Subject: 15 US cities now oppose PATRIOT Act.
Patriot Act Earns Council's `No' Vote
By Joe Mosley
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon November 26, 2002
Eugene city councilors gave in to a stampede
of constituents Monday night,
surprising even themselves by voting unanimously at an impassioned meeting
to make Eugene the 15th city in the United States and the first in Oregon
to formally seek reform or repeal of the USA Patriot Act.
More than 200 people packed the council chamber and dozens more spilled
out of its doorways as opponents to the sweeping anti-terrorism act dominated
an extended public comment session with testimony of lost liberties, ideals
in peril and a heartfelt fear of unchecked government.
"My community was silenced; our voice is silent," said 20-year-old Alexander
Gonzales, a Hispanic student at the University of Oregon and lifelong Eugene
resident. "We're afraid. I really can't express through words the fear that goes on."
Others also told of feeling targeted by the Patriot Act - not because of
their politics but due to national heritage, religious beliefs or skin color.
"I have not done anything; I am not a terrorist," said Nadia Sindi, a
Muslim woman well-known in city and county circles as a land use activist.
"I urge you to pass this resolution, for all of us."
And Muhammed Kahn, a doctor who is new to Eugene, said he not only loves
his new city but embraces the U.S. Constitution - whose ideals he described
as close to those espoused by the Quran, Islam's holy book.
"I just want to quote Benjamin Franklin,
who said those who give up liberty
for security deserve neither," Kahn said.
With the unexpected vote, Eugene joins 14 other cities - from Cambridge,
Mass., to Berkeley, Calif. - that have adopted resolutions since last February
stating opposition to the Patriot Act and urging its repeal. Elsewhere in Oregon,
Benton County and the cities of Portland and Ashland have considered similar
decrees but have taken no action.
Congress approved the 342-page Patriot Act last year to enable a crackdown
on terrorism, but it has since been criticized by groups across the political spectrum
as a threat to personal privacy and constitutional rights.
"We shouldn't stand by silently as those rights and freedoms are eroded,"
Councilor Bonny Bettman said, urging her colleagues to make a unified statement.
"Our rights and freedoms really help distinguish us from our enemies."
Going into the meeting, at least half of the eight councilors were on record
opposing a resolution - favoring instead a less-formal letter that could be signed
by individual councilors, stating their personal views rather than an official city position.
But citizens on Monday told the council that's not enough.
"Writing a simple letter would be crawling, rather than standing," Dawn Balzano
Peebles said. "I've heard the fear in people's voices. I've heard the shaking in their
spirits. Ordinary citizens are now fearful of their own government."
One by one, those councilors opposed to a resolution joined the fold.
Gary Rayor, who drafted an alternate resolution and then a letter expressing
general concerns with the Patriot Act, conceded that "there are some things wrong
with (the act), and I think this resolution goes to ferreting them out."
Nancy Nathanson went back and forth, weighing impacts the federal act could
have upon her constituents against her "primary duty to take care of municipal affairs,"
before lining up with the majority.
Scott Meisner's vote was perhaps the most surprising, after he announced he
would oppose the resolution as a hollow symbol.
"This does not change the law," Meisner said before the vote, but after it was
apparent a majority would support the measure. "Psychologically, I hope it
reduces some people's fears. But I don't have a great deal of faith this will mean
anything. I hope we don't stop with getting the city of Eugene to make a symbolic
statement. I want effective action, not symbolic action."
The resolution was adapted from wording provided by the Patriot Act's primary
local opponent, the Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee, part of a
national organization opposed to the law.
It affirms the city's support of and commitment to the Oregon and U.S.
constitutions; asks federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to
report to the City Council and its human rights committee any actions taken
under the Patriot Act; resolves that "to the greatest extent legally possible,"
no city resources will be used to carry out provisions of the federal act;
and urges Oregon's congressional delegation to "actively work for the
revocations of any unconstitutional sections" of the act.
"We are ordinary citizens who came together because we care deeply about
the rights we used to have," said Hope Marston, the citizen group's coordinator,
as she gave city officials petitions containing nearly 2,000 signatures of Eugene
residents opposed to the act.
"These voters are asking you to protect them," she said.
Resolutions have varied among the cities that passed them, but most express
a general concern about an erosion of fundamental rights and ask local
police to report any federal request for enforcement under provisions of
the Patriot Act.
Civil liberty concerns have arisen not only about the act but also several
executive orders intended to streamline investigative pro- cedures.
The Patriot Act allows police to arrest and detain indefinitely any
American suspected of terrorism, for instance, as well as detention of
immigrants without disclosure of their names. It also allows "sneak and
peek" searches of suspects' homes without subsequent notification of the
searches, collection of personal information such as Web surfing habits and
the forcing of librarians, booksellers and video shop proprietors to turn
over patron records to federal investigators when asked.
Executive orders enacted independently by President Bush or Attorney
General John Ashcroft in the past year include a new guideline allowing
FBI agents to conduct surveillance of domestic political and religious groups,
and a rule permitting the government to arrest and sequester people considered
RESOLVED AGAINST PATRIOT ACT
Eugene is the 15th local government in the United States to pass a resolution
opposing the USA Patriot Act.
* 1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
* 2. Denver
* 3. Amherst, Mass.
* 4. Leverett, Mass.
* 5. North Hampton, Mass.
* 6. Cambridge, Mass.
* 7. Carrboro, N.C.
* 8. Boulder, Colo.
* 9. Madison, Wis.
* 10. Berkeley, Calif.
* 11. Alachua County, Fla.
* 12. Takoma Park, Md.
* 13. Santa Fe, N.M.
* 14. Santa Cruz, Calif.
* 15. Eugene
- Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Florence, Mass.
See www.bordc.org for more information.
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