November 6, 2003


Council objects to parts of Patriot Act

Village Council approved Monday a resolution asking the community’s Congressional representatives “to actively work for the repeal” of portions of the federal Patriot Act that “violate fundamental rights and liberties” granted by the state and federal Constitutions.

The resolution also says that Village administrators will inform Council when Village staff are involved in enforcing provisions of the Patriot Act or when the law is enforced within Yellow Springs. When this happens, the resolution says, Council may determine what action it could take “to preserve the rights” of Yellow Springs citizens.

Council said that it is taking these positions in accordance to “the spirit and history of our community.”

Council unanimously approved the resolution at its meeting Nov. 3. Many of the more than 40 people at the meeting broke out in applause after Council passed the vote.

The Patriot Act has come under fire since the U.S. Congress approved it after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Opponents of the law say that it infringes upon basic rights granted by the U.S. Constitution by expanding the powers of law enforcement agencies.

Council president Tony Arnett proposed the measure as a compromise with a draft resolution that the Village Human Relations Commission asked Council to approve last month. While Arnett said that he was “totally in support” of Council objecting to laws that contradict the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions, he said that he was “very uncomfortable” with the Village saying that it would disobey the law, as the HRC’s proposal stated.

The HRC’s proposal, for instance, said that local law enforcement officials would preserve local residents’ rights “even if requested or authorized to infringe upon these rights” by federal officials acting through powers granted to them in the Patriot Act.

As part of his compromise, Arnett said that Council would send letters to Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich and Representative David Hobson requesting support for repealing parts of the Patriot Act. A draft copy of the letter says that Council is concerned that the law would “override fundamental provisions of the Bill of Rights,” including freedom of speech, religion, assembly and privacy; the right to counsel and due process; and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

He said that he would put a copy of the letter as well as the addresses of Yellow Springs’ congressional representatives on the Village’s Web site,

Denise Swinger, who serves as Council’s representative on the Human Relations Commission, said that more than 205 communities have passed similar resolutions criticizing the Patriot Act.

Though they voted for Arnett’s resolution, Council members Mary Alexander and George Pitstick both initially said that a large number of letters sent by local residents would have more impact on Congress than one resolution approved by the five-member Village Council.

Most of the audience members who spoke during the discussion on the resolution urged Council to approve Arnett’s compromise. Dimi Reber said that while a resolution expressing dissent is symbolic, it is nonetheless “significant” if it is approved by the Village government.

Ellis Jacobs, who is an attorney, pointed out that Council and local police officers take an oath swearing to uphold the Constitution, and, he told Council, “as public servants you have a special duty to step up and speak out.”

Bob Baldwin expressed some reservation when he said that “it’s too easy here in this isolated hamlet to take actions” like Arnett’s proposal. He said that the community might feel differently if it was closer to the random violence plaguing parts of the world.

—Robert Mihalek