About four thousand people rallied in Washington today to advocate the restoration of habeas corpus and other constitutional rights undermined by the Bush Administration, according to estimates from the ACLU.
Organizers say they are delivering about 200,000 petition signatures to Congress that demand immediate action to "restore habeas corpus, fix the Military Commissions Act, end torture and rendition and restore our constitutional rights." This is not a one-day affair, either. The rally is designed to continue online until Congress acts. A coalition of over 50 organizations, led by the ACLU and Amnesty International, is recruiting supporters through an official website; Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy started a website asking people to pressure his Senate colleagues into supporting the habeas bill; and MoveOn has launched a new campaign to end torture, pass habeas legislation and "Restore the Rule of Law." MoveOn organizer Nita Chaudhary is leading the important effort, which includes support from retired Generals Robert Gard and John Johns, who spoke out in favor of closing Guantanamo this week.
Writing about the rally on the blog FireDogLake today, former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith urged her netroots readers to lobby Congress. "We are better than jailing people in perpetuity without a determination of innocence or guilt. And we owe a debt, both to our founders and to future generations, to right this profound wrong," she wrote.
This push comes at a critical time. The Senate will consider legislation on defense issues and habeas corpus when it returns from recess in July. Several Democratic presidential candidates now raise these issues on the trail. Dodd and Edwards challenge Bush’s entire approach to the Global War on Terror, while Obama has been singling out habeas corpus in his stump speech for months (which the AP recently noticed). And this week the Bush Administration publicly debated when to close Guantanamo – not if.