Petition to protest Patriot Act making rounds in Chico

A group calling itself the Chico Bill of Rights Defense Committee used an opportune moment at this week’s City Council meeting to say it would ask the council to pass a resolution protesting the Bush administration’s USA Patriot Act.

Greg Burton, secretary of the committee, told the council the act is an affront to the rights and freedoms of American citizens and flies in the face of the Bill of Rights. The act was adopted as part of the Bush war on terrorism.

“Twenty-seven cities and counties have already passed a similar resolution,” Burton told the council during a period in the meeting asking for public comment on the council’s priority-setting efforts.

Burton’s comments came after three speakers had suggested more-provincial priorities, such as a master plan for Upper Bidwell Park and greater emphasis on economic development.

Councilmembers Larry Wahl and Dan Herbert were clearly disturbed by Burton’s presentation, turning to the mayor to protest its relevance to the matter at hand, as Burton laid out his argument for the resolution.

Councilmember Steve Bertagna interrupted Burton, saying, “Greg, we have a priority list here.”

Burton responded that an erosion of freedoms should be a deemed a council priority. “This is not about anything but the Bill of Rights,” he insisted.

Mayor Maureen Kirk agreed, and Burton continued. While the rest of the council listened, Herbert made it clear he was not interested and began to flip through and read his council binder.

Burton pointed out that the act allows greater secret surveillance of telephone and Internet communications and that, “in the defense of terrorism, people simply involved in politics” could become the targets of investigations.

Burton said his group, which has gathered about 500 signatures on its petitions so far, hopes to collect as many as 4,000 to present to the council. The petition is being circulated on the campus of Chico State University and at the Saturday downtown Farmers’ Market.

The petition says the act threatens “Freedom of speech, assembly and privacy; the rights to counsel and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Four public forums discussing the Patriot Act have been scheduled beginning Thursday, Feb. 20, with “What every American Citizen Needs to Know About the Patriot Act,” in Room 314 of the Chico State Bell Memorial Union at 7 p.m. Others will follow on succeeding Thursdays. For more information call 893-9087 or log onto to