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City Council Members Introduce Resolution Calling For Protection Of Civil Rights And Civil Liberties

Voicing concern that constitutional freedoms are threatened by federal and local anti-terrorism measures, City Council Member William Perkins and a five of his colleagues have introduced a bold, detailed resolution affirming fundamental rights and liberties.

The Resolution’s preamble states that provisions of the U.S.A. PATRIOT ACT and other laws and executive orders issued after Sept. 11, 2001, pose a direct threat to the constitutional protections afforded individual freedoms.

With its introduction at the City Council, this Resolution brings to New York City a broad-based national movement, organized under the banner of the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign. As of May 1, 2003, more than 115 municipalities, as well as two states, have adopted resolutions calling on government officials to take affirmative measure to protect fundamental rights and liberties, and to account to the people for the exercise of new, expanded police powers adopted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign is a project of the NYCLU in coalition with more than 30 organizations, including the New York Public Library Guild, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the New York Immigrants Rights Coalition, and the NAACP.

“Since September 11 and the start of the ‘war against terrorism'” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU, “the assault on the exercise of fundamental rights and liberties has been swift and relentless. This ‘war’ has undermined the rights of due process and access to a counsel; it has made suspect the exercise of free speech, expression and association — the rights and liberties that define a democracy. This Resolution says that these freedoms must be upheld.”

The Resolution acknowledges the singularly important role the government plays in protecting the public from acts of terrorism. The Resolution also recognizes, however, that it is incumbent upon federal, state and local officials to ensure that security measures serve to enhance the public safety without violating constitutional rights or unduly infringing upon civil liberties.

William Perkins, the primary sponsor of the Resolution, stated “It is important for government officials to reject publicly and officially the idea that in combating terrorism we must choose between civil liberties and safety. For if security comes at the price of freedom, we will have lost everything.”

The Resolution’s eight “Resolved” clauses include provisions that direct the NYPD to refrain from participating in police actions that subject persons to secret detentions or secret immigrations proceedings; to refrain from conducting surveillance of persons engaged in lawful political activity; and to refrain from engaging in ethnic, religious, or racial profiling.

Specific provisions also call upon the federal government to provide city officials with the information needed to assess the impact of federal anti-terrorism efforts on New York City residents – providing, for example, the number of so-called “sneak and peak” search warrants (which may be executed without notice until long after the fact) or the number of requests by federal agents for the records of students or library patrons.

Perkins and Lieberman will be joined at the news conference and rally by the following speakers: City Council Members Margarita Lopez, David Yassky, Hiram Monserrate, Christine Quinn, and Charles Barron; Patricia Perry, mother of an NYPD officer who lost his life on 9/11 at the World Trade Center; playwright Tony Kushner; Ray Markey, President of the New York Public Library Guild, Local 1930, DC 37; Omar Mohammedi, NYC Human Rights Commissioner and Executive Director of the Committee on American Islamic Relations; Margaret Fung, Executive Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and others.

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