Last night, July 19, 2003, hundreds of people got got together downtown for a candlelight vigil to protest the Patriot Act. A diverse group of concerned citizens converged on the bustling corner of Hollywood and Highland to pay homage to our vanishing civil liberties. That, and to collectively promise to fight the ominous and blatantly fascist Patriot Act II.
The Patriot Act has already been resisted by three states and 137 cities and counties across America. The provisions of these draconian laws virtually eradicate our rights to privacy and make it much easier for law enforcement to unlawfully detain and 'investigate' us. The act is tantamount to a de facto repeal of the Bill of Rights and many of the civil liberties written in the Constitution.
Constitutional lawyer and author, Stephan F. Rohde, drew fond applause as he asked the audience if they ever voted for the act, or any of it's totalitarian provisions. A resounding "NO!" to Rohde's inquiries summarized the general consensus regarding where Patriot Act's place belongs in our lives or in our futures. He praised Congressman Bernie Saunders, an Independent from Vermont, for challenging section 215 of the patriot act. That provision permits law enforcement and federal agencies to spy on library patrons and forces librarians to cooperate and refrain from informing their patrons on penalty of incarceration. Saunder's “Freedom to Read Protection Act” would reverse that section of the odious bill and represents the first real congressional challenge to its legality.
Sanders has stated, “All of us are concerned about terrorism and all of us are determined to do all that we can to protect the American people from another terrorist attack. But, the threat of terrorism must not be used as an excuse by the government to intrude on our basic constitutional rights. We can fight terrorism, but we can do it at the same time as we protect the civil liberties that have made our country great.” 113 other co-sponsorssupport this bill and Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced similar but watered down legislation to the Senate.
Also speaking was Hasan Hasan, one of the Patriot Act's victims. A former Cerritos College mathematics teacher, Hasan found himself fired and before he could even leave the campus to collect his thoughts, jailed. One of the excuses for the authorities' harsh treatment was that a Cal State Long Beach professor allegedly got anonymous sexually explicit emails that she attributed to Hasan. No preliminary hearing, no investigations, no facing his accusers, no opportunity to even deny the charges and ask for a real investigation, Hasan found himself under serious intimidation by the Long Beach Police Dept and the INS as they railroaded him to a Lancaster jail. He was freed two and a half weeks later when money was raised for his bond. Later, he was carted off to jail a second time entirely on the word of a man he had an arguement with. He didnt even find out why he was in jail, where he was subjected to brutality, until a week later when the lawyers visited him. He shared his frustrations at these injustices as he spoke about the pain of solitary confinement and cited poetry.Click here for more info on what happened to Hasan Hasan
Librarian, union activist, and self styled "Radical Women Organizer", Wendy McPherson, spoke passionately about the encroachment of the federal authorities in our libraries. In reference to the far reaching methods and over zealous standards applied by the authorities in their various investigation activities, she stated in an informal interview , "Who is a terrorist? Is it somebody who is a Socialist?" McPherson is well aware of the historical bent of the authorities to persecute people, especially activists, for their political beliefs.
In a recent Library Board meeting to discuss the privacy violating provisions of the Patriot Act, the board elected to only write a letter of recomendation to the city council to pass a resolution condemning the Act. This, rather than the mayoral appointed board members taking a leadership role on behalf of their patrons by condemning it themselves (something they fully had the authority to do). This Thursday, at 7pm, the Civil Liberties Defense Coalition, including the ACLU, the Librarian's Union, anti-war and immigrants rights activists, will meet to discuss what to do about all this. Some in the group are calling for the Los Angeles City Council to make a bold and clear statement for a repeal of the Patriot Act. They will meet at the ACLU building on 1616 Beverly Blv.