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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 3:50 PM

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.

THE 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 0,000 and 0,000

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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