June 30, 2005
On Independence Day, Communities to Renew Opposition to USA PATRIOT Act
Patriot Days of Action July 2-8
Congress may be planning to quickly determine the future of the USA PATRIOT Act this summer, but not before individual members hear their constituents' concerns over the Fourth of July holiday recess. Patriot Days of Action, from July 2-8, is a national grassroots celebration of the Bill of Rights-and a reminder to Congress that nearly 400 local and state governments have passed resolutions opposing all or parts of the PATRIOT Act.
"Independence Day is a good time to expose our post-September 11 laws and policies such as the so-called PATRIOT Act and ask ourselves what our founding fathers and mothers would think if they were alive today," said Nancy Talanian, director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), the lead organization sponsoring Patriot Days of Action. "They would be disappointed to learn, for example, how the USA PATRIOT Act diminishes the Bill of Rights they fought so hard for, by weakening our rights to free speech and assembly, our right to be left alone if we are doing nothing wrong, and to receive due process of law," she said.
During the Patriot Days of Action groups in at least 20 states will hold public events ranging from Fourth of July picnics and parade floats to public forums and film showings to encourage people to consider how the PATRIOT Act affects civil liberties. They are calling for an open and vigorous national debate before Congress votes on whether to allow 16 provisions of the PATRIOT Act to sunset at the end of 2005.
Community coalitions will also visit district offices of their members of Congress to discuss antidotes to post-9/11 federal excesses-proposed legislation such as the SAFE Act, Freedom to Read Protection Act, the Restore FOIA Act, the Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act, and other liberty-restoring bills. They will also express widespread grassroots opposition to a Senate Intelligence Committee proposal dubbed "Patriot II," intended to increase government surveillance powers by allowing the FBI access to business records, and permitting wiretaps and searches without a judge's approval and without a clear link to terrorism.
The nearly 400 state, local, and county governments that have enacted resolutions and ordinances upholding their constituents' civil liberties serve a combined population of 62 million. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas, as well as the state legislatures of Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and Vermont have all passed resolutions in a surprisingly non-partisan effort. The BORDC has assembled a 500-page book documenting all resolutions passed in the last four years, including those from unions, churches, libraries, campuses, and other organizations like the National League of Cities, and local League of Women Voters and NAACP chapters.
Organizations endorsing Patriot Days of Action include the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International USA, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, National Lawyers Guild, People For the American Way, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Talanian is encouraging broad participation. "This is a critical moment for everyone who thinks they'll ever need their civil liberties. People must act now or risk forfeiting the rights we celebrate on Independence Day and count on the rest of the year."
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For names and contact information about events in cities around the country contact: Jessie Baugher, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, 413-582-0110, or find the information online at http://www.bordc.org/involved/weekofactionevents.php.