Barrie Gewanter, director of the CNY ACLU, headed a bus of 35 people from around the area that joined a group of 2000 for the June 26th Day of Action in sweltering Washington DC. While the ACLU has held national conferences before, this was the firsttimethey,withthehelpofothergroups, organized such a massive lobbying trip for members and non-members from around the country. “We were just looking for anyone who was interested to get on the bus. And they did,” Barrie said. First-timer Amy Lawson remarked that “First Amendment rights don’t exercise themselves. If we want change, even if we only want debate about change, we (the people) have to assemble, we have to petition, we have to speak up.”

The group’s lobbying focused primarily on the injustices of the Military Commissions Act (MCA), including the treatment of detainees in US custody. They asked representatives to sponsor and vote for the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act (HCRA) and the Restoring the Constitution Act. Notably, Walsh’s aide assured those who met with him that he would discuss the HCRA with Walsh along with the other issues concerning the MCA. Barrie reported that “Walsh’s aide suggested that some actions have gone beyond what was expected; there was an acknowledgement that there’s been an abuse of power.”

It appears that the Day of Action attained many of its goals. “We showed that we don’t take justice for granted in Central New York,” Barrie stated.
Liz Brace