Philadelphia Adopts "Modern-Day Declaration of Independence," Local Resolution Addresses PATRIOT Act, Post 9/11 Civil Liberties Concerns

May 29, 2003 12:00 am

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Philadelphia Adopts “Modern-Day Declaration of Independence,” Local Resolution Addresses PATRIOT Act, Post 9/11 Civil Liberties Concerns


WASHINGTON – Calling it a “modern-day declaration of independence,” the American Civil Liberties Union today hailed the Philadelphia City Council’s passage of a local resolution expressing concern for civil liberties in the post-9/11 era. Philadelphia, the ACLU noted, holds a special place in the annals of American democracy as the birthplace of America, the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Philadelphia’s measure makes it the 115th municipality to pass such a resolution. Three states – Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont – have also passed statewide civil liberties legislation.

“The liberty bell has rung once again,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office, which has been working with other grassroots organizations to pass civil liberties protection measures nationwide. “The cradle of our democracy has again stepped up to the plate saying today that Americans will not allow their precious freedoms to be sacrificed in the name of stopgap security measures that fail to make us any safer.”

Philadelphia is the largest city to pass a resolution, followed by Detroit, San Francisco and Seattle. With passage in Philadelphia, more than 15 million Americans now live in communities with civil liberties resolutions on the books.

The resolution, introduced by City Councilman Angel L. Ortiz, specifically calls for Philadelphia’s Congressional delegation to “vigilantly monitor the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and to actively work to repeal the Act or those sections of the Act and those Orders, rules and regulations issued under the Act, that violate the fundamental rights and liberties of persons protected by the United States Constitution and its Amendments.”

Philadelphia’s resolution goes one step further by explicitly affirming the city’s opposition to racial profiling generally and any interpretation of the PATRIOT Act that permits the selective enforcement of laws against citizen and non-citizen Americans because of race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. The resolution includes language recognizing Philadelphia’s unique place in the country’s history and the shaping of our free society; the resolution also includes this clause: “whereas, the Declaration of Independence of the United States, which was written in Philadelphia, holds as self-evident that all people are created equal and are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Philadelphia’s measure comes on the heels of the adoption of a statewide resolution in Vermont on Wednesday and an exceptionally strong resolution pushed through the Alaska statehouse by Republicans just last week. Significantly, Alaska’s Congressman Don Young, a Republican, has been one of the strongest conservative opponents of the USA PATRIOT Act, deeming it “the worst piece of legislation we ever passed.”

Momentum behind this grassroots backlash has been growing rapidly in steam this year. In the first five months of 2003 alone, more than 70 communities in 22 states have taken legislative action.

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