First Town in Virginia Passes Pro-Civil Liberties Measure; 142 Communities in 27 States Have Now Spoken Out Against PATRIOT Act

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
July 22, 2003 12:00 am

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed the passage of a city council resolution here that attempts to protect civil liberties in this Virginia town by blocking some implementation of the controversial USA PATRIOT Act.

Notably, Charlottesville is the first community in the state that produced founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to pass such a measure, and is home to the prestigious University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded.

""That Charlottesville - a key community in our history as a country -- would be so eager to pass one of these resolutions shows the breadth of our nation's concern over the PATRIOT Act,"" said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. ""Americans of all political stripes - from Reaganite conservative to Nader-style liberal - fear the implications of policies that do nothing to make us safer while eroding our freedoms.""

More than 140 communities, encompassing more than 16 million people in 27 states, have passed resolutions, some of which contain strong legal language directing local police to, among other things, refrain from engaging in racial profiling, enforcing immigration laws or participating in federal investigations that violate civil liberties. Communities that have adopted resolutions range from the small, such as North Pole, Alaska, and Carrboro, North Carolina, to the very large, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit and San Francisco.

Charlottesville's resolution passed last night by a vote of four to one, with one Republican who dissented but still urged residents with concerns about the PATRIOT Act to contact their representatives in Congress.

The momentum behind the resolutions drive has drawn the increasing ire of the Justice Department. Using a variety of public relations strategies, including the dissemination of misleading information about the scope and impact of the Justice Department's post-9/11 surveillance and law enforcement policies, the Attorney General, his spokespeople and some Members of Congress have actively sought to discredit the strength, breadth and necessity of the movement behind the measures.

In one case, a U.S. Attorney in Alaska provided misleading information when he testified against a state resolution before the State Legislature. His testimony erroneously downplayed much of what the USA PATRIOT Act does and could do, and mischaracterized specific sections of the bill. Refusing to be chastened, Alaska's lawmakers disregarded the U.S. Attorney's testimony and promptly passed a statewide resolution.

""The spirit of our founding patriots was evident in last night's vote in Charlottesville against the PATRIOT Act,"" Murphy said.

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