Sometimes my work here at the Tenth Amendment Center brings me to tears.
Seriously. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
It’s not often, but it happens from time to time. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve just worked 21 straight 13 hour days without a single day off, and I’m completely overwhelmed and exhausted. Sometimes, I see the evil of what the government does to people, and it’s just painful to watch.
And tonight, as I write this, it’s tears of joy.
Earlier this week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB351 into law – the California Liberty Preservation Act. It makes a new state policy to refuse to help the federal government implement indefinite detention under any federal act which “purports to authorize” such. The legislation is a great first step towards putting that horrible federal act our of existence. If you want to read about it, visit this link for more details.
Immediately after the bill passed, I followed up on Nick Hankoff’s California Tenth Amendment Center report with updates and an email alert to our tens of thousands of subscribers. This was pretty important, I thought, and I wanted to get the word out. I also went to work to make sure that plans for California’s 2nd step against indefinite detention were ready to go. That is, our model ordinance for counties, cities, and towns to effectuate the new state policy from AB351.
Like a machine, I just kept hammering away at the work that needs to be done. Get the word out. Send emails. Post on social media. Field interviews. Track media reports, and immediately get to work on the next step.
There’s no time to rest when you’re resisting the empire.
Then, tonight it hit me.
Getting any resistance to NDAA indefinite detention passed in any state is a pretty big deal. But California? With a Democrat in the White House? That’s not just a big deal. That’s almost incomprehensible. The last time that happened here was in 1996 when California voters gave a finger to Bill Clinton and company by passing Prop 215. But then again, that was by referendum, and not a signature from Jerry Brown.
So, for just a rare few minutes, I sat back, paused, and thought about it.
How the heck did we pull this off?
A LITTLE BACKSTORY
Just weeks after Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 in the waning hours of 2011, a guy named Blake Filippi publicly released some model legislation to nullify the indefinite detention provisions of that act. I saw him talking about it on a youtube video, and thought – wow, this is amazing. Previously, the TAC had been really the only place to find legislation like this, and now the movement had grown to the point where it was happening organically without our help.
I reached out to Blake to talk about it. And I quickly earned that he’s a really incredible guy with a passion for liberty – we’ve become great friends since them. His model legislation has been updated and improved since that first go at it, and Blake was soon national legal adviser here at the Center. Just weeks after connecting with Blake for the first time, I was in Washington DC and met another person who has become a great friend, Shahid Buttar, director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
We all began working together to push back against indefinite detention with bills in states, and resolutions and ordinances in local communities around the country.
In that work, Shahid connected me with the Southern California office of the ACLU – a very well-funded location – where I connected with Ahilan Arulanantham, Peter Bibring and others.
It didn’t long for us to start working on a plan to lobby the Los Angeles city council to pass legislation against NDAA.
We started getting together in the summer of 2012 for regular meetings to work on getting this done. We invited leaders from other organizations in the area to join us in coalition meetings. Most of the time, you’d never believe the type of people spending time together – as partners and friends – because there was such political diversity there.
But, we had a hard time getting someone on the council to actually introduce the legislation. After a few months, it almost seemed like the coalition was about to fade away.
Then, out of nowhere, BAM! We learned of a bill to do the same that was introduced in the state assembly in Sacramento by a guy named Tim Donnelly, known by many as the most hard-core tea party person in the assembly.
THE GRAND COALITION
The SoCal coalition quickly held a new meeting – albeit a little smaller than pre-election meetings – and planned out how we’d work together to support the state-level bill. Part of that strategy included connecting to a strong coalition that had been doing the same in Northern California. In fact, they were successful up there, getting resolutions passed in 4 cities when we hadn’t gotten one down south. BORDC was the connection – and their former legal fellow Nadia Kayyali was the force in the Bay Area that brought people together from a wide range of groups.
We created a Facebook group to invite the general public to join. There, we posted action alerts, discussed strategy, and even held some group conference calls to make sure we were all working together to get the bill passed. For months a great deal of people put a great deal of effort into supporting this legislation.
There were endless phone calls and emails to legislators. People traveled to the capitol to testify in support at hearings. Letters were sent, meetings and discussions were regular, blogs were written and shared – over, and over…and over.
It obviously worked.
SETTING ASIDE DIFFERENCES
But that success isn’t what brought me to tears tonight. Yes, relentless work will make good things happen. I know from experience – I started a website with 30 bucks and an $11/hour part-time job, and it has grown into a national movement. Hard work yields results.
What really got me, was something far greater than that – it was the coalition that came together in support of this effort. This wasn’t just some rag-tag group of people coming together. This was a group of serious political enemies setting aside differences for common cause.
When I say enemies, I mean it.
There were meeting where we had a representatives from CAIR, the Republican Party, ACLU, Oath Keepers, Occupy, Antiwar.com, Tenth Amendment Center, and others. That’s not a group of people you expect to see at a party together, much less in a private meeting working TOGETHER in support of a bill to resist the federal government. Just ask a tea party friend what they think of the ACLU or Occupy. Or ask a progressive friend what they think of Oath Keepers or Tenthers.
I could easily write a “battle plan” of sorts and teach people how to organize and get a bill passed. I’m good at it. There’s a system, and it works. But rather than that, I hope you take a far more important lesson away from reading this today:
Political ideologies should never determine who your friends are.
More important to me than the bill passing is that simple message for people everywhere. Set aside your differences and focus on ways you can get along and work together.
Treating our neighbors like enemies is just what our real enemies want us all to do.
By resisting that pressure, we worked together, and we won.
That’s what brought me to tears tonight.
I, for one, refuse to fall prey to that divide-and-conquer nonsense ever again. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, or what you believe in. The door is open, let’s work together for liberty.
AM UPDATE: Writing late at night often causes me to forget things, like thanking some of the other great people who were instrumental in getting this passed. Nick Hankoff, Nadia Kayyali, Joe Nicholson, The Oath Keepers crew, Andy Griggs, Yaman Salahi, Brian Gonzalez, Angela Keaton, and many, many others. Thank you – all of you – for your hard work and dedication.
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