FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Grassroots Resistance to the Patriot Act

 

Philadelphia, Penn.

As Congress begins the critical discussion about renewing the horrendous USA PATRIOT Act, that dangerous assault on the Bill of Rights drawn up by former Attorney General John Ashcroft and now Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, it’s a good time to point out how this wretched law is viewed out there in mainstream America.

According to records maintained by an organization called the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, as of April of this year, 372 towns, cities and counties, and five of the 50 states, have passed laws in one way or another declaring themselves to be “Patriot Act free zones.”

These states and communities, which collectively include 57 million people, or nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, are as diverse politically as they could possibly be. The states, for example, include Alaska, Montana and Maine, all staunchly or moderately conservative and Republican, and Vermont and Hawaii, both liberal and Democratic. Communities which have passed such ordinances are similarly diverse, ranging from ultra-liberal San Francisco and Cambridge to ultra-conservative Dallas and Savannah.

Most of the laws and ordinances that have been passed are quite similar, and instruct local and state law enforcement authorities not to cooperate with federal agents and orders which they consider to be unconstitutional-for example warrantless searches of library borrowing records, or the turning over of undocumented aliens to the INS-a remarkable affront and challenge to federal authority. Some, like Alaska’s resolution, go further and instruct the state’s congressional delegation to work actively to repeal those sections of the PATRIOT Act which are deemed threats to liberty and the Bill of Rights.

The message is clear. Despite all the efforts by the Bush Administration and its Congressional cheerleaders and PATRIOT Act supporters like Republican Representative Tom Delay and Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman to scare Americans into surrendering their liberties in the name of the so-called War on Terror, the broad public is not convinced, and is more concerned about government threats to liberty than about some terrorist armed with mythical weapons of mass destruction.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, as well as organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, have done a good job of spreading the word about resistance to the USA PATRIOT Act. The BRDC in particular has helped by making a model ordinance or resolution available and by offering organizing tips and instructions (http://www.bordc.org/Tools.htm), based upon experience, for those who wish to have their communities added to this movement of resistance.

Opponents of the PATRIOT Act should also be contacting their congressional representatives, as the issue is now before Congress, to demand an end to the law. The Act (drawn up with no hearings, reportedly by Chertoff, who at the time was Ashcroft’s right hand man in charge of terrorist prosecutions), and passed almost without opposition and no discussion by both houses of congress, came with a time limit, which expires this year. If it is not renewed, its provisions automatically expire. But the administration is pushing hard for renewal of the measure, and even has plans to come back with measures which would go even further in chipping away traditional civil liberties and legal protections.

The grassroots campaign to oppose the USA PATRIOT Act is a remarkable effort, particularly given the way it has been virtually ignored by the mainstream corporate media. Its primary focus on local organizing, rather than directly on Congress, is also a model for political struggle in an era when there is no effective opposition party in Washington, as is its ability to unite people of diverse and antagonistic political perspectives.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail