Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
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It appears that Fairmount neighbors have been successful in their attempts to stop McDonald’s.
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It All Comes Out in the Wash
-Mary F. Patel

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May 29-June 4, 2003

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Gale Warning

Angel's Last Stand

Down but apparently not out, City Councilman Angel Ortiz has decided to get up and go out swinging. While still not officially conceding the City Council race that he apparently lost last week -- "It’s not quite over yet as far as we’re concerned," he says -- Ortiz reached the conclusion that if he must go, he’ll go out on his own terms.

That means, for the next seven months, Ortiz will push and prod and scream from the rafters in favor of his pet projects. Without the constraints of worrying about re-election or the political consequences of public battles, Ortiz now feels free to say and do what he wants. That's the idea and the spirit behind today's expected re-introduction of the resolution he first touted last fall denouncing the USA Patriot Act. Getting some help from local peace activists, Ortiz's resolution would make Philadelphia a Patriot Act-free zone, effectively ignoring the federal law and thumbing the city's nose at Washington.

The USA Patriot Act, hastily passed by Congress a few weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, greatly expands the governments power to monitor, follow and track anyone suspected of having terrorist ties. It gives intelligence agencies more leeway to tap phone lines while allowing the government to detain suspects indefinitely without benefit of counsel or giving them the right to a trial, speedy or otherwise.

Ostensibly, the Act would allow for faster and more accurate tracking of Americans or foreign nationals suspected of terrorism. All this comes without the troublesome bothers of individual rights, the U.S. Constitution, liberty and justice for all or any of the other knee-jerk, liberal impediments to law and order. Naturally, civil rights groups and peace activists have been screaming at the top of their lungs about the dangers of the Act, mostly to deaf ears. This morning, however, they'll join Angel Ortiz in screaming at Council.

"We're going to fill City Council chambers Thursday morning with supporters," says Ben Waxman, coordinator for the group Unite for Peace. "More than 20 community groups have signed on in support of Ortiz's resolution and we're looking for a couple of hundred people to show up."

Contacted at his home on Tuesday afternoon, Waxman says the Patriot Act is the enemy and that forces of freedom have lost an effective mouthpiece with Ortiz's defeat. (For more on Waxman, see the cover story on p. 17.)

"The USA Patriot Act is a weapon of mass destruction, in our opinion," says Waxman. "It is a piece of legislation that specifically seeks to demonize United States citizens of Arab and Asian descent while simultaneously silencing any voices of dissent. There is nothing patriotic about the Patriot Act."

And about Ortiz, standard-bearer and apostle for the cause, Waxman says he and other supporters will be losing a valuable ally in city government.

"The day after the election, I said to some people that they went after Ortiz because he's unafraid to speak up for the average citizen and I still believe that," Waxman speculates. "There may be a lot less City Hall access for the progressive community now that he's been defeated. His is a voice that we must replace."

Well, as Angel Ortiz reminded me Tuesday afternoon, he's not dead yet and he's going to dedicate the time he has left to say the things that need saying, no matter whose toes get stepped on.

"It's a strange democracy," Ortiz laughs. "It's the money that controls the system, not the people. For instance, most of you people in the media have bought George Bush's lies hook, line and sinker. No one has mentioned the word oil in this Iraq war and yet the whole thing is about oil. U.S. tankers will be pulling in and out of Basra like a Shell station, and still no one is calling Bush a liar when it comes to this war. The Republican administration may not be responsible for 9/11, but they've taken full political advantage of it."

Ortiz says the USA Patriot Act actually creates the very form of oppressive government that we claim to be fighting in Iraq -- a vicious propaganda machine that squashes all protest and jails the voices of reason. Worse, he says, members of his own party have stood silently and watched it happen. That ends Thursday morning, he says, when he and several hundred of his closest friends force City Council to vote on his resolution.

"We don't have politicians with backbone anymore," Ortiz says. "In order to be all things to all people, the Democrats have become Republicans lite. You can't be critical of the Bush administration, so your best bet is to just shut up. Well, I'm not shutting up. They'll have to put me in jail to shut me up."

Angel, old buddy, be careful what you wish for.

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