Save the Bill of Your Rights
|The Office of the Community Lawyer in Winsted, CT, has organized a roadshow about the attack on civil liberties. The SAVE the Bill of (Your) Rights! Roadshow has hit the road in Connecticut to alert citizens about the USA PATRIOT Act and to build a citizens’ movement to pass community resolutions condemning the Act.
Since September 11, fears of further terrorist acts have resulted in the adoption of the USA PATRIOT Act and several Executive Orders. The USA PATRIOT Act gives the FBI and the CIA greater rights to wiretap phones, monitor e-mail, patrol internet use, snoop on medical, financial, library and student records, inspect bookstore purchases, spy on political activities and search homes and offices without prior notification. The Act also allows non-citizens to be deported or detained indefinitely without judicial appeal, and often without access to legal counsel. The Administration has ordered secret military tribunals for suspected terrorists and so-called enemy combatants — even if they are U.S. citizens.
Because the new laws go too far, threatening several fundamental rights guaranteed to by the Bill of Rights, 150 communities across the nation and three states have adopted resolutions calling for the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act. New Haven, Hartford, and Mansfield, have already done so and the Roadshow encourages other Connecticut communities to adopt similar resolutions. We do not have to sacrifice fundamental freedoms, the bedrock of our democracy, in order to combat terrorism.
At each show, speakers such as Teresa Younger, Executive Director of the CCLU, and Charlene LaVoie, Community Lawyer, engage the audience about the USA PATRIOT Act and other executive initiatives that trample our civil liberties. The Roadshow has already visited Winsted, Torrington, Middletown, Guilford, Washington, Glastonbury, Willlimantic and Woodbury. Shows are planned for Bridgeport, New Milford, Litchfield and maybe your town. Each show is free and open to the public.
The Roadshow features a video, “Scenes from an American Life”, produced by a local, grassroots group, the Our Town Project. The video depicts a series of vignettes that traces the lives of an activist family after their loyalty is questioned because they openly disagree with the war in Iraq. Based on some actual events since the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, the scenes illustrate the government’s violations of citizens’ rights. Also at the Roadshow, are select pieces from “Between Fear and Freedom,” an art exhibit from the New Haven Edge Festival.
Grassroots efforts ARE making a difference! Congress is starting to listen; last month the House voted to defund “sneak & peak” searches authorized under the USA PATRIOT Act which allow federal agents to search your home without notifying you before or after. And Attorney General Ashcroft is also feeling the pinch and feels compelled to kick off his own ‘counter-tour’ to defend the PATRIOT Act. But the AG’s talks are not open to the public (although were paying the tab!). The AG will be speaking to invited guests only – law enforcement officials and certain members of the press. This is surely a sign of mounting anxiety in the face of grassroots activism and the resulting Congressional scrutiny.
The War on Terrorism and the associated fear of further attacks cannot be used as an excuse to operate a secret government that shreds the Bill of Rights.
The Roadshow schedule: