Largest City in the Land of Lincoln Passes Pro-Civil Liberties Measure, Chicago Latest Addition of Localities to Demand America Be Safe and Free

October 1, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed the passage of a pro-civil liberties resolution by the Chicago City Council. With the passage, Chicago becomes the largest city to date to pass a resolution reaffirming residents' individual freedoms and privacy, and calling for corrections to be made to controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

"The citizens of Chicago join with millions across America in demanding that their freedoms not be compromised in these difficult times," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Americans of all political stripes, from all parts of the country, fear the implications of policies that alter our way of life. Chicago joins the call in demanding that we be both safe and free."

The resolution is in part a response to the USA PATRIOT Act, the federal anti-terrorism bill rushed through Congress with little deliberation in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The broad and overreaching bill contains many provisions that erode checks and balances on law enforcement and threaten personal privacy and civil liberties.

More than 175 communities and the states of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont, encompassing nearly 25 million people in 32 states, have passed similar resolutions, some of which contain strong legal language directing local law enforcement not to participate in federal investigations that violate civil liberties by, among other things: engaging in racial profiling and enforcing immigration laws. Communities all across the country have adopted resolutions from the North Pole, Alaska, and Carrboro, NC, to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit and San Francisco.

Chicago's resolution passed today by a vote of 37 to 7. Mayor Richard Daley does not need to sign the measure.

The national resolutions drive has drawn the increasing ire of the Justice Department. Using various 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.

Recently, the Attorney General himself embarked on a nationwide PATRIOT Act public relations roadshow, to tout the Act's effectiveness in fighting terrorism in an effort to stem the growing grassroots movement of people demanding pro-civil liberties corrections to the Act. However, reports now indicate that many of the anti-terrorism powers are being used in other criminal investigations, leading credence to the ACLU's concerns that the broad powers will be abused by law enforcement.

"We now know that some of the PATRIOT Act went too far, too fast," Murphy said. "History has shown the potential for abuse remains too high for Americans to simply 'trust the government,' and today, Chicago has courageously spoken up in defense of freedom."

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