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Legal Observers Work To Protect First Amendment Rights

Joe Frazier
A legal observer from the ACLU monitoring a demonstration.

The Democratic National Convention will bring tens of thousands of people to Milwaukee. But not all of them will be here for the convention itself — many people will be coming for demonstrations. Conservatives and liberals, alike, will be in the city to bring attention to issues they find important.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will also be in the city with a team of legal observers — people like Dorothy Wobick and Hope Owens-Wilson, who are trained to ensure demonstrators can exercise their first amendment rights safely.

"As legal observers who have a commitment to the First Amendment, we’re very concerned with how law enforcement is also monitoring, using facial recognition, recording the information of demonstrators. We’ve seen how egregiously and how chillingly this has been done in other countries," says Emilio de Torre, the director of community engagement at the ACLU of Wisconsin. 

De Torre is also involved in teaching people how to become legal observers. The ACLU requires that new legal observers attend a training session, to learn how to appropriately monitor demonstrations and other events where law enforcement may be present. 

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Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.