Largest City to Date Passes Pro-Civil Liberties Resolution; Los Angeles Rejects Bush's Call to Continue Civil Liberties Curtailment

January 21, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Following last night’s call by President Bush to extend the USA PATRIOT Act, the American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the passage 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 by the Los Angeles City Council. Today’s overwhelming vote by the City Council makes Los Angeles the 237th local government — and with over 3.5 million residents by far the largest to date – to adopt such a resolution.

“”In his State of the Union address, President Bush yet again used fear to call for the extension of controversial powers granted in the PATRIOT Act,”” said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “”That Los Angeles would pass a resolution less than a day after that, demanding that we uphold the Constitution and demand narrowly tailored anti-terrorism powers is a testament to their commitment to the American way.””

“This is a huge victory for civil liberties,” said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Los Angeles is the largest city to pass a resolution in support of civil liberties and critical of the USA-PATRIOT Act. Angelenos should be proud that their City Council stands on the side of those who believe we can be both safe and free. Today’s resolution sends a clear message to those who assume that Americans will tolerate the erosion of our basic Constitutional rights.”

The council voted 9 to 2 to adopt the resolution which seeks to “”affirm the rights of all people? living within the City.”” The resolution was spearheaded by Councilmember Jan Perry (D-District 9) and Assistant President Pro Tempore Eric Garcetti (D- District 13). The Civil Liberties Defense Coalition, a group of more than 50 local and national organizations, including the ACLU, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Council of LaRaza, had endorsed the resolution.

The resolution movement has its roots in the passage of the Patriot Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation steamrolled through Congress in October of 2001, 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, 237 governing bodies — including the state legislatures of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont — encompassing over 34 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.

The Los Angeles resolution calls for “”support of any legislation which would repeal provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act? that violate the Constitution.”” 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) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The ACLU noted that there is strong bi-partisan Congressional support for measures to reign in the PATRIOT Act.

“”As we continue to provide for our national security, we should not maintain those anti-terrorism measures that are overreaching and vulnerable to abuse,”” Nojeim added. “”Our history demands a commitment to the system of checks and balances, proper oversight, and to protection of the privacy of Americans. Today, Los Angeles has sent a clear message – the state of the union demands that we be both safe and free.””

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