MEET THE 12-YEAR-OLD WHO’S FIGHTING AGAINST UNLAWFUL POLICE SURVEILLANCE IN RICHMOND
DAVID STREEVER | SEPTEMBER 28, 2017
Henry Haggard began volunteering with the ACLU after an online fight. Bored on a long summer day, the middle schooler was browsing YouTube, looking for videos to challenge his political views. Instead, he found a group of online bullies who responded to his detailed points with cruelty and name-calling.
“They called me autistic,” he tells us when we see him at Constitution Day, an event he organized for the ACLU to celebrate the US Constitution. He didn’t dwell on it. “I realized they would never see my point. I told them I was going to do something a lot bigger than argue on YouTube.”
Henry and guests at Constitution Day
Constitution Day was his second event since the argument and included a guest speaker, ACLU Director of Communications Bill Farrar. Supporters gathered at Richmond Young Writers, which is run by Henry’s mom, Valley, and then listened to Farrar speak on the history of the Constitution and an assortment of contemporary issues.
At the door were Henry’s friends from school, who share his interest in the Constitution and politics. They were collecting emails and petition signatures and selling raffle tickets for ACLU swag.
Constitution Day built on his success with Write For Your Rights, an ACLU-supported letter-writing event which he planned in early August, shortly after the YouTube debate. That event had 40 guests, despite one setback–Facebook found and deleted his profile because Henry was 3 months shy of his 13th birthday.
Before losing his account, Henry created a group on Facebook that has nearly 200 members, called ACLU People Power – Richmond. He’s still active there, via Valley’s Facebook account, and is planning a return under his own identity this October when he turns 13. He uses the group to plan future events and let supporters know about his activism.
His next move was a petition against police surveillance, supporting the Community Control Over Police Surveillance law in his own community of Henrico. It’s an issue he’s spoken about at events and in videos on Facebook, driven by a concern for the privacy rights of minorities in America, who face disproportionate surveillance.
He’s already run for office and won, serving as the student council treasurer at his middle school, and his career ambitions have shifted. “I wanted to be an aerospace engineer for NASA, but now I want to be a lawyer for the ACLU,” he told us, mentioning that his interests run from science to skateboards to law.
Between attending and organizing events, he’s also met with Democratic candidates like Dawn Adams, hoping to build support for the CCOPS law he advocates for, and is writing a series of blog posts for the ACLU. To learn more or volunteer with him, you can join his Facebook group, ACLU People Power – Richmond.
*Photos by Allison MacEwen, cover photo by Valley Haggard
Henry's Note: This was put on Top Political Such and Such of RVA Mag
HENRY HAGGARD | OCTOBER 10, 2017
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dawn Adams over the phone. Adams is the Democratic candidate for the 2017 Virginia House of Delegates election in the 68th district, which includes parts of Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond. Adams has spent over 20 years working in the Richmond area as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, access to care researcher, and health advocate. She’s also the Director of the Office of Integrated Health for VA’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. She won the Old Dominion University Nursing Scholar award for her research project based around reducing healthcare cost.
I’m a 12-year-old activist for the ACLU of Virginia. I want to be an ACLU lawyer when I grow up. When Adams was my age, she wanted to become a surgeon. Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, however, she decided to run for state delegate. When I asked how she handles so many jobs at once, she told me she gets a lot less sleep. Adams’ favorite place to go in Virginia is anywhere with water, so part of her campaign is to keep the James River free from pollution.
Adams believes the ACLU is a critical organization for protecting constitutional rights throughout the nation – the First and Fourteenth amendments are critical to her. The First, she says, makes America a democracy and allows people to fight back when they believe something is wrong. She strongly supports freedom of speech, religious freedom, and freedom of assembly. Adams also believes the 14th amendment, which prevents most discrimination, hasn’t been expanded widely enough. In her opinion, if people used this amendment to its full potential, America would be a better place.
She says the issue of Confederate monuments is complex, and the mayor was wise to form a committee to discuss it. In her opinion, communities themselves should decide the monuments’ fates. “It’s not a win-win situation,” she explains. I asked for her thoughts on the ACLU defending KKK members’ rights in Charlottesville. She says you can’t deny someone the right to assemble. She wasn’t there, but she knows they had the right to assemble until the moment they became violent.
She also thinks if someone is born in the country, they deserve citizenship. Also, Adams told me that Trump has provided a false meaning of religious liberty. She knows it means anyone can practice any religion, not that one religion can be used to discriminate against other people.
Adams told me the best part of campaigning is talking to people in the community. If she wins she’ll work on quality education and affordable healthcare. She’s part of the LGBTQ community and believes everybody should have equal pay in the workplace.
I asked Adams why she thinks she deserves the community vote. “I have the knowledge, skills, ability, and heart to provide our district the inclusive and decisive leadership we have been lacking for years,” she told me. “I am unafraid to reach across the aisle and vote in the best interest of our citizens.”
She is very kind and cares about the input of her constituents.
When I asked if she had any advice for young people, she said, “You should be the one giving advice, not me. Kids listen to kids.”
At her request, I will give some advice to people my age. Obviously, you can’t vote, and money isn’t exactly abundant in a 12-year-old’s bank account. There are three easy things we can do, though. Firstly, we can host fundraisers. Even the smallest fundraiser can go a long way. Secondly, petitions; whether signing them or creating them, petitions are crucial to our democracy. Lastly, social media. Post to spread the word about the cause.
“The best ways for citizens to empower themselves starts with education,” she said when I asked how the average citizen could resist and fight back. “Understanding that each citizen has the power to change what they do not like in government. Voting far outweighs all others if you’re 18 and eligible – every vote really does count. Be relentless, be polite, be calm, but always persist. Make your leaders aware of your positions and why – be factual, concise, and clear.”
Remember to register to vote by October 16, because voting day is on November 7. Vote to make sure your candidate can become the delegate for the community. Even if you are not in the 68th district, that’s okay, because she supports Ralph Northam for governor and many other Virginian candidates.
Remember, keep calm and elect a nurse practitioner.
*Valley Haggard helped contribute to this piece. Photos from Dawn Adams for VA Delegate 68th District
***Which therefore gave me bragging rights