To celebrate Bill of Rights Day today, I’d like to reflect on our tremendous legacy from the days we called ourselves the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the groundbreaking work the organization did (long before I came onto the scene).
I love the way Nat Hentoff wrote about BORDC in the Village Voice. He referred to our founding mother, Nancy Talanian, as a modern-day Paul Revere. He compared the “teachers, retirees, lawyers, doctors, students, and nurses” who came together to launch the Bill of Rights Defense Committee in Northampton, Massachusetts in 2001 to the Sons of Liberty. He contrasted their courage with the cowardice of a Congress that rushed to pass the PATRIOT Act and strip us of our liberty. And when Northampton passed the first-in-the-nation resolution to defend the Bill of Rights in 2002, Hentoff called it “a new American Revolution.”
Maybe not a revolution. But we did help build a movement to defend our rights.
Through successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, we’ve mobilized against surveillance, profiling, indefinite detention and torture. We’ve mobilized to protect freedom of speech, religion and assembly, and privacy.
Since that first Northampton resolution, over 400 towns, cities, and eight states have passed similar resolutions.
We’ve helped pass local laws against surveillance, profiling, and government secrecy, and stopped other laws that restrict our liberty and rights.
There is still so much work to be done, and the outlook may seem particularly dark right now, but, as Nat Hentoff pointed out, “all through our history, dissent and resistance have beaten back the darkness.”