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Columbia ACLU, Students Greet Ashcroft By Protesting Assaults On Civil Liberties

Hundreds of students and other New Yorkers gathered to rally outside Columbia University’s student center last week, registering their opposition to the policies of John Ashcroft as the former Attorney General prepared to give a speech.
The NYCLU’s Columbia University undergraduate and law student chapters played a major role in organizing the demonstration, which brought together a diverse coalition of student groups calling itself the Ashcroft Welcoming Committee. The Committee brought out over 300 students and community members, who took advantage of Ashcroft’s presence on campus to demonstrate against the Bush administration’s policies of torture and detention, its attacks on immigrants and the right to dissent, and its campaign to destroy women’s right to choose. Protestors waved signs bearing slogans from “Don’t touch my reproductive rights!” to “Is my phone tapped yet?”

NYCLU Student Chapter Coordinator Ari Rosmarin served as MC.

“Welcome to New York City, Ashcroft!” shouted Ari Rosmarin, NYCLU Student Chapter Coordinator, who was one of the demonstration’s main organizers and MC’s, to the lively crowd outside. “Free speech is here to stay!”

Though the speech was supposedly open to the public, a number of students complained that RSVP’s of those students who opposed Ashcroft were selectively ignored or rejected. Nonetheless, Rosmarin and a number of other protestors were admitted to the hall. Inside, ACLU student representatives posed a question to Ashcroft that challenged the administration’s post-9/11 detention of thousands of immigrants for months on minor immigration violations without access to counsel, hearings, or contact with their families. Ashcroft claimed that “there simply weren’t abuses” in the USA PATRIOT Act and noted that he “seek[s] the wisdom of God every day.”

The rally was energized by speeches from the NYCLU’s Donna Lieberman, Bobby Khan of the Coney Island Avenue Project, noted drug policy activist Anthony Papa, and Lee Wengraf of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

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