Bill of Rights Defense Campaign Still Going Strong

by Chrissie Rizzo

Chrissie Rizzo is the Area Director of the local American Friends Service Committee office. She has also served as a co-chairperson of the education and outreach committee of the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign.

After months of drafting proposals and meeting with lawmakers, a resolution opposing the USA PATRIOT act passed the Syracuse Common Council in September. This was a welcome victory for the members of the Bill of Rights Defense Campaign Coalition. But there is much more to do. The coalition is part of a nationwide effort to get Congress to undo the damage done by the Bush Administration’s assault on civil rights. Encouraging our local elected officials to take a stand against the USA PATRIOT act is just one step in the process.

Another legislative step is to visit with Congressional representatives and senators to discuss our opposition to the USA PATRIOT act and other measures the Justice Department has taken. Coalition members have begun talking with local staff members for our elected federal representatives.

Educating the public about the erosion of our rights is another important element of the coalition’s work. Barrie Gewanter, Executive Director of the Central New York chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and other coalition members have spoken about the effects of the USA PATRIOT act at dozens of events. The word is getting out through public events, appearances on local TV programs, presentations to professional organizations, speaking engagements at colleges and universities, and panel presentations at churches, libraries, and schools around Central New York. Further, we are working on training more coalition members to be competent speakers on this complex topic.

Another way we are getting the word out is through posters and buttons that are designed to get people to stop, think, and want more information. The posters will soon be distributed to bulletin boards near you. One version, the “GOTCHA” poster with Uncle Sam, was included in the last issue of the Peace Newsletter. We are also designing posters and brochures for specific audiences, for example, library patrons and patients in doctors’ offices. (Contact Carol Baum at the Peace Council if you’d like some posters to display.)

Would you like to be involved in this effort? We’d love to have your energy and talents make our work even more successful. Please contact Barrie Gewanter at NYCLU, 315-471-2821 or Chrissie Rizzo at American Friends Service Committee, 315-475-4822 to get involved.