Ann Arbor -- Last night the Ann Arbor City Council passed, by a 9-2 vote, a resolution to safeguard the civil liberties of Ann Arbor residents in the wake of post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation and executive orders. Passage of the resolution makes Ann Arbor the 137th city in the U.S. to pass such a measure. The states of Alaska, Vermont and Hawaii have also enacted statewide resolutions. The City of Detroit passed a similar measure in January of 2003.
“More and more people around the country that are objecting to the way that this Administration is conducting its “war on terrorism,” said ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss. “The number of local resolutions and ordinances that are passing in city councils show that there is a growing suspicion that the powers granted to federal authorities under the USA PATRIOT Act are not necessary for combating terrorism.”
The Ann Arbor resolution, which was sponsored by City Council members Kim Groome, Jean Carlberg, and Heidi Herrell, requires the City Administrator to request from the federal government, on a semi-annual basis, information regarding: the number of "sneak and peek" search warrants executed within the city by federal authorities pursuant to Section 213 of the USA PATRIOT Act; the extent to which federal authorities are monitoring political meetings, religious gatherings or other activities protected by the First Amendment within the city; and the number of times library records and records of the books purchased by bookstore patrons have been obtained in the city under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The resolution also requires the Ann Arbor Police Department to decline invitations from federal authorities to participate in post-9/11 activities that are believed to be unconstitutional.
Public comment on the resolution lasted for 30 minutes of the lengthy three hour meeting. The Ann Arbor City Council chambers were filled to capacity.
Mary Bejian, President of the ACLU Chapter in Washtenaw County and the local leader in the Safe and Free Campaign, said: "This resolution is important for two reasons. One, to ensure community trust in local law enforcement, and two, to send a message to Washington that yet another city in the United States does not support the current dismantling of the Constitution in the name of national security."
The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice released a report in May highly critical of the Department's own treatment of the 762 immigrants detained in the weeks following September 11, 2001. None of the 762 individuals detained were charged with terrorist activities, yet remained in custody for months at a time, many without access to legal counsel.