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The shooting of Akiel Denkins, a 24-year-old African American father of two, by a Raleigh police officer points to the urgent need for Raleigh to adopt policies that will make its police department more transparent, combat biased policing, and hold officers accountable when they violate their pledge to protect and serve.

We join Akiel's family and the Raleigh community in demanding answers. But what we already know is that in North Carolina and across the nation, people of color are far too often victims of excessive use of force by police officers, often during routine encounters. In many cases, the officers involved are not held accountable.

Tell the Raleigh City Council to hold a public hearing on ways the Raleigh Police Department can be more transparent, combat biased policing, and hold officers accountable when they violate their pledge to protect and serve.

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By Keely Burks

I am like a lot of eighth grade students. I try to do my best in class, I like sports and playing outside, and I regularly go to Bible classes. I also believe in standing up for myself and others. So last year, along with some friends, I created a petition to ask my school to change its policy that says girls have to wear skirts to school or risk being punished.

I go to Charter Day School, a K-8 public charter school in Leland, North Carolina. Like a lot of schools, Charter Day has a uniform policy. That policy says that all female students have to wear skirts that are “knee-length or longer” and that we can’t wear pants or shorts, except on gym days. Boys are able to wear pants and shorts every day. My friends and I got more than 100 signatures on our petition, but it was taken from us by a teacher and we never got it back. Some parents asked about changing the policy, but the school said that making girls wear skirts is supposed to promote “chivalry” and “traditional values.”   

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CHARLOTTE – Tonight the Charlotte City Council voted to expand the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. Among other things, the ordinance means that businesses open to the public – including public restrooms, taxi services, hotels and other public lodging – must provide equal treatment and access to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

“With this vote, North Carolina’s largest city has affirmed that all people deserve to be treated fairly and protected by the law,” said Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “When a business decides to open its doors to the public, it should be open to everyone on the same terms. We applaud Charlotte’s council members for making their city more safe, welcoming, and inclusive, and we urge municipal leaders across the state to follow their example. Charlotte has full authority to enact this ordinance, and we hope the General Assembly will respect this local government’s decision to protect its residents and visitors from discrimination.”

The ACLU of North Carolina's Liberty Awards on April 2 is our annual opportunity to recognize exemplary individuals and organizations for their work to promote civil liberties in North Carolina. We're so excited to announce that our first award recipient is Southerners on New Ground (SONG), who we'll present with the 2016 Sharon Thompson Award, for extraordinary efforts to advance equality for the LGBTQ community.

SONG is a regional queer liberation organization made up of people of color, immigrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, working class and rural and small town people, and LGBTQ people in the South.  The organization uses community organizing to build collective power, transform the South, and build freedom movements rooted in southern traditions. Its work strives to bring together marginalized communities to work toward justice and liberation for all people.

SONG has worked alongside the ACLU-NC on many campaigns for equality, and we're thrilled to present them with this year's Sharon Thompson Award.

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