In a clear sign that grassroot activists on the left and on the right are joining together to fight the National Defense Act that President Obama signed into law on the last day of 2011, San Diego progressives and tea party groups are mobilizing starting this week in joint actions against local Congressional representatives.
Activists and organizers at both of the ideological ends of the political spectrum are extremely upset and concerned with provisions of the NDAA that will allow the government to pick up and detain American citizens indefinitely without charges and without trials.
A group in San Diego has formed the Save the Bill of Rights; they meet weekly, have a website and facebook, and are planning at least two actions in the upcoming weeks.
On Friday, February 3rd, protesters will simultaneously mobilize at both Duncan Hunter, Jr’s office in El Cajon and at Susan Davis’ office in Normal Heights. Hunter is a Republican and Davis is a Democrat. Both voted for the bill when it was before the House of Representatives. Not too long after that vote late last year, local San Diegans staged a brief sit-in at Davis’ office on Adams Avenue.
The group Save the Bill of Rights is sponsoring the action at Davis’ office. They have invited tea party groups and members to join them. And a group called the Ramona Forum – which includes both progressives and tea party members, is hosting the action at Hunter’s office. Both begin at 1pm and last until 2:30pm or 4pm.
Davis’ office is located at 2700 Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, and Hunter’s office is located at 1870 Cordell Street in El Cajon.
February 3rd is also a National Day of Action against the NDAA, and the call is to protest at Congressional offices all over the country. Other groups have joined these efforts, including the hacksters Anonymous.
The Save the Bill of Rights group is also organizing a rally and march to the Convention Center on February 11th during the State-wide Democratic Party Convention being held in San Diego. (Editor: more on that action in a later post.)
Back referring to the protests on Friday, Feb 3rd, Dave Patterson of the Ramona Forum – one of the key progressive organizers, told the East Co Mag:
“We hope that members of Occupy and other people willing to stand up in support of our great nation will join us at Duncan Hunter’s office.”
And Terri Linnell, Tea Party member who is running against Hunter in the Republican primary, and also a member of the Ramona Forum said:
“I am going and I know some Tea Party organizers who are going.”
Linnell told the ECM that the NDAA is “… against the Constitution. … By voting for it [Congress] broke their oath to uphold the Constitution. They voted to allow this.”
Linnell added that conservative Oath Keeper members as well as Tea Party members object to the measure, and that some liberal Democrats and libertarians also are opposed to it.
Patterson agreed when he told the ECM:
“Clearly Duncan Hunter [and other House members who voted for it] violated their oath to support the Constitution of the United States when they voted for the latest changes to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)…The 2012 NDAA authorizes the military to snatch American citizens from their homes and hold them indefinitely without charge. For this Hunter, and others, need to be removed from office through legal means, or as we will demand on February 3rd, to resign immediately. The 2012 NDAA is part of a long line of assaults on our liberties that provides an easy transition to Totalitarianism.”
“Party and ideology aside, now is the time for all great men to come to the aid of their country, and we begin with a demonstration in front of Duncan Hunter’s office in El Cajon, February 3rd at 1 p.m.. We ask that all law-abiding citizens willing to demonstrate peacefully join us.”
When the House voted on the NDAA, exactly half of the Democrats opposed it; 43 voted against it, while 43 voted for it. All our local representatives voted for it – except Bob Filner – who was in San Diego campaigning for mayor when the vote came up. That means Issa, Bilbray, Davis, and Hunter.
In contrast, when the Senate’s version came to a vote, only 13 Senators voted against it – including Senators Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul and 9 others – both Dems and Republicans.
Local Joint Actions of Left and Right Mirrored in Congress
The coming together against a common foe by both ends of the political spectrum at the local San Diego level is being mirrored on the national level in Congress at the same time.
Sen. Al Franken – a strong Democrat from Minnesota – has joined forces with Rep. Jeff Landry – a very conservative Republican from Louisiana – in a bipartisan effort to reverse the controversial language giving the government power to detain suspected terrorists including US citizens.
Landry – a freshman lawmaker and member of the Tea Party Caucus who has introduced a bill in the House to clarify the law, stated:
“Any statute that could possibly be interpreted to allow a president to detain American citizens without charge or trial is incredibly alarming.”
Even thought Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last month, he did issue a signing statement, noting he had “serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
Yet Senator Franken stated:
“You go down a slippery slope. To not give people a hearing, to not give an American citizen the right to have his case heard in a court — I think that’s one of our basic rights. Once we’re starting to get rid of our basic rights, we’re in real trouble.”
The Hill, an online publication from DC reported:
Both libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is running for president, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for example, have issued statements saying the NDAA provisions violate the Fifth Amendment.
At question is a provision in the new law wherein Congress affirms the president’s right to detain persons who were “part of or substantially supported al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces.” The president may detain these persons “under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities.”
President George W. Bush originally claimed a similar right under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a law passed in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To the dismay of some on the left, Obama has asserted the same claim, and Congress has now codified it.
The provision, however, does not specifically exempt U.S. citizens, and that’s the rub. The president vowed that his administration would never use these powers against American citizens.
Responding to that element, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told The Hill:
“The president promises, that’s nice. But what about the next, or another, administration? This administration’s promise is no guarantee against how the law may be used by future administrations.”
Since Obama signed the Act into law on December 31st, there have been bills introduced in both the House and Senate to repeal the worst of the NDAA and prohibit indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced one such bill; it has bipartisan support in the Senate, and a House version has been introduced. Republican Ron Paul also introduced a similar measure.
There is a genuine optimism that the House Armed Services panel will revisit the law this year. Landry stated that he believes that if that Committee gives the bill the hearing, “we could get this whole thing resolved in under 60 days. The law will be clear and the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens will be protected.
Numerous petitions have been geared up against the NDAA. Here is one such petition calling on Congress to undo the NDAA.