City Council Unanimously Condemns ‘Patriot Act’

by Kay Dellinger

The Baltimore City Council unanimously passed the strongest resolution in the country to date against the USA Patriot Act on Monday, May 19 at their regular council meeting.

Sixth district Councilman Kwame Abayomi, who sponsored the resolution that was written by the American Civil Liberties Union with assistance from attorney Chuck Michaels, told the council that the resolution is asking for balance. “It wants to assure that civil liberties will be protected,” he stated.

A number of people attended the meeting to support the resolution. When the council passed it without dissent, they applauded.

After the meeting, when Councilman Abayomi was asked for his opinion of the council’s action, he said, “It is a momentous event. Our resolution, which is one of the strongest-worded resolutions in the nation, keeps Baltimore on the cutting edge of watching for peace.” It also makes Baltimore the 108th locale to pass such a resolution. More than 11.3 million people live in these communities in 24 states.

City Council President Sheila Dixon co-sponsored the resolution as did Councilmembers Robert Curran, Ken Harris, John Cain, Catherine Pugh, and Melvin Stukes.

In addition to the ACLU, co-sponsoring organizations of the resolution included the Coalition Against Global Exploitation, American Friends Service Committee, Baltimore Peace Action Network, Baltimore Emergency Response Network, and All Peoples Congress. The resolution was also supported by Casa de Maryland and the state chapter of the NAACP.

Laura Murphy, executive director of the ACLU Washington National Office said, “Adoption of the Baltimore resolution is further evidence of the growing backlash in this country against federal policies that disregard the most basic convictions of American society. As a proud Baltimore native, I applaud the City Council for asking the federal government to reform anti-terrorism measures that do little to increase security but diminish our liberty. As the resolution states, ‘There is no inherent conflict between national security and the preservation of liberty. Americans can be both safe and free.’ ”

In a statement, the ACLU wrote, “The resolution directs Baltimore City Police to refrain from: enforcing federal immigration policies; engaging in the surveillance of individuals or groups based on participation in activities protected by the First Amendment, including political or religious views; using race and religion as factors to initiate investigations; and maintaining files on the views or associations of individuals when not warranted.”

Public libraries in Baltimore will also be directed to post, in prominent locations, a warning to patrons that under the USA Patriot Act, their library records may be obtained by federal law enforcement entities, and librarians are prohibited from disclosing such requests. Patrons are directed to send questions to Attorney General John Ashcroft.”

The dozens of resolutions nationwide that have been passed oppose provisions in the Patriot Act that attack civil liberties. Americans who understand the importance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in protecting every person in the U.S. were very distressed when Congress passed the Patriot Act without even holding a hearing to learn what the public’s opinion of it was.

Laura Murphy summed up the way most supporters of the resolution feel when she said, “Preserving our freedom isn’t a liberal or conservative concern— it’s an American one.”

Kay Dellinger is a resident of Lauraville, in northeast Baltimore.

The anti-Patriot Act movement is rapidly growing. Baltimore’s resolution was 108th on May 19; just 10 days later, on Thurs., May 29, the Philadelphia City Council, by a vote of 13-3, became the 116th local and state government body around the country to call for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act.

Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on June 4, 2003.