Yesterday, activists gathered on the steps of San Francisco's city hall to oppose the indefinite military detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and to support the introduction of a resolution by Supervisor and President of the Board David Chiu. The resolution of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will uphold due process and articulate San Francisco's opposition of the NDAA. Supervisor Chiu stated that the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA:
violate our fundamental right to our presumption of innocence. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
In addition to Supervisor Chiu and Supervisor Jane Kim, speakers at the rally, mc'ed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, included community leaders from a broad range of organizations. Karen Korematsu, civil rights activist and daughter of Fred Korematsu, emphasized the need to learn from the mistakes of history, pointing out the similarities between the potential for indefinite military detention without trial to the tragedy of internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Her father is known for refusing to submit to internment, being convicted for his refusal, and challenging his conviction in Korematsu v. United States. He eventually had his conviction overturned, and continued to fight for civil liberties, including supporting the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian community as they were targeted in the wake of 9/11. His legal team filed an amicus in Hedges v. Obama, a case challenging the NDAA that is currently in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Rachel Roberts, civil rights coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco, told the crowd about the fear the specter of detention has spurred in her clients in the Muslim community. Joe Nicholson, of the San Francisco 99% Coalition, reminded the crowd that the Constitution has no meaning without concerned Americans to support it.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Supervisors John Avalos, London Breed, David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar, is similar to legislation that has been passed in communities across the country. The language of the resolution emphasizes that San Francisco honors the civil liberties of all residents:
the City of San Francisco strongly affirms our commitment to the rights and liberties enshrined within the Constitution of the United State, including the Fifth Amendment right to due process, the Sixth Amendment right to trial, and the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
It would set a clear policy that San Francisco will not be complicit in denigrating these rights, particularly San Francisco agencies, instructing them:
to decline requests by federal agencies acting under detention powers granted by the NDAA or any authorization of force, that could infringe upon constitutional freedom of speech, religion, assembly, privacy, or rights to counsel.
If passed, the resolution will be sent to pertinent committees as well as senators and members of Congress.
The date of the resolution’s introduction was timed to fall in advance of February 19th, the 71st anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. This order, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, authorized the military to intern over 120,000 Japanese-Americans without any trial or due process. Japanese-americans in particular have raised their voices against the growing encroachment on civil liberties presented by the never-ending war on terror. They have stood up as the Arab and Muslim community has been targeted in the same atmosphere of racist hysteria that they experienced. The resolution ensures that San Francisco will not participate in repeating these horrific mistakes of history.
The resolution is supported by a broad base of San Franciscans from a variety of communities. There were at least 25 endorsements at the time the resolution was introduced. The Coalition for a Safe San Francisco, a grassroots coalition dedicated to protecting the civil rights and civil liberties challenged by overbroad national security policies, particularly as they affect the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities, signed on to endorse the bill, as did the Japanese American Citizens League. Labor also endorsed, including San Francisco union Unite Here Local 2. A number of peace and justice groups also signed on, including Codepink and Veterans for Peace. The broad base of support emphasizes the variety of communities concerned about the erosion of civil liberties represented by the NDAA.
Many who had gathered for the rally also went to the Board of Supervisors meeting to testify in favor of the resolution. The testimony was powerful, and the resolution is authored and co-sponsored by 6 members of the 11 member board. The final vote will be in two weeks. In the meantime, anyone interested in getting involved in San Francisco, or anywhere else, can check out our local campaigns or email us to get more information.