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Greens warn that accusations of "terrorism" are eroding rights and freedoms

by Green Party Media Team Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2002 at 7:50 AM

Members of the Green Party have joined other Americans protesting the manipulation of fears about terrorism in order to violate basic liberties and constitutional rights of due process and fair treatment under the law.

errorTHE GREEN PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release:
Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Contacts:
Nancy Allen, Media Coordinator, 207-326-4576,
nallen@acadia.net
Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624,
scottmclarty@yahoo.com


GREENS WARN THAT LOOSE ACCUSATIONS OF "TERRORISM"
ARE ERODING RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Members of the Green Party
have joined other Americans protesting the
manipulation of fears about terrorism in order to
violate basic liberties and constitutional rights
of due process and fair treatment under the law.

"From the round-ups of hundreds of Americans of
Middle Eastern descent and Muslims to the
application of the word 'terrorism' to unrelated
allegations, we're beginning to see suppression
of rights similar to McCarthyism and the hysteria
over communism," said Anita Rios, an Ohio Green
activist and national steering committee member.

Greens see special danger in the agenda of
Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has tried to
crush democratic dissent by suggesting that U.S.
citizens who criticize Bush policy only "aid
terrorists."

In Florida, West Virginia, and Indiana, students
have been expelled from school for criticizing
the war. Journalists and activists have been
harassed and have lost jobs for not backing the
war effort. Sami Al-Arian, a tenured professor
of computer science and activist for Palestinian
rights, was recently fired from the University of
South Florida for having made statements against
Israel in 1988.

A column in Forbes magazine by Cato Institute
fellow Steve H. Hanke titled "Barbarians at the
Gate" (October 29, 2001) accuses nearly every
kind of civic organization of terrorism,
including churches, when they oppose free trade
or support measures to improve the lives of
working people. Hanke urges Bush to target
dissent as a menace to "the core of Western
civilization."

Even before September 11, nonviolent protesters
were increasingly being hit with huge bails and
fines, multiple counts, harassment by police and
U.S. Marshals, and the threat of many months,
even years, behind bars. At the 2000 Republican
Convention, some demonstrators were held on one
million dollars bail for organizing legitimate
rallies or for being seen talking on their cell
phones.

Accusations of terrorism have been extended to
cases that represent no threat to security. In
San Francisco, AIDS activists Michael Petrelis
and David Pasquarelli were jailed for over two
months, with bail set at $500,000 and $600,000
respectively, on a litany of felony and
misdemeanor charges, allegedly for harassing
telephone calls made to officials in protest of
what they call repressive public health measures
and inaccurate information being used to frighten
the public. After more than two months in
custody, a second judge reduced the bail in the
face of public protest, and the two were recently
released to await trial.

In a display of what Greens call bipartisanship
at its worst, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.)
requested investigation of Petrelis and
Pasquarelli -- her own constituents -- under the
'USA PATRIOT' Anti-terrorism Act, which allows
the suspension of due process and other
constitutional guarantees. Greens allege that
the act, which Congress passed with overwhelming
bipartisan support, would not pass the scrutiny
of a court.

"Do the allegations merit investigation and
possible prosecution?," asked Starlene Rankin,
media coordinator of the Illinois Green Party and
organizer of the growing national Lavender (gay,
lesbian, bisexual, transgender) Greens Caucus.
"Yes. But do they constitute a terrorist threat
to national security, justification for excessive
bail, arbitrary upgrading of charges from
misdemeanors to serious felonies, and abrogation
of due process? No."

"Public officials, with the support of political
and organizational leaders -- especially those
who've been stung by Petrelis's whistleblowing
AIDS Accountability Project and exposure of
organizational improprieties and inflated
salaries -- have found a convenient way to banish
gadflies and a tactic for chilling dissent,"
added Rankin. "Petrelis and Paquarelli deserve
fair treatment by the legal system, in proportion
to the alleged harms. Regardless of one's
opinion about the accusations or the accused, the
implications are frightening for anyone who
engages in political protest and civil
disobedience."

Greens call for close public scrutiny to hold law
enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts
accountable for violations of constitutional
rights in the investigation and prosecution of
political activists.

"When President Bush named Tom Ridge head of the
Office of Homeland Security on October 8, Ridge
said 'Liberty is the most precious gift we offer
to our citizens.' Gov. Ridge was wrong," said
Tom Sevigny, a Connecticut Green and member of
the party's national steering committee.
"Liberty, like democracy and other basic rights,
is the foundation of our nation, not a 'gift'
from an indulgent government."

"The willingness of the Bush Administration to
rescind basic rights and freedoms, with the
complicity of Democrats, puts the basis for our
democracy into a state of peril greater than any
threat from outside terrorism. It's an exercise
in homeland lawlessness in the name of security."


MORE INFORMATION

The Green Party of the United States
http://gpus.org
http://www.greenpartyus.org

Details, petition, and debate on the
Petrelis-Pasquarelli case
http://www.openletteronline.com/cgi-openletteronline/aget3.cgi?feat=23

"Barbarians at the Gate" by Cato fellow Steve H.
Hanke http://www.cato.org/dailys/10-16-01.html


END

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