December 17, 2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OAKLAND - The city council today passed a resolution opposing the USA PATRIOT Act and urging the state's Members of Congress to actively work for its repeal, making Oakland the 19th municipality -- and the largest yet -- to speak out in recent months against Bush Administration policies.

"The government's assault on our civil rights and civil liberties must be stopped," said Judith Haney, an Oakland resident and member of the Oakland Civil Rights Defense Committee, which worked on the resolution. "Congress hasn't been able to check this uncontrolled executive power grab, so it is up to us to reclaim our fundamental rights of free speech, free association, religion, due process and equal protection."

With the help of the national American Civil Liberties Union and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, city councils all over the country have passed resolutions, and similar efforts are underway in more than 50 cities in 25 states, the ACLU said. 

"Oakland has become part of a growing national movement of towns and cities that oppose the USA PATRIOT Act and the federal crackdown on our civil liberties," said Sanjeev Bery of the ACLU of Northern California. "From Santa Fe, New Mexico to Carrboro, North Carolina, communities are gathering to reclaim their civil liberties and oppose the USA PATRIOT Act."

A wide range of Oakland community groups and residents drafted today's resolution, which affirms that "any efforts to end terrorism not be waged at the expense of the fundamental civil rights and liberties." The resolution was introduced by Oakland Councilwoman Nancy Nadel and Oakland Council President Ignacio de la Fuente.

The resolution was endorsed by more than 20 groups, including the local ACLU Paul Robeson Chapter, the Labor Immigrant Organizing Network (LION), Oakland Library Advisory Commission, Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP), UAW Local 3030, Centro Legal de la Raza, Filipinos for Affirmative Action and the Green Party of Alameda County.

"It seems to me that the government once again is trying to intimidate the public," said West Oakland resident Zoia Horn, an 84-year-old retired librarian who was jailed 30 years ago for three weeks for refusing to testify in the trial of anti-war activists. "As a librarian, I've always felt that the First Amendment assures that the people have the right to think, to speak, to debate, and to 'petition the government for a redress of grievances,' which also means the right to dissent and to criticize." 

City Councilwoman Nadel added, "If we trade in our civil liberties for some abstract sense of security, we lose the very freedom for which our country claims to stand." 

The resolution lists a series of provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act and ensuing executive and administrative orders that may violate the constitutional rights of Oakland residents, including measures that:

  • Give the Attorney General and the Secretary of State the power to designate domestic groups, which may include religious and political organizations, as "terrorist organizations; 
  • Give law enforcement expanded authority to obtain library records and prohibits librarians from informing patrons of monitoring or information requests; 
  • Authorize eavesdropping on confidential communications between lawyers and their clients in federal custody; 
  • Limit disclosure of public documents and records under the Freedom of Information Act, and; 
  • Grant power to the Attorney General to subject citizens of other nations to indefinite detention or deportation even if they have not committed a crime. 

President George W. Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law on October 26, 2001. The law contains sweeping provisions that expand the government's authority to plant wiretaps, enter homes, search computers, and carry out other covert surveillance. The Act also permits the FBI to subpoena private customer records from libraries, bookstores, hospitals and credit card companies, among other places, without suspicion of a crime. It also makes it illegal for anyone who has received such a subpoena to talk about it. 

The text of the Oakland resolution is online at /node/22752

For more information on the community resolution movement, go to /node/22776

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