Agreeing that their constitutional rights are being curtailed by the Patriot Act, Town Meeting voters supported a resolution last Tuesday that affirms their civil rights and directs their congressmen to work to repeal portions of the act that endanger those rights. Agreeing that their constitutional rights are being curtailed by the Patriot Act, Town Meeting voters supported a resolution last Tuesday that affirms their civil rights and directs their congressmen to work to repeal portions of the act that endanger those rights.

Approximately 100 people braved a building snowstorm last Tuesday night to continue with town meeting business, which it finished in two hours.

The vote on Article 34, a non-binding resolution submitted by the “Citizens for Peaceful Solutions,” passed 59 to 26.

The resolution calls on Duxbury residents to affirm key civil liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights, the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution. Citizens for Peaceful Solutions members believe that Americans’ civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, certain rights of privacy, and the protection from unreasonable search and seizures, are being jeopardized by the U.S.A. Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, and the Federal Executive Orders Act. The resolution calls on town officials and residents to contact their congressmen and senators to monitor how these acts and orders are implemented and to ask them to actively work to repeal the sections that violate rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Duxbury selectmen will send copies of the resolution to the president, U.S. attorney general, members of the Mass. congressional delegation, Massachusetts representatives and senators, the governor and attorney general.{sidebar id=4}

According to sponsor Nancy Landgren of Washington St., the Patriot Act, which was enacted after September 11, 2001, has turned “American democracy upside down.”

The Act threatens Americans’ civil rights in many ways, said Landgren. It greatly expands the government’s ability to conduct secret searches without probable cause and it allows the government access to sensitive medical, financial and educational records without a court order or evidence of a crime. The FBI can obtain a person’s library and bookstore records and a librarian can be prosecuted if she reveals having been questioned by government agents, said Landgren.

The Patriot Act allows government agencies to tap and monitor a person’s phone and computer without probable cause. It also lets the U.S. attorney general designate domestic groups as “terrorist organizations” and detain non-citizens indefinitely or deport them even if they have not committed crimes. TIPS, the Terrorist Information Prevention System, lets people turn in their friends and neighbors with just a phone call, said Landgren.

The Patriot Act has created “an erosion of our civil liberties,” Landgren said, because it directly affects rights granted in the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

“In so doing it sets security against liberty,” Landgren said. “Our rights are being sacrificed.”

Nationwide, there are three states and 233 communities, 20 in Massachusetts, that have passed resolutions similar to Duxbury’s, according to Landgren.

Much of the Patriot Act will expire in 2005, and Landgren wants Congress to look carefully at it before renewing it.

After Landgren’s introduction, many residents spoke about their experiences since the terrorist actions of 9/11 to explain why they supported the resolution.

George Lewis of Franklin St., an MIT physicist who has spent the past 15 years studying international security issues, said the government is now too focused on secrecy.

“I encourage people to support this resolution,” Lewis said. “Nothing is more important that openness in a democracy and we’re going the wrong way.”

James Lampert of Washington St. said he went to West Point and was the third generation in his family to serve in the Army, but now his home phone has been tapped because his wife, Mary “Pixie” Lampert, disagrees with the government’s nuclear policy. Mary Lampert is chairman of the Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee.

“There is a balance and we’re beyond that balance,” said Lampert.

Aboud Al-Zaim, a Muslim-American who holds top security clearance at the Department of Defense, said Americans have surrendered their rights under the Patriot Act. Anyone can call the FBI about anyone else and the agents will be there.

“A person can say ëWe don’t like his attitude and we don’t know what he’s planning’ and the FBI will be down my street,” he said. Anyone can be taken away without due process and without access to an attorney, he added.

Selectman Andre Martecchini said after World War II his parents came to America as refugees from a totalitarian European country where people would just disappear. His parents saw the United States as “a beacon of justice” and instilled in him that random disappearances didn’t happen in this country.

“Now, it’s starting to happen here,” said Martecchini.

Former selectman Ruth Rowley compared the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 to the attack on Pearl Harbor, but pointed out that no one, except Japanese-Americans, lost any rights during World War II. She supported the resolution.

“When citizens are silent, they fail their leaders,” said Rowley. “We are the guardians of the Constitution. Every single person, from the dog catcher to the President of the United States, is charged with the protection of the Constitution. Once (our rights) are lost, you don’t get them back. Don’t be silent. Vote yes on this article.”

Those opposed to the resolution, like Selectmen Chairman Betsy Sullivan, said she could not support it because she felt the country was at war and things had changed.

“There’s nothing I hold dearer than democracy and the Constitution under which we live, but it’s not clear-cut right now,” said Sullivan. “It’s all of us struggling to find our way.”