Bill of Rights Defense Campaign

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December 14, 2005

400th Resolution Challenges PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

Nancy Talanian, Director, Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Ché Gilliland, Coupeville (Washington) Peace and Reconciliation

Renewed Demand for Congress to Restore the Bill of Rights

As Congress prepares to make parts of the USA PATRIOT Act permanent, many people continue to fight on the home front against the 2001 law they believe has stripped U.S. residents of essential liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. On Tuesday, Coupeville, Washington, became the 400th jurisdiction to take a stand against the PATRIOT Act’s infringements on the U.S. Constitution. The Coupeville Town Council’s vote was unanimous.

Residents of Coupeville, historically a farming community on Washington’s Whidbey Island, join more than 62 million U.S. residents in “civil liberties safe zones,” towns, cities, counties and states that have passed resolutions to protect and affirm civil liberties in the face of a broad expansion of government surveillance powers post-9/11. “There was definitely an urgency to get this resolution passed before the year ends,” said Ché Gilliland, of Coupeville Peace and Reconciliation. “We wanted to show Congress how serious we are about protecting our liberties, especially with both the PATRIOT Act vote and the Bill of Rights anniversary coming up this week.”

New resolutions are not the only front in this grassroots campaign to stop or at least slow down the PATRIOT Act reauthorization. “Millions of people are phoning and faxing their members of Congress, urging them to support plans for a filibuster and a three-month continuing resolution in order to stop the runaway reauthorization process,” said Nancy Talanian, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a national group that educates the American public about threats to liberties and helps people convert their concerns into meaningful action.

Talanian reports that the resolutions passed in small towns and large cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia, represent a cross-section of ordinary Americans who value freedom, including conservatives and gun owners. “The passage of 400 resolutions representing 62 million people is the result of people across the political spectrum joining together within their communities to reaffirm the Bill of Rights.”

Regardless of what Congress does or doesn’t do, Coupeville residents are already working on their next task, organizing the rest of the county to petition the Board of Commissioners to stand up for the Bill of Rights. “We have a lot of work to do to restore our democracy,” said Gilliland, who is planning a celebration of Bill of Rights Day for her 4th grade class on Thursday, December 15. “But it was clear from the Coupeville Town Council meeting tonight that we’re all in this together. Our common ground is the Bill of Rights.”

BORDC formed in November 2001, two weeks after the USA PATRIOT Act became law, and began helping people in hundreds of cities and towns throughout the United States organize to affirm and protect constitutional rights and liberties. In the past three and a half years, community-based organizations have used BORDC's strategies, organizing assistance, community networking, and web-based resources to pass 400 resolutions and ordinances in 43 states, including statewide resolutions in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and Vermont.

Press Advisory: Alphabetical list by state of communities with resolutions: