9/20/2003 Newsletter


  • Ashcroft Holds Secret Meeting With Olson, Finney, Others To Promote Police-State Measures
  • Conference To Examine Activism In The Post 9/11 Political Climate
  • People Still Have Something To Say About The Next Minneapolis Police Chief

Attorney General John Ashcroft was in Minneapolis yesterday holding a secret meeting with twin cities Police Chiefs Robert Olson and William "Corky" Finney, Hennepin County Sheriff Pat McGowan and others at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, while protests were held outside.

Some protesters who attempted to enter the meeting were turned back. They were told that not only was the meeting private, but that meeting content would not be shared with the public, making this a secret meeting. Interestingly, the media and local hotels had been advised by Ashcroft's staff not to inform anyone in the public about the location of the meeting.

Chief Olson's propensities for police-state measures are well known (remember ISAG?) and other members of the local gendarmes cannot tell the difference between dissent and terrorism (remember the report by a State Trooper calling Anti-Racist Action and other groups possible terrorist organizations?). These are folks who hardly need a refresher course in police-state repression.

Ashcroft's road show is about bolstering the reputation of Patriot Act I, which has taken a well-deserved beating by ordinary folks who don't like the idea of big brother monitoring their every move. He is also trying to ready people for even more repression under Patriot Act II. Please see our article on Patriot II at http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/3-22-03SpecialEdition.asp Ask yourself: if this is such great stuff, why the secret meeting? We find it disturbing, to say the least, that our local enforcers are being recruited to promote Patriot I and II.

Here's what the Strib had to say about the meeting:

Ashcroft visits Minneapolis to pitch Patriot Act
Randy Furst, Star Tribune
Published September 20, 2003

Attorney General John Ashcroft vigorously defended the USA Patriot Act on Friday, appearing in Minneapolis as part of his nationwide campaign to expand the Justice Department's investigative authority.

"The lives and liberties of Americans are protected by the Patriot Act," said Ashcroft, who got a warm welcome from area police chiefs, sheriffs, assistant U.S. attorneys and other law enforcement employees who were invited to the event.

But opponents say his campaign to expand federal power goes too far and undermines basic constitutional rights.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton likened Ashcroft's efforts to what he called the unrestrained abuse of power under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover during the 1960s.

And Minneapolis library director Kit Hadley expressed concern that the federal power to investigate library users would dissuade new immigrants from visiting libraries. Ashcroft reiterated Friday that federal law enforcers don't have the time to track the reading habits of the millions of people who visit libraries.

"Recently, some in Washington have created an hysteria that local libraries are under siege of the FBI, that we are somehow rifling through the reading records of Americans," Ashcroft said. But he said "not a single American's library records have been reviewed under the Patriot act."

Ashcroft has become a favorite target of some Democratic leaders and civil libertarians but continues to get high marks from proponents of his get-tough attitude on terrorism and crime.

"Is he a lightning rod?" asked U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, an appointee of President Bush, in response to a reporter's question.

"Well, if it weren't General Ashcroft," he said, "it would be somebody else. There is a perception that is inaccurate that the Patriot Act is something radical and has impaired human rights. That's not the case. What we do here in Minnesota with it, is the same as with what the general said, which is to use tools against terrorism that we use against drug dealers. It's that simple."

Strategy succeeding

A gallery of law enforcement officials sat behind Ashcroft, including Police Chiefs Robert Olson of Minneapolis and William Finney of St. Paul, and state Public Safety Commissioner Rich Stanek.

"From the war on terrorism to the battle against violent crime, our strategy is succeeding," Ashcroft said. "America is more secure today than it was two years ago. America is safer today than it was two years ago. And America is freer today than at any time in the history of human freedom."

He observed that no new terrorist attacks have taken place on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, and that the overall crime rate in the nation is at a 30-year low.

"With the tough tools provided by the Congress in the Patriot Act, we have dismantled terrorist cells in New York, and Michigan, Washington State, North Carolina, Oregon," he said. He added that criminal charges have been brought against 262 people with 143 convictions or guilty pleas.

Ashcroft said Bush is proposing legislation under an expansion of the Patriot Act to allow administrative subpoenas to enable law enforcement to obtain certain records quickly, noting there are already 335 offenses where such subpoenas can be used. He said he also wants to "make it as tough for Americans charged with terrorism to be released on bail as it is for those charged with serious drug offenses and violent crimes." He said he also supports the death penalty for certain terrorism-related crimes.

Mixed reactions

After the event, Hennepin County Sheriff Pat McGowan praised Ashcroft. "I think he was right on point," he said. "The average citizen, I think fully supports everything that the attorney general talked about."

Dayton, in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., said he had voted against Ashcroft's confirmation. He said he had read a recent report from Ashcroft, citing accomplishments under the act, but Dayton expressed concern about some people who had been held for indefinite periods and denied access to lawyers and due process.

Dayton said Ashcroft "wants the authority to set aside judges and grand juries and be able to subpoena any information he decides he wants. That's enormous unrestrained power that we haven't given anyone in this country since J. Edgar Hoover usurped it when he was at the height of his power with the FBI."

Peter Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, said Ashcroft's visit shows he's worried. "People across the political spectrum are becoming increasingly uneasy about a grab for power by the executive branch," he said.

Justice gathering

Brian PaStarr, a Minneapolis teacher, said 166 cities and towns, including Minneapolis, have passed resolutions protecting civil liberties in response to the Patriot Act. He said it will a topic at a "Cry Justice" conference on civil liberties, Oct. 24-26, at the University of Minnesota Law Center.

Jorge Saavedra, chief legal officer of Centro Legal, which provides legal services for low-income Hispanics, said he worries about Ashcroft's proposal for new subpoena power, on top of federal plans to listen in on attorney-client discussions and continued indefinite detentions. He said he worried that the United States is sinking "to the level and tactics of second-rate Third World dictators."

Fouzi Slisli, of the Minnesota chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said people he knows are insecure. "The community feels they are being watched on every corner," he said. "They don't feel safe talking on the phone, traveling."

Charles Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, suggested the late announcement of Ashcroft's visit, only about 24 hours before he arrived, was designed to limit the size of any demonstration against him. Ashcroft denied such a motive in a brief meeting with reporters.

About 20 protesters showed up at Marriott Courtyard Hotel at the Depot, where Ashcroft spoke. One of them was activist attorney Jordan Kushner, who carried a sign that said, "Repeal the Patriot Act." He said that federal authorities had sufficient investigative tools to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but bungled it. "They are using their failures to clamp down on our civil liberties," he said.

Randy Furst is at [email protected].

With Ashcroft on the road promoting Patriot Acts I and II, we the people had better get ready to defend our civil liberties. Here's a way to learn some new tools for doing just that. CUAPB is a proud sponsor of this conference and will be presenting a workshop, too.

Cry Justice!
Activism, Organizing, and Civil Liberties After 911
All People's Activist Conference
October 24, 25, 26, 2003
University of Minnesota Law School, West Bank
229-19th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN
[email protected]

What is the USA PATRIOT ACT? In the heat of post-911 fear, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act, also referred to as PATRIOT I.

According to Nancy Talanian of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee:
The USA PATRIOT Act gives the FBI and the CIA greater rights to wiretap phones, monitor e-mail, survey medical, financial and student records, and break into homes and offices without prior notification. It creates a new crime of domestic terrorism that is so broadly defined that it may be applied to citizens acting legally to express their dissent. Under this Act and other legislation, noncitizens are being deported or detained indefinitely without judicial appeal.
--Nancy Talanian in "A Guide to Provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and Federal Executive Orders that threaten civil liberties"

The provisions of the PATRIOT Act directly attack the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Now the Justice Department is presenting PATRIOT Act II (the Domestic Security Enhancement Act/Victory Act) that will even further erode our rights.

The Challenge
Never before have we as Americans faced such a serious challenge to our liberties. The USA PATRIOT Act was passed on October 26, 2001 in direct response to the events of September 11. Nothing less is at stake than the core essence of who we are as a country and as citizens of a country built on the freedoms now so seriously threatened.

No matter what issue you advocate for, no matter what your cause, we face in common a threat to our right to advocate, to organize, and to exercise our Civil Liberties.

The Conference
The CRY JUSTICE! conference will be concurrent with the National Lawyers Guild convention Demand Democracy! with a focus on Civil Liberties. Cry Justice! has negotiated a special rate for workshops and panels for Cry Justice! attendees.

Join us! Together we will define the common threat to our civil liberties, make space for our work in these difficult times, create a movement support network, find new ways to work together, create and share new strategies.

Friday Night: Featured Speaker William Rivers Pitt
and Demand Democracy! Halloween Party
Saturday: Featured Speakers Pramila Jayapal and Amy Goodman and 40 Community Workshops and Panels - for a listing go to www.cryjustice.org <http://www.cryjustice.org>
Saturday Night: All People's Activist Concert
Sunday: Community Gathering/Call to Action!

Featured Speakers
Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, heard locally on KFAI radio. The documentary, The Story of East Timor" produced with Allan Nairn, won numerous awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting award.

Pramila Jayapal is an activist and writer, and founder and director of Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington, a grassroots nonprofit organization created in November 2001 in response to the backlash against immigrant communities of color. For the past ten years, she has been actively involved in international and domestic social justice issues.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times best-selling author from Boston, MA. His book "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" -- a shocking expose of the myths surrounding Iraq's nuclear capabilities, written with former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter -- has won international acclaim. His book "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence: Four Years in America addresses the loss of freedom after 911": How do we save freedom by limiting it? A teacher and political analyst, Pitt's commentaries are published by truthout.org and many other web news outlets, and he is Managing Editor of truthout.org.

REGISTER NOW! Go to www.cryjustice.org <http://www.cryjustice.org> for more information and a registration form.
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Free registration and lunch!

Alliance for Democracy-Minnesota - AlliantAction - Arise! Collective - Code for Corporate Responsibility - Code Pink Minnesota - Communities United Against Police Brutality - Counter Propaganda Coalition - Fifth District Green Party - Friends for a Nonviolent World - Growing Communities for Peace - Human Rights Center-University of Minnesota - Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy - Jewish Community Action - KFAI Radio - Lynnhurst Neighbors for Peace - ME3 Just Energy Program - Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace - Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights - Minneapolis Bill of Rights Defense Committee - Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP) - Minnesota Anarchist Collective - Minnesota Civil Liberties Union - Minnesota Cuba Committee - Minnesota School of the Americas Watch (MnSOAWatch) - Minnesotans for a United Ireland - National Lawyers Guild-Minnesota - Nukewatch - Pax Christi Twin Cities Area - Peace Coffee - Resource Center of the Americas - St. Paul Bill of Rights Defense Committee - Somali Justice Advocacy Center - The Urban Coalition - Twin Cities Peace Campaign - Veterans for Peace, Minnesota Chapter 27 - Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)

Anti-War Committee - Babylon Art and Cultural Center - CircleVision.org - Earth Charter Community Alliance of Minnesota - Friends of Coldwater - Mad Hatter Tea House Conversational Salons - Midwest Institute for Social Transformation (MIST) - Nonviolent Peaceforce - Northland Poster Collective - North Country Coop - Philip Berrigan Depleted Uranium Coalition - Queers United for Radical Action (QURA) - Speak Out Sisters! - Students Against War - Utne Reader - Welfare Rights Coalition-Minnesota - Women of Africa Resources Development Association - Women's Prison Book Project - YO-the Movement

We got the following letter that was sent to the search firm regarding the next police chief. It is so heartfelt, we thought we would pass it along.

To: The Odani Group
From: Ms. P., White Bear Lake, MN
SUBJECT: Minneapolis police chief search

I wish to have input on who gets chosen for the new Minneapolis police chief because the current method of installing such an individual is flawed and results in ongoing police brutality which is not acceptable to human decency and human rights. Minneapolis's police brutality is embarrassing to me as a Minnesotan. It is offensive to me as a Christian that our society allows police to violate people's dignity and physical safety.

As an affluent, European American, church-going, suburban home owning, voting, law-abiding woman, I am afraid of the Minneapolis police. I am afraid that the Minneapolis police may infringe on my rights or otherwise hurt me when I am in Minneapolis and they are nearby. I was harassed by a Minneapolis police officer in 1977 and I am certain it was due to his racist attitude against my Chinese boyfriend who was at my side. The humiliating memory of that incident still makes me cringe. I believe the reports of people of color in Minneapolis who have been unfairly treated by the Minneapolis police. I believe the report of an affluent, European American man who was harassed in the 1960s by a Minneapolis police officer who may have been taking advantage of the fellow because he looked like a student. Minneapolis has a severe problem with police brutality, it has been ongoing for decades, and this must be vigorously addressed, reduced, and eventually extinguished. I can't be proud of my home state until I know that police brutality is being phased out in our major city because decent Minnesotans will not tolerate the ongoing police terrorism any longer.

I respect the advocacy work being done by the grassroots group, Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), and I ask that you rely heavily on its recommendations in selecting a new Minneapolis police chief. If the powers-that-be hire a police chief without the approval of CUAPB, I expect that the outrageous police misconduct will continue and the quality of life in Minneapolis will remain substandard.

And on that note, let us remind you of two upcoming community meetings so that the people can have a say in who the next police chief will be:

Thursday, October 2nd
6:30 p.m.
North Regional Library
1315 Lowry Avenue North

Thursday, October 9
6:30 p.m.
Hosmer Library
347 E 36th Street

Have something to say about who will be the next chief? Have other concerns on your mind? Make your plans now to attend these events.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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