Largest City in America Passes Pro-Civil Liberties Resolution; New York City Becomes 250th to Join Call to Keep America Safe and Free

February 4, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed passage by the New York City Council of a pro-civil liberties resolution urging a narrowing of some of the most egregious portions of the USA PATRIOT Act and affirming support for freedom in the post-9/11 era. Today’s move by the City Council comes just a week after the Bush Administration threatened to veto a bill that offers modest changes to the PATRIOT Act to bring certain measures back in line with the Constitution.

“”The city of New York-perhaps more than any city in America–is keenly aware of why we are engaged in a war on terror, and this resolution reminds us of our commitment to the very freedoms we seek to protect,”” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “”With its diverse population, it is fitting and proper that the nation’s largest city has joined millions across the country in demanding that America can, and must, be both safe and free.””

The council adopted Resolution 60, which seeks to “”affirm and uphold civil rights and civil liberties.”” The resolution, which passed by voice-vote with overwhelming support, was spearheaded by Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) and has enjoyed widespread support since its introduction. While 34 members of the council were co-sponsors, of particular note is Council Member Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan), whose district includes the site of the World Trade Center. More than 90 organizations had endorsed the resolution, including the NAACP, the New York Public Library Guild and American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee. At council hearings held earlier on the resolution, family members of FDNY and NYPD officers who died on 9/11 testified in support of the resolution.

“”The fact that the resolution passed in New York City, site of the devastating attacks of 9/11 sends a resounding message that New Yorkers are not willing to trade their freedom for policies that do not make them any more safe,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Legislative Office. “”The city of New York paid a higher cost that most cities, but New Yorkers are standing up and refusing to sacrifice their fundamental freedoms.””

New York joins a growing list of 250 governing bodies responding to the Patriot Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation steamrolled through Congress in October of 2001, and other post-9/11 security measures. Similar resolutions have passed elsewhere, including the state legislatures of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont — encompassing about 43 million people in 37 states. 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, Resolution 60 calls upon city agencies to not subject New Yorkers to secret detentions without charge and without access to counsel. It urges the NYPD to respect the rights of individuals to engage in First Amendment protected activities, refrain from enforcing federal immigration laws and is prohibited from engaging in racial profiling. The resolution also calls upon the New York delegation of Congress to “”actively work for the repeal of those sections of the USA PATRIOT Act and related federal actions that unduly infringe upon fundamental rights and liberties.”” There are currently several measures pending in Congress that seek to bring the PATRIOT Act back in line with the Constitution.

One such measure is the Safety and Freedom Ensured (SAFE Act), a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Sununu (R-NH) and Russell Feingold (D-WI). The SAFE Act is a set of modest reforms designed to bring the most egregious provisions of the PATRIOT Act in line with the Constitution. The SAFE Act was the subject of a letter sent last week from Attorney General John Ashcroft advising key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that if the SAFE Act passed in its current form the President would be advised to veto it.

“”The resolution affirms New York City’s respect for civil liberties and civil rights,”” said Deputy Majority Leader Perkins, the resolution’s primary sponsor. “”Even as we continue to cope with the tragedy of 9/11, we as New Yorkers and as Americans must not surrender the basic constitutional protections that we hold dear.””

“”These resolutions speak volumes about the commitment of ordinary Americans to our freedoms,”” the ACLU’s Murphy said. “”The city of New York has shown its true patriotism by speaking out against the PATRIOT Act, which went too far, too fast after 9/11 and demanding that our civil liberties not be forgotten as we meet the challenges of this new era.””

The text of the resolution can be found at:

For more on the local resolutions campaign, go to:

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