PHILADELPHIA – By a vote of 13-3, Philadelphia City Council joined 115 other local and state governments around the country to call for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act, May 29.

Introduced by Councilman Angel Ortiz, the resolution called for the “Philadelphia Congressional Delegation to vigilantly monitor the implementation of the USA Patriot Act and to actively work to repeal the Act.” Citing the long struggle for civil liberties in the United States, several council members spoke out in favor of the resolution. None spoke in opposition.

“The real irony of the Patriot Act is that it’s just plain unpatriotic,” said Ortiz. “The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence grant every American unalienable rights, and we’ve allowed the Patriot Act to erode those rights without question. And the worst of it is, if you dare to question the Patriot Act you’re immediately labeled unpatriotic. What could be more patriotic than standing up for the rights of citizens and taxpayers? And what could be more unpatriotic than to happily watch those rights trampled upon?”

Perhaps the most dramatic moment in the debate was when Councilman David Cohen introduced Hiro Nishikawa, a survivor of a Japanese internment camp during World War II, who was present to support the resolution.

“Hiro Nishikawa’s experience is a stark reminder of dark days in our nation’s history. We must not allow the government to trample our civil liberties under the cloud of war,” said Iftekhar Hussain, secretary general of the American Muslim Society of Pennsylvania. “This resolution sends a clear message: Philadelphians value their constitutional rights!”

Throngs of resolution supporters filled City Council chambers. At 11 a.m., the sergeant-at-arms was forced to declare that the room was at capacity. Several dozen supporters were forced to wait in the hallway, unable to get inside. Nearly 20 community groups in Philadelphia had endorsed the resolution, many of whose members were present at the vote.

“The broad range of groups that have come together – across the religious, racial and political spectrum – shows that there is a growing consensus among the public: the USA Patriot Act is a threat to our communities,” said Ben Waxman, coordinator of Unite for Peace.

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