Last night approximately 175 Portland citizens attended a community briefing and panel on the USA PATRIOT Act and discussed how to protect threatened civil liberties.
Last night approximately 175 Portland citizens attended a community panel and briefing on the USA PATRIOT Act at the Central Lutheran Church. The USA PATRIOT Act (an acronym for the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), a statue that was quickly passed by Congress and signed on October 26th by President George Bush, severely threatens constitutional protections, especially for immigrants, and the expanded definition of "domestic terrorism" poses a particular peril to activists everywhere.
Portland Alliance editor, Dave Mazza, and local defense attorney, Stu Sugarman, directed the first part of the event, an informative highlighting of the main facets of the 300+ page USA PATRIOT ACT. Each issue affected or modified by the act was explictly defined and contextulized as it will affect immigrants, activists and other groups (for a cohesive chart of the individual issues, current laws and modifications of the USA PATRIOT Act, please see page 9 of this month's Portland Alliance), such as how the new expanded definition of terrorism includes "domestic terrorism", a term vague and bloated enough to target local and national activist organizations, or how many of the limitations on detaining immigrants are being lifted through this act. Other issues covered included: guilt by association, privacy protections, "sneak and peek" search warrants, telephone and internet surveiliance, student privacy, financial privacy, and domestic spying by the CIA. A question and answer session took place after the review of the act; rather than expessing feelings of timidity and fear, the audience showed an eagerness to share information about local events, ask for clarification on how this will affect particular aspects of the community, and commit to more active and creative forms of resistance, such as using their own cameras to reverse the panoptic gaze of those tapped journalists at local rallies and protests.
Following was a panel represented by local activists that have been subpoenaed by a Federal Grand Jury, including Kathleen Jergens, who spoke candidly about the Police Joint Terrorism Task Force and Civilians against Police Spying, Craig Rosenbrough, a spokesperson for Earth Liberation Front, and Stu Sugarman, who spoke specifically about grand juries, their objectives to coerse and intimidate, and the details of the process. This panel was also followed by a question and answer session. Then the audience was asked to take a further step towards participation by dividing up into small groups and discuss possible strategies on topics ranging from media to protecting immigrant rights, from legal defense to security, and report back to the larger audience.
The events and speakers of the evening were not only informative, but rather they recognized the personal aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act by encouraging a network with others confronted with the same threats and committed to protecting the same basic legal rights. While elucidating many disturbing features and relaying the immediacy to respond to our representatives and community about the USA PATRIOT Act, the event did not project a doomed lot for the future, but rather inspired participation and creative thinking for protecting our ciivil liberties.
***Two upcoming events were particularly highlighted:
A Rally in support of forest activist Mary "Moss" Fanelli on the day of her Grand Jury hearing- Wednesday, November 14th, at 9am in front of the Federal Courthouse in Eugene and a solidarity rally in Portland in front of the Federal Courthouse (1000 SW 3rd Ave.) at noon on the same day.
Also, this Saturday (the 17th) is a panel and workshops on war, US foreign policy, domestic issues, and activist education at the First Unitarian Church (SW Salmon and 12th) from 1 to 6pm.
address: 2535 SE 36th Ave.
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