LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California announced today that broad, diverse coalitions at the national and local levels are emerging to advocate for a careful, balanced, and deliberative approach to questions of security and civil liberties and civil rights.
"We're just as concerned with security as anyone else," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. "In fact, our national organization strongly supports a comprehensive airport security plan. But we must not blindly support everything with the label 'anti-terrorism' or 'security' on it. Too many of the proposals on the table curtail civil liberties without enhancing security."
National organizations of every political stripe released a 10-point statement of principles demonstrating their solidarity with the nation and its leaders and offering guidance for the preservation of freedom and civil liberties in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, and the hijacking crash in Western Pennsylvania.
The national coalition unveiled in Washington today included a broad array of civil liberties, civil rights, ethnic, religious, privacy, and government watchdog groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, and around 100 other groups.
At a local level, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is working in coalition with other groups, including the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, to coordinate local groups' responses to discrimination, harassment, and threats targeting immigrants generally and, in particular, Southern Californians who are Muslim or are of Arab, South Asian, Northern African, and Middle Eastern descent. The ACLU/SC has set up a hotline to receive complaints related to discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion during this time of national crisis. That number, 213/977-5291, began receiving calls within an hour after being established.
"During this horrible period in our country, the Muslim and Arab-American communities find themselves in a difficult position as we contemplate how our nation should transition into the 'post attack' period," said Sarah Eltantawi, Communications Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, "On the one hand, Arab-Americans and Muslims are in full co-operation with authorities in the effort to bring the perpetrators to justice. But on the other hand, Muslims and Arab- Americans, who have historically been the victims of profiling based on race and/or religion, know how quickly civil liberties can erode when profiling is allowed on any level. Therefore the Muslim and Arab-American communities call on our fellow Americans to vigilantly protect the civil liberties of all of its citizens. Anything less would erode the fundamental values of America that we all love and agree we should defend."
"We ask all readers and viewers to refrain from condemning entire groups for the acts of individual extremists," said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. "We are concerned about hate incidents and crimes committed against individuals that appear to be Middle Eastern or foreign born. The horror of what happened will only be made worse if, in the aftermath, more innocent people are harmed in retaliation."
"We ask Congress to refrain from supporting any type of legislation that would infringe on the Constitutional rights and civil liberties of all those residing within U.S. borders," said Salas. "Entire groups must not suffer the consequences of the acts of individual extremists. Immigrants and refugees believe deeply in the ideals of democracy, liberty and justice that America stands for and have often risked death to become part of the American family. This tragedy is a horrifying example of why immigrants and refugees seek safety within the United States, in order to escape from the same kind of terrorism."
"It's critical at this time that we come together here in Southern California, home to the largest Arab American community in the nation, to affirm our values of fairness, inclusion, and strong Constitutional rights," said Ripston.
The following is the text of the national coalition's statement:
In Defense of Freedom at a Time of Crisis
1. On September 11, 2001 thousands of people lost their lives in a brutal assault on the American people and the American form of government. We mourn the loss of these innocent lives and insist that those who perpetrated these acts be held accountable.
2. This tragedy requires all Americans to examine carefully the steps our country may now take to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks.
3. We need to consider proposals calmly and deliberately with a determination not to erode the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the American way of life.
4. We need to ensure that actions by our government uphold the principles of a democratic society, accountable government and international law, and that all decisions are taken in a manner consistent with the Constitution.
5. We can, as we have in the past, in times of war and of peace, reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty.
6. We should resist the temptation to enact proposals in the mistaken belief that anything that may be called anti-terrorist will necessarily provide greater security.
7. We should resist efforts to target people because of their race, religion, ethnic background or appearance, including immigrants in general, Arab Americans and Muslims.
8. We affirm the right of peaceful dissent, protected by the First Amendment, now, when it is most at risk.
9. We should applaud our political leaders in the days ahead who have the courage to say that our freedoms should not be limited.
10. We must have faith in our democratic system and our Constitution, and in our ability to protect at the same time both the freedom and the security of all Americans.