
Holocaust survivors themselves
was always to me
very understandable.
[Ira] The town of Skokie
was wrong on both counts.
On the one hand, it tried to ban
the neo-Nazis' speech,
on the other hand, it tried to
prevent people like Ben Stern
uh, from organizing speech
in opposition.
After Charlottesville
and Boston,
Nazis decided to rally in both
San Francisco and Berkeley.
I asked my father
what he was going to do.
He said,
"I'm going to be there."
And he said, "I hope
I will not be standing alone."
The mayor of Berkeley told us
to stay home,
close the shades, let it pass.
The city council voted
to stay home.
"All citizens should stay home."
The police commissioner said,
"Stay home."
Ben Stern is not staying home.
When we got to the rally,
he was not on the speaker list.
He asked to speak and he spoke
for a few minutes
to thousands of Muslims,
Arabs, LGBT,
blacks, Jews, whites, everyone.
You could have heard
a quarter drop
in those minutes that he spoke.
So, Ira's right.
We stay home at our peril.
I do hear you.
[Ira] So, I come to you actually
as a time traveler
from the '60s.
I was mostly known
for two issues
when I was at the ACLU
in all those years.
I was known for being
a near absolutist
on First Amendment rights
and I was known for my
advocacy for racial justice.
I was one of those small number
of people who brought the issue
of racial justice
into a high priority at the ACLU
during the years I was there.
Were there conflicts between
free speech and racial justice?
Uh, but there was never once
where I thought
that we had to tone down
our defense of free speech.
[light music playing]
That was the beauty
and the power and the majesty
of the Ira Glasser,
Executive Directorship.
He never allowed race
to trump civil liberties
principles or vice versa.
The ACLU was in good shape
when he retired.
He was leaving a very healthy
organization that, um, that...
that as I've said,
that as I think a lot of people
have said that he brought
into the 21st century.
He didn't just stay in an office
and... and sign papers
and checks.
And he got out there
and he was visible.
And he was vocal and he embraced
an activist tradition.
And I think that kind of
leader-activist identity
is something
that will be his legacy and that
has inspired a generation.
He's one of the Americans
who protected and enhanced, uh,
the constitutional principles
that are the framework
of American democracy.
He's an unsung hero.
We cannot forget history.
We cannot forget what...
what our... our leaders,
our mentors
and... and champions did
for society.
[Ira] I had certainly had
my shot at it and I was happy
to pass the baton on to others.
[soft music playing]
[interviewer 4] Could you read
the "Ira at the Bat" poem?
-The poem?
-Yeah, here it is.
[Ira] So, this was a poem
that was written by a colleague
that was on the search committee
of the board that selected me
and he was one of the ones
who preferred and voted for one
of, uh, the other candidates.
And the poem goes...
The outlook wasn't brilliant
For the CLU that day
The deficit was rising
The piper yet to pay
Then when Neier hit the road
And donors turned away
It was as bleak as Brooklyn
When the Dodgers went L.A.
The CLU went searching for
A leader bold and true
For a leader its directors
Would love and would not rue
For a liberties exponent Who could talk till he was blue
For a CEO most brilliant
And a money-raiser, too
[serene music playing]
And when the dust had settled
In September '78
With a smile upon his face
'Twas Glasser at the plate
The ACLU's whole future was
Now tied to Ira's fate
The members,
They could only hope
That he would bat his weight
Somewhere EOs tremble
And directors scream and shout
Somewhere programs falter
And the future is in doubt
Somewhere the non-profits
Have all but lost their clout
But they're all smiles
On 43rd Street
Mighty Ira knocked one out
He writes, "Congratulations
on your successful reign
from the author of the search
committee minority report.
Everybody can be wrong
once in a while."
[serene music playing]
[slow music playing]
Nearly 2,000 prisoners
got the triangle,
not... no one else.
We were permitted only to go to
second perimeter to go to work.
-What did they call you?
-We were dangerous Jews.
-Dangerous Jews?
-Well, they were right
about that.
They were right about that.
-You're still dangerous.
-You were a dangerous Jew.
You're still a dangerous Jew.
You're a dangerous Jew.
The title really describes
the culture of the streets
of Brooklyn where I grew up.
"Where... where did you go?"
"We were out."
"What did you do?" "Nothing."
Hey, Jackie Robinson, my old bat
because I can still
fucking hit this--
[interviewer 5]
Go ahead, right to the camera.
[serene music playing]