County passes resolution critical of the USA PATRIOT Act
Members of the Community Coalition Against War and Terrorism have been picketing outside bookstores and libraries to alert patrons to the invasive provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act which allows the FBI to secretly demand records of what people read. With other organizations, the group held a town meeting on civil liberties after 9-11, and on October 22 they presented their concerns about the USA PATRIOT Act to the Alachua County Commission asking it to pass a resolution affirming and protecting civil liberties in Gainesville. The Gainesville Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild helped draft the proposed resolution.
At the County Commission meeting speakers pointed out that the USA PATRIOT Act was passed in a rush by a Congress politically desperate to do something--anything--after 9-11. Members of Congress admitted that they had not read the hundreds of pages of the Act before passing it. Speakers noted that when legislation of this type has been implemented under pressure, the legislature has almost always come to regret and later repeal it. They urged County Commissioners to help start that process early by passing a resolution, like those passed in many other communities, voicing concern about the provisions of the Act and providing safeguards locally for those swept up in its wide net.
After a lot of positive community input, the Commission unanimously passed a version of the resolution, affirming protections provided under the U.S. Constitution and expressing concern about provisions of the new law.
The resolution reads:
A Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Alachua County, Florida, Affirming the Civil Rights of All Residents of Alachua County; Providing an effective date.
WHEREAS, Alachua County, Florida has a long and distinguished history of protecting and expanding the civil rights and civil liberties of its residents; and,
WHEREAS, the residents of Alachua County wish to honor the memory of all those who died as a result of the September 11, 2001, attacks; and,
WHEREAS, Alachua County has a diverse population, including students, working people, and non-citizens, whose contributions to the community are vital to its character and function; and,
WHEREAS, the United States Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act) on October 26, 2001; and,
WHEREAS, the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Florida guarantee those living in the United States the following rights: freedom of speech, assembly and privacy; equality before the law and the presumption of innocence; access to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures; and,
WHEREAS, we believe these civil liberties are precious and may be threatened by the USA PATRIOT Act, which:
WHEREAS, Alachua County has been and remains, committed to the protection of civil rights and liberties for all citizens of Alachua County; and,
WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners believes that a threat to any one person's Constitutional rights is a threat to the rights of all.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:
That the Alachua County Commission affirms the rights of all people, including United States citizens and citizens of other nations, within the County in accordance with the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; and,
That the Alachua County Commission calls upon all County officials and employees to respect the civil rights and liberties of all members of this community, including those who are citizens of other nations; and,
That the Alachua County Commission calls upon all private citizens-including residents, employers, educators, and business owners-to demonstrate similar respect for civil rights and civil liberties; and,
That the Alachua County Commission calls upon the United States Attorney's Office, the Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and local law enforcement authorities to publicly disclose the names of any federal detainees suspected of terrorism held in Alachua County; and,
That the Alachua County Commission affirms its strong opposition to terrorism, but also affirms that any efforts to end terrorism should not be waged at the expense of essential civil rights and liberties of the people of Alachua County and the United States; and,
That the County Manager is directed to provide copies of this resolution to the County's U.S. Congressional Representatives, the United States Attorney General, and the President of the United States; and,
The Alachua County Commission calls upon our United States Congressional Representatives and Senators to monitor the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and Executive Orders issued pursuant to the Act.
This resolution shall take effect immediately upon its adoption.
In addition to the resolution, County Commissioners at the meeting expressed the policy that if county workers are contacted by the FBI pursuant to the new anti-terrorism law they should not feel that they are not able to speak about it but instead should speak to the County Attorney.
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