Almost a year after the event on September 11th, 2001, and things are looking bleak for those of us who are either glaringly aware of our rights or very quickly educating ourselves of them. I fall into the latter catagory so my retention of information bordered on overload. I came in late to Andrea Meyers' (Legislative Director, ACLU Oregon) talk. An unfortunate thing, as she was very concise on the stuff i did get, primarily the patriot act, and the fact that if, indeed there is a file on a certain individual, let's say, oh, me for example, that even FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests could turn up with a "We're sorry, there is no file for that person" response due to the way that they will name a file. Could be anything from your birthday, or a date you were seen somewhere. Who knows. Known, high profile activists have gotten the "Sorry..." response.
Back to the Patriot Act - which, little known to me, is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Here is the Center for Constitutional Rights deconstruction of it.
Far more eloquesnt than i would ever be.
Of the most affecting talks one was by Gulzar Ahmed, President of the Oregon Chapter of the American Muslim Alliance. He addressed some statistics gathered in a poll done by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR http://www.cair-net.org/). Of the ones I was able to record: 57% of American Muslims have experienced bias or discrimination due to their name or their faith. 87% knew or knew of a person of Muslim faith who had experienced bias or discrimination. 49% felt that their lives had changed for the worse. Muslims in America have faced their highest unemployment rate since Sept. 11, and the incidents of workplace discrimination have risen. And it does gets worse: of the mainstream media news, FOX NEWS in the lead with the most biased coverage. (pathetic!) The others were somewhat less so... On the positive side, however, 97% have experienced kindness and support from those of other faiths. Yay..., but it's not enough.
Another very moving talk was given by Chris Preucil, Founding Board Member of Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment. She is also a spokesperson for EarthFirst!, which she addressed in the forum. She told Judi Bari's story.
http://www.judibari.org/. The audience cheered. 'Nuff said..
Finally, we broke into smaller workgroups, mine was led by Dan Handelman of Copwatch ( http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/) and Kathleen Jurgen (sp? Forgive me, Kathleen) who has the honor of leading the absolute best chant at a Demonstration ever . Our topic, not surprisingly, was the renewal of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Another unknown (to me...) fact: there are Terrorism Task Forces set up attached to each US Attorneys' office. That total would be 93. My head just spun. 93 Anti Terrorism Task Forces. Where have i been? So here they all are: US Attorney's offices: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/offices/index.html 93 of 'em.
"...Attorney General John D. Ashcroft has directed every U. S. Attorney district to establish an Anti-Terrorism Task Force. These task forces will coordinate the dissemination of information and the development of investigative and prosecutive strategy in dealing with terrorism throughout the country. The formation of these task forces provides the operational foundation for a concerted national assault against terrorism." From a press release dated September 18, 2001, issued fromJim Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Or discussion centered around the fact that the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force is up for renewal. We talked about how education is our best defense. Many people who have not yet been affected by the crackdown on our rights are as yet unaware what it could mean for them. Perhaps they were not at the August 22nd fiasco but, say, their daughter was and got pepper sprayed or hit. Brings it right home, huh? Education. Outreach. We thought it would be a grand idea to have so many people turn out on, ready? SEPTEMBER 19th, at 2:00pm. City Council Chambers. We discussed some event as well. Check this site for more info coming up.
Oh! By the way! Here's some background on last years one:
Police Chief Mark Kroeker's opinion: http://www.portlandpolicebureau.com/interviews.html
Testimony of David Fidanque, Executive Director. Portland ACLU from 2001 PJTTF renewal: