Sarasota Becomes Latest "Civil Liberties Safe Zone," Joins Communities Nationwide to Oppose Portions of the USA PATRIOT Act

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
October 20, 2003 12:00 am

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SARASOTA, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida heralded the passage of a resolution by the Sarasota City Commission tonight that reaffirms civil liberties and freedoms and calls for corrections to be made to the controversial anti-terrorism bill – the USA PATRIOT Act – that was rushed through Congress in the aftermath of 9/11.

“”Sarasota joins millions across America in showing its dedication to freedom and privacy,”” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “”Florida is a beacon for many who seek a life of liberty, and we need to ensure that we remain committed to that ideal – this resolution affirms Sarasota’s dedication to the belief that we can, and must, be both safe and free.””

The resolution movement has its roots in the passage of the PATRIOT Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation steamrolled through Congress in October of 2001, and other similar post-9/11 security measures. Such measures share several anti-civil liberties characteristics, including provisions that erode checks and balances on federal law enforcement and surveillance powers and threaten the American political system’s separation of powers.

The Sarasota resolution specifically identifies the particular provisions of the PATRIOT Act and other administrative measures that infringe on civil liberties, and intentionally makes reference to the national grassroots movement by listing the more than 180 communities that have already passed resolutions addressing the loss of civil liberties post 9/11. These communities differ in size, location and political ideology, reflecting the wide range of voices that are speaking out against the loss of civil liberties. The ACLU noted that Sarasota is traditionally viewed as a conservative enclave.

The resolution effort in Sarasota was spearheaded by a coalition of groups – the Sarasota Alliance for Voter Education (SAVE) — which included the ACLU.

The City of Sarasota will be presenting the resolution to Congresswoman Katherine Harris, (R-FL 13) who has already voted in late July with the House of Representatives and adopted a measure, with overwhelming bi-partisan support that would prevent the Department of Justice from implementing “”sneak and peek”” or delayed notification searches.

“We hope that this resolution will encourage Representative Harris, and Senators Graham and Nelson to support legislation to revisit and review the USAPA,” said Jason Boehk, SAVE’s representative from the Sarasota County Green Party.

“We were gratified that the organizing paid off, as demonstrated by the inspiring and knowledgeable citizen testimony,” said Jim Theriault, SAVE’s representative from the Libertarian Party of Sarasota County.

The resolution passed by a 3-2 margin; all five commissioners agreed that USAPA may threaten civil liberties, with the two ‘nay’ voters citing only jurisdictional reservations.

SAVE is a broad coalition of community organizations formed to promote informed participation in politics. SAVE includes the following organizations: American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Common Cause, Democratic Executive

Committee of Sarasota, Democratic Club of Sarasota, National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, Sarasota County Green Party, Libertarian Party of Sarasota County, and the Venice Peace Coalition.

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