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by David Schwartz Saturday, Aug. 17, 2002 at 12:17 AM

Grassroots organization plans protest of attacks on constitutional freedoms for Ciitizenship Day, September 17, 2002.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks against our nation on September 11 last year, President Bush explained the motive behind those horrific events with the following statement: "They hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." Millions of Americans felt the strength of those words, and believed Mr. Bush and trusted him to protect and defend those most essential American freedoms.

But when we reflect upon our government's reaction to the events of 9/11, we have come to feel betrayed. For rather than confirming those very freedoms invoked by Mr. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11, the government has sought systematically to erase them. Since the passage of the ill-named USA Patriot Act, we have witnessed the demise of far too many of our hard-won rights, freedoms, and Constitutional protections. Unlike the majority of our legislative body, we have read the so-called Patriot Act. Contained within its 300+ pages is the unraveling of our Bill of Rights, and we are struck by the realization that if Mr. Bush's assessment of the underlying cause for the terror is correct, then with the Patriot Act we have given victory to the terrorists.

We are about to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11. While we should in no way diminish the importance of that day, nor the tragic and brutal loss of too many lives, we would like to remind our compatriots of the coming anniversary of another event in our collective national history. Citizenship Day, September 17, enacted in 1952 by President Truman, celebrates the anniversary of the signing of our Constitution. It is our great hope that while we recall the enormity of our loss and celebrate the untold acts of heroism we witnessed on September 11, 2001, we will not forget the heroism and the sacrifices of our nation’s founders. These were people ready, willing, and able to lay down their lives in pursuit of liberty. Their crowning achievement is embodied in our Constitution.

The dreams of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," of the inalienable right to free speech, of a free press, of freedom of and from religion, of the right to live secure in our persons and property, of the right to habeas corpus, of an open trial by our peers, of the right to privileged counsel by an attorney, of equality and equal protection under the law, of the right to dissent, became a reality on September 17, 1789. No matter how great the loss or how great the threat to security our nation experienced on September 11, 2001, our Constitution is far greater.

We will, like our fellow Americans, engage in both public and private activities commemorating September 11. And we will also engage in enacting the spirit of our freedoms on Citizenship Day, September 17, the "birthday" of our Constitution. We will engage in a personal holiday, on which we do no work, and will spend no money that day: no retail, no gasoline, no sporting events, no restaurants. In this way, we hope to send a message that the people are watching the government.

We invite all of our compatriots to join us in this celebration of our citizenship. Your invitation is waiting at http://americalivefree.org.

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