City Council Passes Resolution Asking Congress to Repeal Detention Provisions
Last night, May 21, 2012, the Takoma Park City Council voted 5 to 2 in favor of a resolution that condemns the controversial “indefinite detention” provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These provisions allow indefinite military detention – without charge or trial — of anyone, including a citizen of the United States, who merely has been accused of supporting an alleged terrorist group.
The Takoma Park resolution against indefinite detention passed following a citizen’s campaign led by the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC). “The Takoma Park City Council tonight stood up for its residents and the rule of law, and sent a strong message to Congress that they should clean up the mess they created,” said Thomas Nephew of the MCCRC, “The indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA are unconstitutional and threaten our rights to due process and the ability to confront our accusers.”
In testimony before the City Council last night, Jim Kuhn, also a member of the MCCRC noted that “a local vote tonight comes at a very opportune moment in the national debate.” Congress began debate last week on the 2013 NDAA, but the House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have overturned the indefinite detention/no trial provisions (Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards who represent Takoma Park voted for the amendment). Instead, the House passed an amendment that further narrowed the Constitutional rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. The NDAA now moves to the Senate.
The members of the MCCRC plan to bring the Takoma Park resolution to the attention of Senators Cardin and Mikulski. “We expect our Senators to honor the Constitution and work to include language in the 2013 NDAA that will ensure that no president or government official will ever be able to order the military to put people in the United States into indefinite detention without charge or trial,” said Mr. Nephew.
“I applaud the City Council and the sponsor of the resolution, Councilmember Seamens”, Mr. Kuhn said, “and I look forward to the City Council making this resolution even stronger by including language requiring city officials not to cooperate with unconstitutional federal authorities.” On the advice of the city attorney, the Council decided to postpone a vote on two provisions in the resolution. One provision would require city employees to decline requests by federal agencies acting under detention powers granted by the NDAA that could infringe upon residents’ freedom of speech, religion, assembly, privacy, or rights to trial and counsel; the other sets expectations for state and federal authorities operating in the city.
MCCRC’s campaign is part of a national effort on the NDAA. In the last two months, state legislatures in Virginia and Arizona passed, with broad bipartisan support, bills forbidding state cooperation with any attempts at indefinite detention under the NDAA. A dozen city and county councils in eight states from coast-to-coast — led by Democrats, Republicans and even Green Party members — have passed similar resolutions.
During this campaign, residents of Takoma Park lobbied their City Council by attending Council meetings and collecting petition signatures at the Farmer’s Market and Metro stops. Additionally, a well-attended symposium was held in Takoma Park on April 26, 2012, that featured two national figures, Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Heather Hurlburt of the National Security Network, speaking about the historical importance of the resolution.
Following the success in Takoma Park, the work of the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition will continue by taking the campaign to the Montgomery County Council, to lobby for passage of a resolution there against indefinite detention under the NDAA. This expanded campaign will involve citizens from Silver Spring, Bethesda, Gaithersburg and other Montgomery County locales.