Civil liberties under attack

Political club highlights de facto segregation


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Political science professor Vanna Gonzales introduces the “Unconstitutional” documentary during the Community Organizing and Political Action Club (COPA) film forum in the Library on Thursday.

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

American civil liberties and the length the government goes to infringe upon them was the topic of discussion as the Community Organizing Political Action Club (COPA) held its inaugural event on Thursday in the Library and Resource Center.

The Constitution Day event, a screening of the 2004 documentary “Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties,” left many in attendance wondering if the government citizens have been taught to trust actually represents the public interest.

Sociology major and attendee Macina Taylor got the message the film was intended to send.

“The government has a history of setting the law aside when they become afraid,” Taylor said. “So no, I’m not surprised that immediately after Sept. 11 the government began illegally detaining and harassing people.”

In the documentary, the antagonist is the Patriot Act. It exposes the law to viewers in hopes of highlighting failings connected to its implementation.

Contra Costa College has a history of supporting protest movements. In 1968, the Library and Learning Resource Center was used as a set location for the film “Zabriskie Point,” a movie about a student uprising.

Political Science professor Vanna Gonzales carried on the theme of maintaining an inquisitive sense of skepticism in the face of persistent governmental overreach, even with the expiration of the Patriot Act earlier this year.

Twenty-four hours later, the Freedom Act was passed. It is a law that was created to restore provisions from the Patriot Act.

“Sometimes it takes an egregious event to focus hearts and minds but that doesn’t mean everyday work doesn’t matter,” Gonzales said.

Politicians, lawmakers and lawyers tried and failed throughout the film to justify the treatment of U.S. citizens and non-citizens at home or abroad.

In the film there are countless examples of violations like those committed at the Abu-Ghraib Military Detention facility in Iraq, or crimes that took place at Guantanamo Bay.

As for COPA, the executive board felt its first event was a success.

“I think it was a good presentation on infringement of our (civil) liberties and a good first event in the name of protecting us,” COPA President and economics major Wali Khan said.

Of the nearly 50 students who packed the far corner of the room, many seemed to relate to the film and found the testimonials given by those who were interviewed to be far beyond reasonable.

Gasps could be heard throughout the presentation.

Even in the face of a legacy of abuse of power and disregard for the rights provided through citizenship, students and activists cannot get complacent.

“The struggle always continues,” Gonzales said.