NEW YORK CITY: ‘Don’t use our name’ for Patriot Act

Just blocks from the crater where the World Trade Center once stood, the New York City Council voted Feb. 4 to oppose the USA Patriot Act, enacted within weeks of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

“So much is being done in the name of New York, we are saying don’t use our name to infringe on people’s rights,” said Glenn C. Devitt, an organizer with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee who helped to shepherd the resolution through City Council.

“The Patriot Act is really unpatriotic,” said Councilman Bill Perkins after casting his ballot. “It undermines our civil rights and our civil liberties. We will never give up our rights. That’s what makes us Americans.”

New York is the largest of 253 communities – representing about 43 million people – to take action opposing the Act. Mark Corallo, a Justice Department spokesman, scoffed at action by local governments. He claims that most of the actions were taken in states, counties, cities and towns with “left-leaning constituencies” based on wrong information. That may come as news to residents of Kansas City, Mo., Huntington, W.Va., Kalamazoo, Mich., Fremont County, Wyo., Broward County, Fla., or Bozeman, Mont., whose local governments have opposed the Act’s encroachments on the Bill of Rights.

PITTSBURGH, Penn.: ‘Raging Grannies’ take on Wal-Mart

The Raging Grannies, a local group of grandmothers, braved the bitter cold, ice and snow flakes Feb. 7 to demand justice from Wal-Mart.

Outside the mighty corporation’s Water Works store on the Allegheny River, the Raging Grannies sang songs, distributed leaflets and chatted with shoppers about Wal-Mart’s denial of workers’ rights in the U.S. and overseas.

“They (Wal-Mart executives) weren’t happy,” one Granny told local reporters. “But what can they do? Arresting or harassing grandmothers in Allegheny County, the second largest group of seniors in the country, is not good PR.”

DES MOINES, Iowa: The ghost of McCarthy at Drake

If it weren’t for the computers scattered about the courtroom, an observer would have thought the scene a grainy black and white 1950s flashback on the History Channel chronicling the anti-communist witch hunts.

In early February 2004, a federal judge ordered Drake University, a private school of about 5,000 students here, to turn over records about a Nov. 15 meeting of peace activists. According the Associated Press, the subpoena demands “all documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended the meeting.”

In addition to documents regarding the antiwar meeting, the federal judge ordered the university to hand over information about the local National Lawyers Guild chapter that sponsored the meeting.

“This is exactly what people feared would happen,” said Brian Terrell one those subpoenaed and leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry. “The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger.”

At press time, civil liberties activists reported that the government had withdrawn all of the subpoenas, apparently as a result of the public outcry. They urged continuing vigilance.

JACKSON, Miss.: Reopening the Emmett Till lynching case

In August of 1955, the body of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American visiting Money, Miss., from Chicago, came to the surface of the Tallahatchie River. He had been brutally beaten and dumped in the river with the fan from a cotton gin tied around his neck. Rumor had it that Emmett Till had “wolf whistled” Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. An all-white jury acquitted two suspects of the crime, Roy Bryant (Bryant’s husband) and J. W. Milam, on Sept. 23, 1955. Months later they confessed to the murder in a Look magazine article.

The racist murder set off a storm of protest with 400,000 marching in Emmett Till’s Chicago funeral procession. World renowned singing artist Mahalia Jackson performed at the memorial.

For 49 years, no one was ever prosecuted. Documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who screened his film, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” here Feb. 7, is working to bring the murderers of Emmett Till to justice. Working with Alvin Sykes of Kansas City, the two men have been meeting with federal investigators. “The Justice Department is looking at it,” said Beauchamp. “I’m more than confident there’s enough evidence to reopen the case.”

Since 1989, 22 political and racist murders during the Civil Rights Movement have been reinvestigated, leading to 21 killers being convicted.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Julia Lutsky and Scott Marshall contributed to this week’s clips.