Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Acts of Patriots

Via Wired:

In the past two years, more than 300 cities and four states have passed resolutions calling on Congress to repeal or change parts of the USA Patriot Act that, activists say, violate constitutional rights such as free speech and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Barring that, the resolutions declare that their communities will uphold the constitutional rights of their residents should federal law enforcement agents come knocking on the door of local authorities for assistance in tracking residents. This means local authorities will insist on complying with federal orders only in ways that do not violate constitutional rights. The resolutions are not binding, however, and do not affect the federal government's actions.

The national movement was launched in 2001 by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, an organization led by activist Nancy Talanian. Talanian first lobbied her community -- Northhampton, Massachusetts, a town of 30,000 people -- to stand against the act in November 2001, when few people had heard about the legislation.


Although the resolutions don't carry official weight, the communities say they hope to send a message to Congress to change or repeal parts of the act.

"Resolutions are powerful in that a city council can tell employees in their jurisdiction how they will behave," said Talanian. "They can say we don't want law enforcement to engage in certain activities even if authorized by certain legislation."

This is part of a long and ongoing battle between federal and state (as well as some local) governments over who decides what laws will apply where (in its broadest sense) but it also has ramifications beyond just the USA Patriot Act (though these are big) to numerous laws, including medicinal Marijuana use and distribution, Gay Marriage and other such controversial rulings. If portions of the Patriot act can be overturned, what is to stop other statutes from being undermined, including ones more beneficial, like civil rights and and anti-miscegenation laws? Where does the rule of law end and the responsibilities of the individual begin?

Personally, I'm glad that there are so many people in such varied places working to overturn the patriot act. I don't like it, most people I talk to don't like it, what it represents, and the many myriad ways the law can be misused (such as locking up teenagers in GTMO because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time). it’s heartening to see the american people standing up the bullies running our government, steamrolling Undemocratic legislation into law using scare tactics and the general Populace’s own ignorance against them.


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