We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.
Anne Weyer (Blankley) is an arts and culture aficionado. She has a passion for fundraising, community activism, and rabbits named Napoleon.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in South Dakota, left for college, and came back for job opportunities in Sioux Falls. I’ve worked in the arts and culture field for the last 10 years and have now decided to pursue a career in law to align with my political and community service passions. My little family consists of one husband, Chris, and one rabbit, Napoleon. I am a member of P.E.O., an organization that raises money for women’s education. In my spare time, I enjoy nonfiction audio books and archery.
When did you first hear about the ACLU and why did you want to get involved?
I first learned about the ACLU with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. I found their role in the conversation to be essential to understanding what really happened at Standing Rock. Shortly after, I became a member. I am currently very interested in their Smart Justice campaign, which aims to combat the high levels of incarceration in our state and across the country.
How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?
I’ve been politically engaged since I was 17. In that time, I’ve witnessed the deteriorating discourse in politics, South Dakota not being immune. I have great respect for watchdog organizations like the ACLU that defend our constitution from political meddling. I’m a very concerned about voter rights. If we do not have fair and open elections, we cannot have representative democracy. When I proudly say I’m a member of the ACLU, it garnishes respect from individuals across the political spectrum. Not many organizations can claim that.
What made you want to get involved at the ACLU’s first phone bank in South Dakota and how was your experience?
I have phone banked for a variety of candidates in the past, but not as many issue-related campaigns. I found it much easier to get motivated to act regarding an issue that I’m passionate about. I, like many others, have been frustrated with the discriminatory legislation coming out of Pierre. There is no better way to combat that feeling than to make a successful connection and inspire someone else to contact their representative. ACLU made it fun and easy. I would definitely do it again. The bill we were calling about, SB 49, was deferred to the 41st day and we were able to celebrate a victory that week.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?
The ACLU is a longstanding reputable organization. For someone new to getting involved, the staff offers orientation and are there for you if you have questions. I’m a proud ACLU member because I believe in their mission and I’m encouraged to see them step into the realm of community organizing here in South Dakota. The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization focused on preserving our constitution. There is nothing more important to our democracy.
What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?
I serve as a mentor for EmBe Dress for Success. The mentoring program Women to the Workforce assists women transitioning back into employment by providing them leadership development. I have met the most amazing women who are determined to do whatever possible to better their position and strengthen their families. It’s a constant reminder to use my skills to better the Sioux Falls community in a very personal way.
What are you most looking forward to as an ACLU volunteer?
I have signed up to be an ACLU legal observer. Legal observers act as legal witnesses to political demonstrations and document the events of public protests, including any incidents of police misconduct or violations of the rights of protestors. I think this role is vital to protecting our First Amendment. While we don’t have a ton of protests in South Dakota, trained legal observers should be ready and waiting for when the need arises. For me, the goal of an observer is to keep perspective and stay calm in high emotion situations.