Ann Arbor City Council Passes Civil Liberties Resolution, Joining 136 Cities Across the Nation

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
July 8, 2003 12:00 am

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ANN ARBOR, MI-In a resolution passed by its city council last night, Ann Arbor became the 137th locality in the country to oppose anti-civil liberties portions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

“More and more people around the country are objecting to the way that this Administration is conducting its ‘war on terrorism,'” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. “The number of local resolutions and ordinances that are passing in city councils show that there is a growing suspicion that the powers granted to federal authorities under the USA PATRIOT Act are not necessary for combating terrorism.”

Working together with local activists and residents concerned with encroachments on civil liberties brought about by the October 2001 passage of this controversial federal law, the ACLU has been leading a nationwide campaign to help citizens voice their dissent and take action at the local level.

Communities from Denver, Colorado, to Oakland, California and Flagstaff, Arizona have passed measures critical of provisions in USA PATRIOT that attack civil liberties, and Alaska, Vermont and Hawaii have enacted statewide resolutions. Detroit passed a similar measure in January of 2003.

The Ann Arbor resolution, which was sponsored by City Council members Kim Groome, Jean Carlberg and Heidi Herrell, passed by a vote of 7-2 and requires the city administrator to request from the federal government, on a semi-annual basis, information regarding:

  • the number of “sneak and peek” search warrants executed within the city by federal authorities pursuant to Section 213 of the USA PATRIOT Act;
  • the extent to which federal authorities are monitoring political meetings, religious gatherings or other activities protected by the First Amendment within the city;
  • the number of times library records and records of the books purchased by bookstore patrons have been obtained in the city under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

The resolution also requires the Ann Arbor Police Department to decline invitations from federal authorities to participate in post-9/11 investigative activities that are believed to be unconstitutional.

Public comment on the resolution lasted for over two hours as the Ann Arbor City Council chambers were filled to capacity.

“This resolution is important for two reasons,” said Mary Bejian, President of the ACLU Chapter in Washtenaw County and the local leader in the ACLU’s Safe and Free Campaign. “One, to ensure community trust in local law enforcement, and two, to send a message to Washington that yet another city in the United States does not support the current dismantling of the Constitution in the name of national security.”

In May, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice released a report that was highly critical of the Department’s own treatment of the 762 immigrants detained in the weeks following September 11, 2001. None of the 762 individuals detained were charged with terrorist activities, yet remained in custody for months at a time, many without access to legal counsel.

A new ACLU report details a consistent pattern of factually inaccurate assertions by the Department of Justice in statements to the media and Congress, statements that mischaracterize the scope, potential impact and likely harm of the now-notorious USA PATRIOT Act. The report, Seeking Truth From Justice is available as a PDF on line at: /SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=13099&c=206.

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