The death penalty. Abortion. Internet censorship. Do you know the law and your rights? Ariel Ricci does.

“Many people don’t understand their rights and how they can be changed so easily without them knowing,” said Ariel Ricci. “People need to know about the constant threats to their rights and how real they are.” Ricci, a junior political science major, is the founder of a new student group for civil liberties.

One of the issues Ricci said she is most concerned about is Internet filtering. Beginning April 20 all public libraries will start to filter out pornography and other offensive sites mainly so children do not have access to them. If the libraries do not, 20 to 90 percent of their technology funding will be cut.

“The problem with the Internet filtering is that it is primitive,” said Ricci. “It is made to block out certain words like sex or breast. This means Web sites about breast cancer or sex education will be blocked.”

“One woman told me that an Oscar Wilde site had been filtered out because it contained words like gay and homosexual.”

Ricci, a transfer student from Skidmore College, became involved in civil liberties after taking some classes on the subject at her old school. She said she realized that free speech is a fairly new concept and needs to be protected.

“In the 1920s free speech basically didn’t exist. It has developed so much since then and the history of it really interests me.”

At 19, Ricci is an intern with the Maine Civil Liberties Union, the campus coordinator at USM and is also trying to organize student groups at the University of Maine at Orono, the University of Maine at Farmington, Bates and Bowdoin Colleges.

“I’m trying to encourage them to form student civil liberty groups on their own campuses in hopes of eventually forming a big group that can go rally and protest, but still doing their own things on their own campuses,” said Ricci. “Ideally I’d like to get a phone out on campus and grab people to call the legislators and persuade them on certain issues. Get students active and involved.”

Besides Internet filtering, Ricci said she is concerned about the current death penalty laws and the March 29 hearing of the Maine Legislature on reproductive choice.

“The federal government is considering a moratorium on the death penalty — this means holding off on them for a while — so they can investigate things like racial bias and economic disparity. This will just be for the federal death penalty cases but hopefully it will encourage states to take the same approach.”

Abortion, which is currently legal in Maine, is under attack by many religious groups. Ricci said there are currently several bills in Legislature that would change abortion laws. Some of these include considering abortion manslaughter or even murder, and forcing women under the age of 18 to get written parental consent before being allowed to have an abortion.

“It’s basically just going to be a discussion on the bills currently in Legislature dealing with abortion rights — some of it is ridiculous,” said Ricci.

Eventually, Ricci hopes to provide students with a place to go when they feel “something is not right.” She also hopes to get speakers from the Maine Civil Liberties Union and other activists to come to meetings and talk about issues and bills currently in the Legislature.

“It’s just hard to find a time when people are around. Probably after break I’ll have another meeting and try to get some speakers to come in.”

If you are interested in joining the student civil liberties group or want to find out more about it contact Ariel Ricci at

[email protected]

Staff Writer Kate Bucklin can be contacted at: [email protected]

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