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City Council Challenges PATRIOT Act

The Raleigh City Council debates the constitutionality of the USA Patriot Act.

James Sellers (Technician Article )

     The Raleigh City Council passed a resolution, 5-3, encouraging Congress to uphold the Constitution where it conflicts with the USA Patriot Act and to revise portions of the Act that may conflict with the Constitution after a public hearing Tuesday.
    The resolution was originally introduced by a Wake County branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and involved several campus groups. The City Council sent the resolution to the Human Relations Committee for revisions. The final version of the resolution stats that “Whereas the provisions of the Constitution apply in wartime as in peace; and to violate or depart from them under the plea of necessity or any other plea is subversive of good government. Therefore be it resolved: the City Council of Raleigh: maintains that the constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is the ultimate legal authority whenever its provisions conflict with those of the USA PATRIOT Act or other federal executive orders.”
    Much of the public debate was dominated by the U.S. Attorney General’s office.
    The council allocated 15 minutes each for both proponents and opponents of the resolution to address the council. Due to an overwhelming amount of people in support of the resolution, the council extended that time to 25 minutes. Only one Raleigh citizen spoke in favor of the resolution, essentially limiting that side of the argument to the U.S. Attorney General’s office.
    Thomas Crowder, city council representative for District D, voted to pass the city council’s revised resolution, although he voiced opposition to the Human Relations Committee’s version based on his lack of knowledge of specific instances of civil liberty violations cited in the resolution.
    “I think for us to sit here and say that in the 45 days, the time that Congress looked at this in the heat of 9/11, that all decisions were made very carefully and every potential conflict was seen at that time, to say that everything in this document is constitutional is not necessarily safe.” Crowder said.

    In response to Philip Isley’s voiced opposition to city involvement in federal affairs, James West commented on the responsibility of City Council to the citizens of Raleigh.
    “ I think that this discussion is citizenship in action, I have heard some compelling statements on both sides and I think that we have had a very good process because it was educational and helps all of us to be better citizens.” West said.
    According to the ACLU, “just 45 days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with virtually no debate, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act. Many parts of this                           Isley opposed the resolution
sweeping legislation take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are Struggling to protect.”                                                                             The Coalition USA PATRIOT Act Resolution opposes these dubious portions of the USA PATRIOT Act.
    Councilor Neal Hunt opposed the resolution stating that the council does not have time to be involved in federal issues.
    “Theses folks out there are trying to kill us, they want us dead, we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves.” Hunt said.
    The resolution is also a waste of time for an already busy city council, according to Hunt.
    Following the passage of the resolution, Councilor Isley challenged a point of order, stating that the resolution had been fundamentally changed and constituted a new resolution which would therefore need two weeks deliberation, which Hunt supported. The council voted against his challenge in a 4-4 vote, after testimony from the city attorney concerning city council policy towards amendments to resolutions before the council.

    The original resolution was altered after the public hearing in the substitution motion by Cowell. The alteration concerned specific accusations of civil liberty violation that the city council did not feel knowledgeable enough to address.
    The resolution was originally introduced to the City Council by a broad citizen coalition instigated by the Wake County American Civil Liberties Union and including the American Civil Liberties Union at NCSU and Peggy E. Hoon, NCSU Libraries Scholarly Communication Librarian.
    It has been supported via physical presence at crucial city county meetings by many campus organizations, including the ACLU at NCSU, Campus Greens, the Linux User Group and the Student Peace Action Network.
    At the June 1 City Council meeting, the Human Relations committee introduced its revisions to the original coalition backed resolution.
    According to the Wake ACLU Web site, the coalition supports the Human Relations committee’s changes. At the June 1 meeting Councilor Isley opposed a vote on the resolution. The Wake ACLU points out, however, that “Both the Assistant U.S. Attorney and Coalition representatives were present May 25th when the HRC finalized their revisions and stated the revisions would be presented to the Council on June 1.”

 
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