May 2, 2002
Third Massachusetts town votes to defend Bill of Rights from threats of USA PATRIOT Act
Nancy Talanian, Director
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
NORTHAMPTON, MA - On Thursday evening, Northampton City Council voted unanimously in favor of a Resolution to Defend the Bill of Rights. The resolution addresses concerns that the USA PATRIOT Act and several Executive Orders threaten key rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens and non-citizens by the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution, such as freedom of speech, assembly, and privacy; the right to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.
In the Resolution the Council requests that 1) local police continue to uphold civil liberties of local residents even if authorized to do otherwise by the USA PATRIOT Act and Executive Orders; 2) state and Federal law enforcement agencies working in the City refrain from racial profiling or detention without charges; 3) federal and state law enforcement report to the local Human Rights Commission on all local investigations undertaken under the aegis of the Act and Orders; and 4) the community's Congressional representatives actively monitor the implementation of the Acts and Orders and work to repeal those sections found unconstitutional.
Northampton City Council President Michael Bardsley, the resolution's sponsor, introduced the resolution by referring to those who had made the supreme sacrifice to preserve our cherished freedoms. Councilor Maria Tymoczko, remembering the infamous internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, championed the resolution's protection of civil liberties. According to Councilor Fran Volkmann, "Freedom is what it's all about, and we want to keep ours."
The Northampton City Council's vote follows the passage of similar resolutions in the nearby towns of Amherst and Leverett the previous week. The City Councils of Ann Arbor and Berkeley passed civil liberties resolutions in January. Denver City Council passed a resolution in March. Cambridge City Council will consider a similar resolution within the next few months.
At Amherst Town Meeting, Anne Awad spoke on behalf of the town's Select Board, which unanimously supported the town's resolution. "We want to honor the heritage of freedom supported in the earliest documents of our government," she said.. "As members of the Select Board, we want to know that all residents and visitors to our town feel safe. We do not want to support profiling of particular types of people: If one group is viewed suspiciously today, another group will be added to the list tomorrow."
On Saturday, Leverett's 228th annual Town Meeting passed a resolution in defense of the Bill of Rights by unanimous voice vote. On introducing the warrant article, Leverett resident Ann Ferguson noted "I think we have a long legacy in New England of defending our civil liberties. This resolution extends that history into the present." Don Ogden, who initially submitted the article to the Leverett Select Board, said after the vote that "this so-called USA PATRIOT Act and similar far-right legislative initiatives are nothing short of an assault on the U.S. Constitution. It is truly Orwellian double-speak to call such UNPATRIOTIC efforts a 'PATRIOT Act'."
For more information about the issue and local efforts, go to www.bordc.org.
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