LOS ANGELES - In a victory for civil liberties, the Los Angeles City Council today passed a resolution condemning the unconstitutional aspects of the USA-PATRIOT Act. The City of Los Angeles is the largest locality in the country to pass such a resolution, joining over 230 cities, counties and even states throughout the nation that have passed similar resolutions.
"This is a huge victory for civil liberties," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "Los Angeles is the largest city to pass a resolution in support of civil liberties and critical of the USA-PATRIOT Act. Angelenos should be proud that their City Council stands on the side of those who believe we can be both safe and free. Today's resolution sends a clear message to those who assume that Americans will tolerate the erosion of our basic Constitutional rights."
"As a city, we pride ourselves on being inclusive and protecting the basic rights of all people," said Councilmember Jan Perry, the sponsor of the resolution. "Significant portions of the PATRIOT Act destroy the spirit of inclusion and encourage racial profiling and other violations of our rights as people of this great nation. This is an opportunity for the City of Los Angeles to join other major cities across the nation to voice its concern to our federal government."
Wednesday's City Council action takes place less than 24 hours after President George W. Bush, in the State of the Union address, called for a permanent extension of the broad new powers granted to the government under the USA-PATRIOT Act. Currently, portions of the law are designed to "sunset" after 2005.
"The City Council's actions underscore the fact that there is widespread opposition to the PATRIOT Act," continued Ripston. "All across this country, people of all walks of life and of all political persuasions are continuing to voice concern about the expansion of government powers under this Administration."
"Clearly there are enough reservations about the PATRIOT Act as it stands now - any talk of expanding the Act is not grounded in reality," she added.
The USA-PATRIOT Act was passed on October 26, 2001, just 45 days after the September 11th attacks. The 342-page piece of legislation was passed with little debate by the Members of Congress, most of whom did not even read the bill. The Act gives the Executive Branch sweeping new powers that weaken the American system of checks and balances that is designed to guard against government encroachment.
"The PATRIOT Act trashes the checks and balances that guard against tyranny," said Councilmember Eric Garcetti, who voted in favor of the resolution. "Instead of fighting Americans' real fears with hope and strength, it exploits our fears by turning everything from following the immigrant dream to patronizing the library into an act of suspicion. I am proud to stand with the City of Los Angeles and call upon Congress to take our liberty and our security seriously."