Leslie Kuykendall, an Oroville school teacher, is the spokeswoman for the Oroville Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a sister group to a Chico committee that unsuccessfully lobbied the Chico City Council to pass an anti-PATRIOT Act resolution earlier this summer. In that instance, the council received a 2,000-signature petition, listened to several speakers and debated the matter for about 35 minutes before unceremoniously dropping the issue. The discussion ended with Councilman Dan Herbert declaring that he was tired of discussing civil-rights issues at the council because they are “as old as dirt,” and besides, he added, “I’m hungry.”
But that may be more than the Oroville committee will get. According to Kuykendall, the Oroville City Council will not even put the issue on its agenda. Though the committee had understood that it would be presenting its resolution to the council on Sept. 16, a clerical error unexpectedly moved the date forward. The committee was never informed, and when no one was on hand to speak to the issue, the council gave the resolution draft the heave-ho.
“I don’t know that it was deliberate or not, but the end result is the same,” Kuykendall said. “No community leaders want to stick their neck out over this thing.”
Defense committee groups have sprung up across the country to protest what many see as overreaching legislation signed by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The act was presented by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a preventative measure against future terrorist acts. But many citizens’ groups, including those that have pushed through anti-PATRIOT Act resolutions in as many as 150 local governments, say sections of the PATRIOT Act trample basic civil liberties, giving the federal government police powers beyond those allowed in the Constitution.
Kuykendall pointed to provisions in the act that allow federal agents to search property with open-ended warrants issued by secret courts, as well as keep track of people’s purchases and reading habits without their knowledge.
“It really isn’t just a liberal issue,” she said. “If the public doesn’t speak up against [this act], then why shouldn’t the administration pass more legislation that’s even more draconian?”
Kuykendall’s committee may not be able to get on the official agenda, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be able to speak to the council. The group hopes to rally as many people as it can to speak at the public comment period during the Sept. 16 meeting.
“We’ll probably just be talking to ourselves, but anyway we’ve got to try,” Kuykendall said.
The Oroville group also hopes to form an alliance with the Chico Bill of Rights Defense Committee in hopes of bringing the issue before the Butte County Board of Supervisors this fall. The groups will meet to discuss the issue on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Chico Peace and Justice Center.