With fists and middle fingers upraised, a booing, hissing, chanting crowd of about 1,200 people awaited United States Attorney General John Ashcroft when he arrived at Faneuil Hall yesterday morning, decrying what some protesters called Ashcroft’s support of government policies undermining civil rights.
Ashcroft was bombarded by cries of ‘Shame!’ and the sound of the ‘Imperial Death March’ from the movie ‘Star Wars’ as he entered a meeting with law enforcement officials in Faneuil Hall. The meeting, which was closed to the general public, was billed as a briefing on the particulars of the USA PATRIOT Act, a federal anti-terrorism initiative, according to The Boston Globe.
The act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, allows government officials to, among other things, step up surveillance and increase information sharing between government agencies.
Many of Tuesday’s protesters called the act an assault on American freedoms.
Andrea Dourenus, a Brightonresident who stood outside Faneuil Hall, said she believed the government’s current practices threaten civil liberties.
‘It’s an insidious distortion and manipulation of the war on terrorism to attack basic civil rights,’ she said.
Vernon Supreme, another protester, sported a rainbow-colored clown wig, foam nose and rubber butt and shouted taunts as he marched around the building.
‘John Ashcroft, come out with your pants down we’ve got the place surrounded,’ he said through his bullhorn, prompting laughter from several onlookers.
Supreme, a Cape Ann resident who changed his name in 1997, described himself as ‘the most dangerous clown in America’ who attended yesterday’s rally to ‘protest this fascist scumbag.’
‘I think he’s another cog in a very dangerous machine we’ve got going on,’ Supreme said.
David Kittlestrom, another protester who said he had had also protested against the war in Iraq, said he opposed the closed-door nature of Ashcroft’s Boston visit.
‘I objected to the way this was held in secret,’ he said.
Yesterday’s rally also featured speeches, including one by City Councilor Chuck Turner (D-Roxbury), who, to cheers from the crowd, outlined a measure objecting to the USA PATRIOT Act that he and co-sponsors Felix Arroyo (D-At Large) and Charles Yancey (D-Dorchester) plan to introduce at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
‘Therefore be it resolved by the City Council of Boston that…any efforts to end terrorism not be waged at the expense of the fundamental rights of the people of Boston…’ he said, reading an excerpt from the proposed resolution.
A similar measure went before the City Council last year and failed, but he expressed hope yesterday that such a provision would pass this year.
The rally also featured a speech from a Massachusetts Library Association member who criticized the USA PATRIOT Act for allowing government monitoring of the materials patrons check out from libraries.
Though the crowd swarmed around the metal fences which had been set up around three sides of the building and protesters often joined together in angry jeers, Boston Police reported no arrests. Officers were involved, however, in a brief scuffle with protesters who were attempting to block the placement of new barricades as Ashcroft was preparing to exit.