In response to the National Defense Authorization Act, San Francisco Board of Supervisor President David Chiu and a coalition of supporters held a press conference on the steps of City Hall Feb. 12. The event featured Karen Korematsu, co-founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute For Civil Rights and Education; Joe Nicholson of the San Francisco 99% Coalition and Nadia Kayyali of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu, expressed her appreciation for Chiu and the entire board of supervisors. Korematsu’s father was one of the three Supreme Court case plaintiffs who challenged the curfew and/or forced incarceration of people of Japanese decent during World War II.
“After 9/11, Fred Korematsu spoke out against the discrimination faced by Muslins and Arab Americans, because he saw history repeating itself,” Korematsu said. “With the NDAA law, we risk repeating history again — but now you don’t even have to look like the enemy.”
Korematsu said the NDAA — among other things — authorizes the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens on U.S. soil, without a warrant or due process. She said the law is “atrocious.” Korematsu, along with the children of Minoru Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi — two other men who fought the wartime deprivation of civil liberties — are fighting the law. The children have since filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief for Christopher Hedges v. Barack Obama, a case currently being heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second
Chiu introduced a city resolution that was co-sponsored by Supervisors John Avalos, London Breed, David Campos, Jane Kim and Eric Mar, which opposes indefinite
“By standing by and allowing the NDAA … we risk repeating our history of incarcerating without due process,” Chiu said in a statement.
The resolution instructs “public agencies to decline requests by federal agencies acting under detention powers, urging law enforcement officials to allow detainees to due process” and to request Congress to repeal the detention provision in NDAA.
Kayyali said Chiu’s resolution preserves due process and sends a strong message to the federal government that the city does not agree with the NDAA. Similar resolutions, both from the city and state levels, have come from a wide spectrum of supporters with bipartisan support, according to Kayyali. According to Kayyali, San Francisco will be the 18th such city if the resolution passes.
“We’re hoping for something at the state level,” she said. “Washington state currently has a particularly strong bill. … It makes compliance with indefinite military detention a class-c felony.” Kayyali said a state defying a federal law holds some legal basis since some federal laws leave it up to the state on how they enforce. California currently has no resolution, but Kayyali said she hopes San Francisco’s resolution will encourage one.
“A lot of young adults were shaped by 9/11. Many of them believe it is OK to give up your rights in the name of security,” said Nicholson, a member of the National Lawyer’s Guild and the San Francisco 99% Coalition, said.
Nicholson described the 99% Coalition as a loosely knit group of activists across a variety of ideologies that come together to coordinate broad outreach. He said the Occupy movement, while promising to represent the so-called 99 percent, did not truly represent issues everyone could easily support. According to Nicholson, the Coalition, however, supports the NDAA resolution because of its broad reach and common goal across many people, conservatives and liberals alike.
“You really do get the 99 percent across ideologies because it’s a no brainer. It’s a matter of basic human rights.”
Kayyali said the other locales that have passed resolutions include conservative towns and jurisdictions such as El Paso County in Colorado, as well as Berkeley Calif. and other more liberal cities.
A vote to pass the resolution in San Francisco is expected some time on the week of Feb. 25, according to Kayyali.