Protesting to Protect the Constitution
Three states (Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii) and 219 cities, towns and counties have passed anti-Patriot Act resolutions, ordinances or ballot initiatives. Hundreds more are in progress. On Tuesday, December 2, a rally was held in lower Manhattan in support of Resolution 909, which would add New York City to this list. Two Nation interns attended the rally. Their reports are below.
Hundreds of New Yorkers braved the blustery cold to rally near City Hall in support of City Council Resolution 909 on Tuesday, December 2. The crowd crammed into a long narrow police pen that ran the length of two blocks along lower Broadway to hear speeches from a virtual who's who of Manhattan politicians. US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents the district that encompasses the rally site as well as the nearby site of the former World Trade Center, spoke, as did New York State Senator Liz Krueger, City Council Deputy Majority Leader Bill Perkins and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, whose slow movement on the issue is explained well by my colleague Nina in the dispatch below.
Resolution 909 is a proposed resolution before the Council to condemn what critics call the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act, and requests that city employees do their best to assist New Yorkers targeted by the act as much as possible.
Many unions came out, including the New York Public Library Guild, Local 1930, as well as individual unionists. The rally was also well attended by local media, including TV crews from CBS and WPIX, among others. And, as is frequently the case, a protester's sign summed up the sentiments of the crowd better than anything else: "Keep your knee-jerk reactionary policies off my bill of rights."
"Dissent is patriotic," read the podium sign at today's rally against the Patriot Act. This sentiment was clearly the theme of the day, as speaker after speaker voiced support for the resolution, which calls for the safeguarding of constitutional rights, thanked the crowd for attending, and--of course--bashed Attorney General Ashcroft. Representatives from organizations ranging from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, to the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, to the New York Public Library Guild, took to the microphone to add their voices to the rally's call for "true patriotism."
Ashcroft was not the only official under attack. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller has not yet brought the resolution to a vote. Tentatively scheduled to speak at the rally, he didn't arrive until midway through the event, prompting several speakers to demand irately, "Where is Speaker Miller?" Jim Rogers, president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, went further, accusing Miller of preventing the resolution from coming to a fair vote. Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), challenged Miller to "put [his] money where [his] mouth is." He eventually showed up, offering rhetorical support for the resolution, but not a date for a City Council vote on the measure.
Of the fifty-one City Council members, thirty-one have already signed on to co-sponsor the resolution, and if passed, New York City will join three states and 219 cities, towns and counties who have passed similar resolutions, ordinances or ballot initiatives. According to Udi Ofer, project director of the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign at the NYCLU, if New York City passes the resolution it will send a clear message from New Yorkers to the rest of the country about the widespread attack on civil liberties: "Not in our name."