NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - The city of Northampton is once again taking a bold stance against a controversial federal law. It became the first city in New England to pass a resolution rejecting the National Defense Authorization Act Thursday night.
President Obama signed the NDAA back in December. Two particular sections of the Act ignited a firestorm of controversy. Sections 1021 and 1022 allow the indefinite military detention of any person, including a U.S. citizen, without a trial. That applies to any person "who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners," or anyone who commits a "belligerent act" against the United States or its allies.
At a city council meeting Thursday night, city leaders and advocacy groups came together to demand a "restoration of due process and the right to trial."
The American Civil Liberties Union maintains that the NDAA flies in the face of Constitutional rights.
"While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had 'serious reservations' about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use it and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations," writes the ACLU. "The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield."
William Newman is the Director for the ACLU in Western Massachusetts. At Thursday night's meeting, he told 22News, "We have a country based on laws and process and fairness. This law is an absolute affront to those principles that make America a free nation."
At the urging of advocacy groups like the ACLU and the Bill Of Rights Defense Committee, The Northampton City Council unanimously approved a non-binding resolution to reject the NDAA law and urge federal leaders to do the same. A non-binding resolution won't supersede any current laws, however, supporters explain it;s about making a symbolic statement.
It's not the first time Northampton has taken a local lead on a national security issue. Ten years ago, they passed a resolution against the Patriot Act. Many others followed suit.
"Four hundred thirty three cities and towns ended up passing resolutions," explained Emma Roderick of the Bill Of Rights Defense Committee. "Eight states passed resolutions against the Patriot Act. And it just exploded as a big national issue."
That's a trend these advocates hope repeats itself.
"If the people lead, then the leaders may fallow," added William Newman. "And it's in our obligation to say 'not in my name.'"
The resolution will need to be re-approved at a second reading according to city council rules.