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ACLU National Director David Cole speaking at a conference. Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage via Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union is defending its position on free speech after a leaked memo last week revealed the organization was having an internal debate on how it weighed free speech against other civil rights.

Why it matters: The ACLU is obligated, as a non-partisan civil rights organization, to defend clients seeking help — even if it doesn't agree with them.

"We can and do defend in court the rights of those whose views we openly denounce. "
— David Cole, National Director of the ACLU

Cole said the ACLU has and is currently defending those they disagree with, including former senior editor for Breitbart News, Milo Yiannopoulos, in a free-speech case against the Washington, D.C. transit authority. The organization reaffirmed that free speech is extended to all, "even to the most repugnant speakers — including white supremacists," Cole said.

The details: Former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer criticized the ACLU last week after an internal memo revealed the company was considering how it weighed free speech when it violated the civil rights of other marginalized groups.

  • The memo did not outline the debate as a policy change and said branches would be able to weigh free speech through their own discretion.
  • In the memo, the ACLU said it was still committed to defending free speech and protecting first amendment rights as an organization.

The backdrop: According to the memo, the ACLU began to consider how to prioritize who they're defending after the Charlottesville rally in 2017. The city initially tried to block the group's right to protest, but the ACLU defended it. The organization faced criticism after.

Go deeper

More than a dozen injured in downtown Austin shooting

Police tape in Austin, Texas in 2018. Photo: y Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A shooting in a busy part of downtown Austin, Texas, early Saturday injured at least 13 people, including two who are in critical condition.

The state of play: Gunfire erupted around 1:30 a.m. along 6th Street, a popular area with bars and restaurants. The suspected shooter remains at large, Austin police said. "It is unknown if there is one, or multiple suspects involved," they noted, adding the shooting appears to be an isolated incident.

Biden to urge G7 to take unified approach to countering China

Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Saturday is expected to urge fellow G7 leaders to adopt a unified approach to countering China's rising global influence, AP reports.

Driving the news: The G7 leaders are set to unveil a multi-billion-dollar global infrastructure plan aimed at rivaling Beijing's efforts in the developing world.

Why America's post-vaccine summer is off to a slow start

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are itching to put pandemic life behind them, but many of the necessary ingredients for a summer of carefree fun — everything from neighborhood pools to car rentals — still aren't fully available.

The big picture: Labor shortages, scrambled supply chains and simple logistics are all making it harder for a whole range of businesses to meet post-pandemic demand, and that’s making “hot vax summer” a little harder to pull off.

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