About 50 citizens began crowding the lobby of City Hall as early as 6 p.m. Tuesday in support of the “Civil Liberties Safe Zone” resolution that was passed by a 4-3 vote at 3 a.m. Wednesday.
The resolution was written in response to the 342-page USA PATRIOT Act signed into law by President Bush in late 2001. The law amends 15 laws and allows previously unconstitutional intelligence gathering, detention and deportation procedures in the hope of preventing terrorist activities.
“With regard to city observation, police officers might be asked to practice some of these provisions,” Steve Roy, city attorney, said Tuesday night to the council.
Fort Collins became the 75th city in the nation to pass such a resolution. Denver, Boulder and Telluride are among other Colorado cities to have recently passed a similar resolution.
Concerned Fort Collins residents waited hours for their 2 minutes to speak to the City Council voicing concerns with a revised Civil Liberties Safe Zone Resolution that was rewritten by the city attorney at the request of three council members.
A combat veteran of the 5th Special Forces Division of Vietnam, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and members of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Fort Collins spoke about citizens needing special protection in this time of international unrest.
Citizen concern with the revised resolution being debated was that it failed to make a connection between the USA PATRIOT Act and the violation of civil liberties. Other concerns included an added section that voiced support for American troops in Iraq. In addition, the revision did not state that the city would go on record opposing the USA PATRIOT Act. All of these conditions were part of the original resolution proposed by the Bill Of Rights Supporters Of Fort Collins.
Maury Albertson, a CSU professor of civil engineering, recalled Hitler and said, “We’re headed in exactly the same direction. It’s very important to stop the very first step that’s destroying our civil liberties.”
The council was divided about including stated support for the troops overseas.
“The link to terrorism and Saddam Hussein is anecdotal at best and not doing anything to stop war,” said council member David Roy, which elicited cheers and clapping from citizens.
Support for the troops was eventually dropped, but other provisions were passed, including that the City Council will communicate in writing their desire for work to repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. They will write to President Bush, senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Wayne Allard, and U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.
Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez was dismayed by the passing of the resolution. He looked tired and paused throughout his final comment.
“No one’s rights have been violated,” said Martinez. “You’re here, you’re free, you’re living in the land of the free.”