First City in Georgia Passes Pro-Civil Liberties Resolution; Atlanta Joins Millions in Call to Keep America Safe and Free

January 8, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON -The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed passage by the Atlanta City Council of a pro-civil liberties resolution urging a narrowing of the USA Patriot Act and affirming support for freedom in the post-9/11 era. Monday’s unanimous vote by the City Council makes Atlanta the 235th local government — and the first in the state of Georgia – to adopt such a resolution.

“”As we strive to protect our country, we must remember to uphold the very freedoms we seek to protect,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “”It is poetic that Atlanta’s seal bears the Phoenix and the Latin Resurgens – ‘rising again.’ In the aftermath of 9/11 many liberties were curtailed, but now, millions of Americans are demanding that freedom be restored and protected – that we can, and must, be both safe and free.””

The Council voted unanimously, with one abstention, to adopt Resolution 03R1970, in which the Council “”affirms its strong support for fundamental constitutional rights and its opposition to federal measures that infringe on civil liberties.”” Furthermore, “”the City Council of Atlanta believes that there is no inherent conflict between national security and the preservation of liberty – Americans can be both safe and free.”” The resolution awaits the ceremonial signature of the Mayor – unnecessary for the validity of the resolution – and she is expected to sign it.

The resolution movement has its roots in the passage of the Patriot Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation rushed through Congress weeks after 9/11, and other similar post-9/11 security measures. Such measures share several anti-civil liberties characteristics, including provisions that erode checks and balances on federal law enforcement and surveillance powers and threaten the American political system’s separation of powers.

To date, 236 governing bodies — including the state legislatures of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont — encompassing over 30 million people in 37 states, have passed similar resolutions, some of which contain strong legal language directing local law enforcement to refrain from, for instance, engaging in racial profiling or enforcing federal immigration laws. Participating communities range in size and political inclination from tiny conservative North Pole, Alaska and Carrboro, North Carolina, to Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit and San Francisco.

In addition to local governments, several national organizations have also adopted similar pro-civil liberties resolutions. Among them are the American Library Association, the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National League of Cities, the Organization of Chinese Americans and Veterans for Peace.

Specifically, the Atlanta resolution calls upon the police department to respect the rights of individuals to engage in First Amendment protected activities, refrain from enforcing federal immigration laws, refrain from collecting or maintaining information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of individuals or groups, and from engaging in racial profiling. Public libraries are encouraged to display warnings that the Patriot Act may require the library to disclose to the FBI information about a patron’s reading habits, and that the library is prohibited from informing patrons of such requests.

Notably, recent media accounts have prompted concern that the PATRIOT Act is being overused. Articles in the Las Vegas Review-Journal detailed the FBI’s use of the PATRIOT Act in its case against Michael Galardi, the owner of two Las Vegas strip clubs, and several local officials that it believes accepted bribes from Galardi. Mr. Galardi has since pled guilty and is cooperating with the authorities.

“”With Atlanta – the capital city -having passed this resolution, other communities in Georgia will surely soon follow suit,”” said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “”Across America, hundreds of communities – liberal and conservative alike – have insisted we preserve our liberty. In these difficult times, true patriotism demands that we speak out against those government measures that do little to increase our security but most certainly diminish our freedoms.””

The text of the resolution can be found at:

For more on the local resolutions campaign, go to:

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