"Dissent is Patriotic! This is what Democracy Looks like!"
That is what some 250 chanted as they stood outside Monday night, waiting to enter Eugene City Hall for the weekly meeting of the Eugene City Council. By the end of the evening their chant was simplified, "WOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO!"
On Monday, November 25, the City of Eugene, Oregon became the 15th local government in the nation to pass a resolution opposing the UPA (U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act) and recent Executive Orders which violate our Constitutional guarantees. The resolution passed in a Eugene City Council vote of 7 to 0 with one councilor absent.
The Council's action came on a motion from Councilor Betty Taylor. Her motion came directly after the regularly scheduled public forum which begins each regular Council meeting. Due to the standing room only crowd, the forum was extended from 30 to 45 minutes. 22 people spoke in favor of the resolution, none spoke against it. Eugene Muslims talked about their fear following 9/11 and the racist atmosphere invoked by the UPA. A Japanese-American talked about the horror of US internment camps from her own family's history. A member of the Lane County Human Rights Commission, political activists, and usually apolitical citizens expressed their outraged at what the UPA was doing to their neighbors and potentially to themselves. Several speakers had to overcome their tears to complete their two minute presentations.
The City Council had a lengthy unscheduled discussion of the resolution that culminated in the unanimous vote. Four Councilors were strongly in favor of passing a resolution; one of them a conservative Councilor whose stated aim was to defend the Bill of Rights. That Councilor, Gary Pape', was instrumental in the passage of the resolution, because he initially said he would not vote for a resolution asking for the repeal of the UPA. So Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee activists changed the wording of the resolution last week to ask for revocation of the sections of the Act that limit or violate Constitutional guarantees. This small compromise brought Pape' on board, and swung the vote towards passage of a resolution.
The words and opinions of Eugene's Congressman, Peter Defazio (D) were frequently invoked during both the public forum and the Council discussion. Congressman Defazio has been outspoken in his opposition to the Act and similar Bush Administration initiatives.
This action capped a five month petition and endorsement drive by the Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee, chaired by Hope Marston. During the public forum, Marston presented the City Council with petitions containing the signatures of almost 2,000 Eugene citizens.
Eugene attorney and Committee member Brian Michaels said, " this a first step in a series of many steps we will take to overcome the tyranny that has enveloped our nation."
As well as thanking the Council Members for their actions and local activists for their work to get the resolution passed, Marston lead the crowd in the trademark chant, "WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOO!"
The Eugene resolution was modeled after those previously passed in other cities. It ties together the City's mission statement, the City Councilors' duty to uphold the state and federal constitutions, and the City's commitment to protect the civil rights of its citizens. In the resolution, the councilors ask federal and state law enforcement authorities to report to the Council and the Eugene Human Rights Commission (a creation of the City Council) monthly on activities they have undertaken under the auspices of the UPA. Among other specific requests are that the officials report on persons detained in Eugene, the charges under which they are detained, and the name of their legal counsel. It also asks for reports of search warrants, electronic surveillance, the monitoring of local political and religious meetings, and subpoenas issued or conducted under the Act. And it requests reports on library records, book store purchases, and education records requests under the Act.
The text of the resolution is on the Committee's web site, www.efn.org\~lcbordc
The Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee used a commitment building approach to its efforts. Official bodies such as the Eugene Human Rights Commission were asked for their endorsements. Local NGOs and newspapers were asked for their endorsement. Committee members contacted City Councilors prior to the meeting to present the case for the resolution and to overcome objections. Committee members were guests on a local call-in show devoted to the Act on the Sunday preceding the Council meeting. The Committee purchased a one-quarter page newspaper advertisement on Sunday which announced the upcoming Council meeting and encouraged people to contact their City Councilor.
In a testimony to what local activists can do, the successful passage of the resolution occurred outside of the normal City Council process. The proposed resolution was not on the Council meeting agenda. Its passage reflected skillful citizen-councilor cooperation and a strong public presence at the Council meeting.