ACLU Marks Independence Day With New Report On Main Street Movement To Protect Civil Liberties

July 3, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – On the eve of this year’s Independence Day celebrations, the American Civil Liberties Union today released a new report documenting the ongoing grassroots movement in the United States to pass local community resolutions rejecting government policies that go beyond fighting terrorism and stray into the suppression of basic constitutional rights.

“In my conversations with people from across the political spectrum, I hear one refrain over and over: if we give up our freedoms in the name of national security, we will have lost the war on terrorism,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “As this year’s Fourth of July rolls around, we hope that this report will demonstrate again to the White House, the Justice Department and Congress that we must be both safe and free.”

More than 130 communities, encompassing more than 16 million people in 26 states, have passed resolutions, some of which contain strong legal language directing local police to, among other things, refrain from engaging in racial profiling, enforcing immigration laws or participating in federal investigations that violate civil liberties. Among the communities that have adopted resolutions are traditionally conservative locales, such as Castle Valley, UT and three states: Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont.

The report tells the story of the movement’s small beginnings in Ann Arbor, MI and how it has grown, quickly, into a true nationwide grassroots campaign. In the past year alone, more than 100 resolutions have passed. Dozens more are under consideration and the pace shows no sign of slowing down.

The momentum behind the resolutions drive has drawn the increasing ire of the Justice Department. Using a variety of public relations strategies, including the dissemination of misleading information about the scope and impact of the Justice Department’s post-9/11 surveillance and law enforcement policies, the Attorney General, his spokespeople and some Members of Congress have actively sought to discredit the strength, breadth and necessity of the movement behind the measures.

In one case, a U.S. Attorney in Alaska provided misleading information when he testified against a state resolution before the State Legislature. In what is not an uncommon occurrence, the U.S. Attorney erroneously downplayed much of what the USA PATRIOT Act does and could do, and mischaracterized specific sections of the bill. Refusing to be chastened, Alaska’s lawmakers disregarded the U.S. Attorney’s testimony and promptly passed a statewide resolution.

“This report just goes to show the importance of local activism,” the ACLU’s Murphy said. “Although the Attorney General and his staff have said that this movement is but a flash in the pan, the fact that they’d take the time to actively work to defeat these things speaks volumes about their political importance.”

The report can be found at:

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