October 23, 2003


Council urged to resist Patriot Act

At its meeting Monday, Oct. 20, a number of villagers urged the Yellow Springs Village Council to take a stand against the Patriot Act.

The act, which the federal government enacted in response to the 9/11 tragedy, has created controversy due to the expanded powers it gives to law enforcement agencies.

“There’s a lot of frightening prospects,” said Chris Kintner about the act which, he said, “strips away rights we take for granted. We need to come together as a community and snuff it out.”

At issue was a resolution which opposes parts of the Patriot Act, presented to Council by Joan Chappelle of the Human Relations Commission. The resolution, proposed by the commission’s Bill of Rights Defense subcommittee and drafted by subcommittee member Don Wallis, was approved by the committee at a meeting last Saturday. Other members of the Human Relations Commission are Council representative Joan Horn, Sherry Walker, Saul Greenberg, Sterling Wiggins, Aida Merhemic and Faith Patterson.

Although some encouraged Council to take action Monday night, several Council members stated they were not yet ready, since they first read the resolution the night before. Council stated that it will take a position on the resolution at its next meeting, Nov. 3.

The resolution reads, in part, that “Whereas, several acts and orders recently enacted at the federal level, including sections of the USA Patriot Act and several Executive Orders, now threaten these fundamental rights and liberties:

• Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and privacy;

• The rights to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and

• Protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, all guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of Ohio, and the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights;

Therefore, we the Village Council of Yellow Springs, Ohio, acting in the spirit and history of our community, do hereby request that:

1. Local law enforcement continue to preserve all residents’ freedom of speech, religion, assembly and privacy; rights to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures even if requested or authorized to infringe upon these rights by federal law enforcement agencies acting under powers granted by the USA Patriot Act or orders of the Executive Branch . . .”

The resolution also requests that the Yellow Springs Police Department not engage in “detentions without charges or racial profiling” and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Ohio State Police regularly report to the Village “the extent to and manner in which they have acted under the USA Patriot Act of Executive Orders, including disclosing the names of any detainees who are residents of Yellow Springs.”

The Patriot Act indicates a “philosophical shift in the notion of justice” in this country, said Dimi Reber, from assuming innocence until proven guilty to an initial assumption of guilt.

The federal government’s increased surveillance of Muslims in this country concerns Bill Houston, who stated that “When we begin to attack certain religions it’s not a big step” to attacks on other religions as well.

Similar resolutions to the one presented to Council have been passed in 188 communities and three states, including Oxford and Oberlin in Ohio, according to the resolution supporters.

Council members’ responses to the resolution were mixed.

“I want to be clear that the wording makes it clear what the resolution is a statement for,” said Council President Tony Arnett. “These kind of statements can be horribly misinterpreted.”

While Council member George Pitstick agreed that the Patriot Act had “gone too far,” he expressed reservations about the resolution.

“I can understand the reasons for it when we saw 3,000 people killed and have unknown people in this country who came here to kill,” said Pitstick, who expressed his concern that passing the resolution might hamper local police if someone came to the village intent on terrorist activity.

According to Council member Denise Swinger, who stated her support for the resolution, interim Police Chief John Grote has “endorsed it. He’s okay with it.”

Council member Joan Horn also supports the resolution and encouraged her fellow Council members to take a stand.

“I feel very strongly,” she said, “that this is something whose time has come.”

—Diane Chiddister