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PSU hosts peace teach-in

Portland State University was recently the site of a teach-in about the events of Sept. 11, and its potential ramifications.

The two day event, co-sponsored by Portland Peaceful Response and the Pacific Green Party, provided workshops, panels and discussions aimed at educating the public on topics from civil liberties to Afghanistan. Turnout for the weekend event, held Oct. 13 and 14, was estimated at several hundred.

While the Green Party convention was in full swing, the teach-in was primarily focused on the local peace movement. Workshops were conducted by groups such as CBLOC (Cross Borders Labor Organizing Committee), Jobs with Justice, War Resistors League, Ecumenical Ministries and others, whose purpose was to provide information to the public.

“The information we’re getting on this situation is limited – and that’s not right,” said Barbara Payne, volunteer coordinator for Portland Peaceful Response and a co-chair of the tri-county chapter of the Green Party. Barbara echoes the sentiments of local and national peace movement people who say there is a need to make sure all their members are on the same page. Teach-ins are a good way to ensure that.

Perhaps the most attended workshop of the weekend was on civil liberties, and was conducted by local attorney Alan Graf. Graf is co-chair for the policy board for the Portland chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a national organization for legal change and protection of civil liberties and human rights.

Graf spent most of his workshop speaking from an article he wrote titled “How the Congress and the President are Destroying the U.S. Constitution: Your Liberties Under Siege.” This article focuses primarily on Senate Bill 1510, Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act of 2001, which passed the Senate 99 to 1, and HR 2975, the Provide Appropriate Tools Require to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act of 2001.

“I can’t believe this,” Graf said, in response to the two bills. “I kept saying that as I was reading these bills.” He went on to contend these two bills both suspend many civil rights Americans take for granted and give law enforcement too much freedom in pursuit of potential terrorists.

He was referring to the Fourth Amendment in particular, which protects Americans from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“I wouldn’t feel confident that the Supreme Court is going to defend the Constitution,” said Graf. “It’s ‘1984’ over and over right now. The times seem very Orwellian to me.”

In addition to workshops, other groups were in attendance passing out literature or lobbying for their causes. KBOO-FM, Independent Media, Health Care for All and Police Accountability Campaign 2002 were some of the many.