compiled by Ginger Weigand

Drake U, Lawyers Guild Trump Feds
The outcry over the US Attorney’s heavy-handed tactics against peace activists in Des Moines has had a positive effect.

On February 10, just a week after serving subpoenas to four nonviolent peace activists and Drake University, US Attorney Stephen Patrick O’Meara withdrew the subpoenas, and a federal judge lifted his gag order on Drake. The subpoena had asked Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa to produce all records relating to a November 15, 2003 antiwar conference at Drake — “Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!” Sponsored by the Drake Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, it was followed the next day by a demonstration at the Iowa National Guard Headquarters in Johnston.

The subpoena specifically asked for information about conference leaders, the location of Guild offices, membership rolls and annual reports since 2002.


NYC Passes Anti-Patriot Act Resolution
On February 4, 2004, the New York City Council finally passed a resolution opposing the Patriot Act!

Heeding a sustained grassroots outcry, an overwhelming majority of NYC Council Members voted in favor of Resolution 60, which calls upon government officials to uphold civil rights and civil liberties when prosecuting the “war on terrorism.” Thus, NYC became the 250th legislative body in the country to pass a Bill of Rights resolution. More than 43 million people are now represented by these “civil liberties safe zones.” Syracuse passed its own strongly worded resolution in September 2003.

The NYC Council deliberations happened only a few blocks from Ground Zero. This vote was particularly significant, since the federal government continues to highjack the memory of those who perished on 9/11 to push draconian “antiterrorism” policies and laws.

Other Bill of Rights Defense Campaign coalitions are continuing their work and taking resolutions into discussions with state and federal legislatures.


ACLU and Drug Policy Groups to Sue Over Government Censorship

The nation’s major drug policy reform groups will soon announce a lawsuit against the US government and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for censoring the speech of those critical of the government’s “War on Drugs.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare unconstitutional a new law that cuts off federal funding to any local transit authority that permits the display of advertisements “promoting the legalization or medical use” of marijuana or other Schedule I drugs. The law, sponsored by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), took effect on February 2.

Threatened with the prospect of losing millions of federal dollars, the Washington Metro system last week rejected a paid ad sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, Change the Climate, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Marijuana Policy Project. The lawsuit asserts that the Washington Metro’s censorship of this political speech, coerced by the Istook law, is a clear violation of the First Amendment.


Israeli Women Put Soldiers In Check

A Palestinian taxi driver, his keys confiscated by Israeli soldiers at an army checkpoint, looked with weary eyes for help from an Israeli woman observing the scene. Neta Efroni, a retired television director, belongs to “Machsom (Checkpoint) Watch,” a group of Israeli women who monitor soldiers at checkpoints and try to persuade them to let Palestinians pass. Israel has kept Palestinians under tight travel restrictions during the three-year-old uprising in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. It says checkpoints are necessary to prevent attacks on Jewish settlements and Israeli cities. Palestinians say the restrictions are a form of collective punishment on civilians not involved in militant activities.

The Israeli women of Machsom Watch, many in their 60s, converse freely and comfortably with soldiers. “It’s a peculiar relationship between the soldiers and us, being Israeli women who can be friends of their mothers or their grandmothers. They can’t just push us away,” said Yehudit Elkana, who served in Israel’s army in 1952.

Machsom Watch says its numbers are increasing, a reflection of growing Israeli public criticism over tough anti-Palestinian military measures. “The roadblocks spawn so much hate...[Palestinian life] is impossible, with the daily humiliation and arbitrariness faced at checkpoints,” said Rachel Freudenthal, a college history lecturer and Machsom Watch volunteer. Machsom Watch began in Jerusalem with a few volunteers after the outset of the Palestinian uprising in 2000. Two months ago, the group expanded to Tel Aviv with some 70 more women volunteering to monitor checkpoints in the central and northern West Bank.