|NORTHAMPTON, MA - October 6 - On October 18-19, 2003, hundreds of grassroots activists and dozens of national organizations will converge at the Silver Spring (MD) Hilton for the Grassroots America Defends the Bill of Rights conference to plan the take-back of civil liberties curtailed in the wake of 9-11. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) has initiated the first national gathering of the grassroots movement which is aimed at stanching the damage resulting from the USA PATRIOT Act. Conferees will chart a strategic course to expand their collective impact on the political, media, and public-awareness fronts.
Nancy Talanian, Director of BORDC, said, Momentum continues to build. In six months, the number of resolutions has more than tripled and the movement has already significantly affected the thinking of policymakers in Washington. Our rapid growth demonstrates that curtailment of our liberties slices to the very heart of what it is to be an American.
In November 2001 a group of Northampton (MA) citizens formed BORDC and launched a national grassroots movement and initiated the campaign for localities to declare themselves Civil Liberties Safe Zones. Since then, more than 180 towns, cities, counties, and states have passed resolutions or ordinances opposing the Patriot Act and affirming liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Nearly 25 million people live in a Civil Liberties Safe Zone.
According to Talanian, Americans now have the opportunity to join in a debate that was absent when Congress hurriedly passed the Patriot Act in October of 2001. Across the country, people are meeting in town halls, churches, and school auditoriums, taking a look at the Patriot Act and other repressive legislation, and making choices as a community about whether they are willing to give up some freedom in exchange for a hollow promise of increased security. The resounding response is, No.
The conference provides the first opportunity for the decentralized coalition of local, regional,
and national activists to meet. Kit Gage, President of the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, which is also co-sponsoring the conference, notes This event represents an extraordinary collaboration, and a turning point for the grassroots movement to defend the Bill of Rights. Local groups and national organizations will have the opportunity to combine their knowledge and tactics to continue and expand the national trend of support for civil liberties.
Other groups on the steering committee include the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the National Lawyers Guild, and People For the American Way.
Reflecting the movements multi-partisan nature, conference attendees hail from traditionally conservative states like Alaska as well as the more traditionally liberal Massachusetts and the San Francisco Bay area. People For the American Way has organized a Sunday lunch panel, Left Meets Right to Defend the Bill of Rights, where well-known players from across the political spectrum including Grover Norquist, David Keene, Alec Baldwin, and Ralph Neas will explore their common ground in protecting American liberties.