ST PETE CITY COUNCIL VOTES AGAINST PATRIOT ACT - Mitch Perry & Grace Santos

05/21/04

Last night the City of St. Petersburg joined over 300 Cities and Counties - including Sarasota and Tampa -in denouncing portions of the USA Patriot Act.

The vote comes on the same day that FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Congressional Hearing how important it is for law enforcement to renew the act when it expires at the end of next year......

But the fight for renewal of the Act, is expected to be an uphill battle due to growing concern on Capitol Hill, and a lack of answers about how it has been applied.

Yesterday California Senator Diane Feinstein -who has strongly supported the law - said she has reservations about reauthorizing the Patriot Act. Feinstein said that that Congress has had problems in getting the Justice Department to provide detailed information about how the powers it grants have been applied by Federal Law enforcement.

Yesterday afternoon at St. Pete's City Hall, a group of about 15 people, many wearing peace symbols and antiwar buttons, gathered to watch the debate. Among them was Diane Kamleiter, from the Gulf Coast Chapter of the group Women in Black...She along with members of the Pinellas County Chapter of the Green Party, were instrumental in prodding the Council to take action...She said today she was a bit surprised at the 4-2 vote (roll tape#1 o.q."in their own positions")

The discussion regarding the Patriot Act began last night with Councilman Richard Kriseman (roll tape#2 o.q."while our liberties are preserved")

Councilman Bill Foster, echoing criticism after Tampa's City Council passed an Anti-Patriot Act last month, said it wasn't the place of the St. Petersburg City Council to act on Federal Legislation (roll tape#3 o.q."as a courtesy, thank you")

Councilwman Rene Flowers said it was important to let Washington know that St. Petersburg's City Leaders (roll tape#4 o.q."on a federal level")

The only other "Nay"vote amongst the Councilmembers came from John Bryan...his argument: That in this time of war against Terrorism, the country should perhaps give up some freedoms ...to get freedoms..(roll tape#5 o.q."I cannot support this either")

Patriot Act critic Diane Camleiter was taken aback by Bryan's comment (roll tape#6 o.q."on the people anymore").....The final vote was 4 members supporting the resolution denouncing the act, 2 against, and Council member Ernest Williams not present....

The Council interestingly enough, did not debate the issue until some 4 ½ hours after the Meeting began yesterday afternoon......At that time, there were very few members of the public , on either side of the issue, at the meeting......

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