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Resolutions as Resistance
D espite sizable dissent, President Bush has resolved to declare war on both constitutional rights and the country of Iraq. The United States Congress has been largely complicit, declaring its support of his policies. In passing both the USA PATRIOT Act and the more recent Iraq War Resolution, congressional representatives ignored a huge outpouring of letters and phone calls by constituents demanding the opposite. In response to the obvious flouting of democracy and the bill of rights, several city councils across the U.S. have made some important resolutions of their own.
These resolutions differ in content and strength. Some assert opposition to unilateral U.S./UK military action against Iraq and demand cooperation with the United Nations while many condemn a war on Iraq altogether. The Santa Cruz resolution not only opposes war, but also argues against continuing the non-military economic sanctions that have been strangling Iraq since 1990. The resolution passed in Syracuse, New York “urges the people of Syracuse to exert efforts to convince the President not to unilaterally initiate any war.”
The reasons that councilors give for their resolutions are many and they reflect the depth and diversity of objections that people have to the possible war on Iraq. In New Haven, for instance, councilors raise concerns that “committing American troops to Iraq will put in harm’s way citizens of New Haven, a disproportionate number of them racial and ethnic minorities from our city’s most economically deprived neighborhoods.” The Aaronsburg, Pennsylvania resolution states that killing “innocent Middle Eastern people, including Muslims, will widen the gorge between people of different races and religions rather than nurturing a union of humanity here and abroad.” Many resolutions cite potential destabilization in the Middle East and the failure of President Bush to present convincing evidence of Iraq’s threat to the United States as reasons to oppose the national war drive. Some call attention to the connections between war and domestic policy, pointing out that the budgetary casualties of war will be much-needed social programs and calling out the president and Congress for ignoring problems at home or attempting to cover them up with a war.
Though copies of the resolutions have been sent to President Bush, State Representatives, and the United Nations, city councils do not have real authority in the international arena. Their decisions cannot directly interrupt the government’s plans for war. Instead, antiwar resolutions can serve as a vehicle for public education, media outreach, and building relationships between community groups. Activists in cities all over the United States are working to make themselves visible, widen the debate, and reach a broad range of people. When activists put together an antiwar resolution and submit it to a city council, they move the discussion to their conversational turf. It enables them to promote ideas on their terms, put- ting the opposition on the defensive.
In many cities, the process has helped antiwar activists achieve greater visibility and backing from diverse groups in their communities. In Syracuse, for example, activists gave copies of the resolution to community leaders for their consideration. The result was important dialogue and debate not only in the city council, but in other organizations and institutions as well.
In addition to the Syracuse Common Council members who signed, the resolution received endorsement from several churches, the Syracuse Area Middle East Dialogue Group, unions, colleges, the Syracuse Jail Ministry, and the Syracuse Republican Community. Thus, the campaign opened up new venues for the antiwar discussion, and it provided the opportunity for many groups to come out officially and openly against war.
S ince its passage in October 2001, numerous cities have passed resolutions condemning the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act). The resolutions have many different names such as Resolution to Defend the Bill of Rights and Civil Liberties, Human Rights Resolution, Resolution Regarding the USA PATRIOT Act and the Protection of Civil Rights, or Civil Liberties Resolution, to name a few. What the resolutions have in common is that they assert community criticism of the USA PATRIOT Act and other Executive Orders that violate the constitution. The resolution passed in Madison, Wisconsin, for instance, declares that “the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act expand the authority of the federal government to detain and investigate citizens and non-citizens and engage in electronic surveillance of citizens and non-citizens and threatens civil rights and liberties guaranteed under the United States Constitution.” It goes on to say, “the City of Madison recognizes that such infringement of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of any person, under the color of law, is an abuse of power, a breach of the public trust, a misappropriation of public resources, a violation of civil rights, and is beyond the scope of governmental authority.”
Various city councils wrote that the USA PATRIOT Act significantly:
- Expands the government’s ability to access sensitive medical, mental health, financial and educational records about individuals
- Lowers the burden of proof required to conduct secret searches and telephone and Internet surveillance
- Gives law enforcement expanded authority to obtain library records, and prohibits librarians from informing patrons of monitoring or information requests
- Gives the Attorney General and the Secretary of State the power to designate domestic groups, including religious and political organizations, as “terrorist organizations”
- Grants power to the Attorney General to subject citizens of other nations to indefinite detention or deportation even if they have not committed a crime
- Authorizes eavesdropping on confidential communications between lawyers and their clients in federal custody
- Limits disclosure of public documents and records under the Freedom of Information Act, etc.
Some city councils expressed concern that the Patriot Act increases the vulnerability of minority and immigrant populations. For example, the Oakland, California resolution declares, “The Department of Justice interpretations of this Act and these Executive Orders particularly targets Muslims, people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent and citizens of other nations, and thereby encourages racial profiling by law enforcement and hate crimes by individuals in our community.” Meanwhile other resolutions, such as the one passed in Santa Cruz, California articulate the potential danger to activist groups. “The Patriot Act defines ‘domestic terrorism’ so broadly as to apply to certain acts of civil disobedience that may include lawful advocacy groups such as Operation Rescue or Greenpeace as terrorist organizations and may subject them to invasive surveillance, wire tapping, harassment, and may criminally penalize them for protected political advocacy; also the Patriot Act grants unchecked power to the Secretary of State to designate domestic groups as ‘terrorist organizations.’”
While the antiwar resolutions are largely symbolic, resolutions denouncing the PATRIOT Act have real potential to change law enforcement activities. These resolutions go beyond words that affirm civil liberties and actually call on local law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of their citizens. The majority of city council resolutions concerning the implementation of the PATRIOT Act in their communities request that local law enforcement preserve the civil rights of their residents even when ordered or allowed to infringe upon those rights by the USA PATRIOT Act or Orders of the Executive Branch. Many extend their request to any state or federal law enforcement agencies acting within their community. These resolutions also strongly forbid racial profiling in areas under their jurisdiction, and most of them demand that congressional representatives work to repeal aspects of the Act that violate constitutional rights. The resolution passed by the town of Carrboro, NC provides a good example: “The town of Carrboro, NC acting in the spirit and history of our community, hereby requests that:
- Local law enforcement continue to preserve residents’ freedom of speech, religion, assembly and privacy; the right to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, even if requested or authorized to infringe upon these rights by federal law enforcement acting under new powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act or Orders of the Executive Branch.
- Any federal or state law enforcement officials acting within the Town of Carrboro work in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Carrboro Police Department, and in cooperation with the Department, and not engage in or permit detentions without charges or racial profiling, and to regularly and publicly report to the Town the extent and manner in which they have acted under the Act or the new Executive Orders, including the names of any detainees held in the region or any Carrboro residents detained elsewhere.
- Our congressional delegation monitor the implementation of the Act and Orders cited herein and actively work for the repeal of those portions of the Act and those Orders that violate fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed by the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.”
The resolution approved by the city council of Leverett, Massachusetts, like many resolutions, calls on local and federal law enforcement to “report to citizens regularly and publicly the extent to and manner in which they have acted under the USA PATRIOT Act, new Executive Orders, or COIN- TELPRO-type regulations, including disclosing the names of any detainees.”
In an acknowledgment that gathering information under the PATRIOT Act often requires the cooperation of private citizens, the resolution passed in New Haven, Connecticut asks “private citizens—including residents, employers, educators, and business owners—to demonstrate similar respect for civil rights and civil liberties, especially but not limited to conditions of employment and cooperation with investigations.”
The over two-dozen city councils that have passed these defiant resolutions are just the tip of the iceberg. Civil rights activists are campaigning for similar resolutions in over 60 additional cities. They are holding town meetings, circulating petitions, and securing help and endorsements from various community groups, unions, church- es, and universities.
In Oakland, California, for instance, the effort to pass a resolution opposing the PATRIOT Act was led by the Oakland Civil Rights Defense Committee. In addition, it was endorsed by the following local organizations:
- Labor Immigrant Organizing Network (LION)
- Paul Robeson Chapter of the ACLU, ACLU-NC
- National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
- Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
- Centro Legal De La Raza
- American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (ADCSF)
- Oakland Public Library Advisory Commission
- Critical Resistance
- UAW Local 3030
- Green Party of Alameda County
- Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace (LMNOP)
- Peoples NonViolent Response Coalition (PNVRC)
- California Women’s Agenda (CAWA)
- Filipinos for Affirmative Action
- Electronic Frontier Foundation, National Organization for Women-Oakland/East Bay (NOW)
- Berkeley Women In Black
- Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party
- African Peoples Solidarity Committee
The strong wording of many of the anti-PATRIOT Act declarations challenges the authority of the federal government. Brave cities are drawing protective circles around themselves, boldly telling would-be wiretappers, racial profilers, and rights violators that they are unwelcome. Some say that these lines are only symbolic, that it is impossible for city councils to hold back the national government. But according to Nancy Talanian, of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, cities and towns have the right and responsibility to uphold their state and U.S. constitutions. The wording of most of the resolutions reflects that sentiment. Many resolutions contain quotes and references to the Bill of Rights and outline how the resolution is meant to reinforce those rights. So far, no resolution has been challenged in court.
T he fight to stop war on Iraq and the struggle to resist the encroachment on people’s rights is going to be long and difficult. It is important to find practical, shorter term goals along the way, and in many places city resolutions represent a good option. The networking and mobilizing employed to pass these resolutions contributes to the broader goals of our movements. Working to see these resolutions adopted on the town or city level helps activists enhance their influence within their own communities.
City councils are not the only organizations passing antiwar or anti-PATRIOT Act resolutions. They are just one part of a growing trend. Unions, colleges and universities, religious organizations, and community groups have been busy passing their own resolutions. When used strategically, they constitute a telling achievement. At a time when politicians are shirking their responsibility to represent the sentiments of their constituents, these resolutions provide a powerful tool for communities to speak from the bottom up.
Jessica Azulay is an activist and writer from West Virginia.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.