Local victory: Northampton City Council stands up against NDAA and indefinite detention

Last night, the Northampton, MA City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution condemning the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act. Northampton is the third city on the east coast to do so, and the first in Massachusetts.

As the public comment period began, the room quickly filled up with Northampton residents wearing stickers that read: “I oppose Indefinite Detention -- I stand with the Preserving our Civil Rights Campaign.” One after another, residents spoke out in favor of the resolution.

“President Obama is not going to wake up tomorrow and shred the NDAA just because Northampton said he should,” said Emily Odgers, a sixteen year old member of the Northampton Human Rights Commission, and BORDC Patriot award winner, who helped to author the resolution. “But someone has to stand up. Someone has to say something.”

Bill Newman, an attorney with the Western Massachusetts law office of the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed. Demonstrating the absurdity of the NDAA's essentially limitless powers, he told the Council, “I don’t want to seem too passionate when I talk about this.  I could, after all, start to appear belligerent, and end up indefinitely detained.”  The indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA give the federal government the power to detain anyone, including Americans apprehended within the US, accused (even if never proven) of participation in a “belligerent act.”

After the close of the public comment period, Councilors voiced their support for the resolution. One by one, they expressed pride in Northampton -- and in the Human Rights Commission, which unanimously agreed to sponsor the resolution and bring it to the Council -- for making this statement.

“Silence is complicity. We cannot afford to be silent,” said Bill Dwight, the President of the City Council.

The resolution was drafted by the Preserving our Civil Rights Campaign, which was also responsible for Northampton’s decision to opt out of Secure Communities last fall.  The coalition consists of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Northampton's resolution reflects the latest crest in a nationwide grassroots wave to restore due process in the wake of the NDAA's passage.  Several towns and counties around the country have already passed resolutions, and several more -- as well as resolutions at the state level -- are in progress. Your local government could be the next one to take a stand against indefinite detention. Join the campaign today, and let your neighbors, your town, your state, and our federal government know that We the People care about constitutional rights, including due process and the right to trial.

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Let's make the 4th of July a Day to recite the relevant portions of the Declaration and Bill of Rights, mic-check style all over the country. and to prepare, let teachers everywhere teach Bill of Rights in preparation.