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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

The FBI's New 12 Most Wanted: But John Ashcroft swears it's just a coincidence! The members of the Santa Cruz Bill of Rights Defense Committee pictured here can ask Emily Reilly about that. ...


Risky Business

Will challenging the Bush administration get you on a special list? That's the question people have been asking ever since the Patriot Act was rushed into law two years ago, bringing with it the paranoid suspicion that McCarthyism was really just Big Brother Lite by comparison.

But just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you, a point that was brought home to local residents last month when a couple of seemingly suspicious, but possibly random, events went down at Emily's, the bakery owned by Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly.

As Reilly reports, her bakery was first robbed by parties unknown then surprised with a visit from the Food and Drug Administration, all within two weeks of her joining five other members of the City Council in voting to send a letter to the House Judiciary Committee demanding an inquiry into whether Bush committed any impeachable offenses.

"We voted to send the letter Tuesday (Sept. 9), and the following Saturday night my computer and all the backup files were stolen--but not the monitor--and without setting off the motion detector," says Reilly, who happened to be at the bakery six days later, when it got an unannounced visit from an FDA inspector--the first in the 21 years Reilly's been operating the bakery with the zebra logo on Mission Street.

"The guy was really nice. He wanted to know if I used artificial food coloring and whether I send a lot of stuff across state lines, but it was still intimidating and scary," says Reilly, who asked the FDA official if he had any other inspections, since the visit took less than an hour.

"When he said, 'No', I said, 'Well, I guess you could go to the beach," recalls Reilly, noting that the official gave no reason for the inspection. As for her thoughts on the matter, all Reilly is saying is "that it happened, and I don't know why, but quite possibly it was all just one big coincidence."

Asked if any other bakeries in town have been inspected recently, FDA public affairs specialist Mary Ellen Taylor said the agency "doesn't do too many bakeries, but we definitely do inspections in Santa Cruz area every year."

According to Taylor, inspections fall into three categories--random, complaints and assignments-- with the FDA looking for specific things, "such as food allergens in bakeries," when conducting inspections that fall into the "assignments" category.

Asked if the inspection could have been connected to a recently announced requirement that all food products be registered with the FDA to guard against terrorism, Taylor said that provision does not become law until Dec. 12.

Toothless Patriots

Meanwhile, Reilly has been asked to agendize an item that urges the City Council to pass a resolution "with some teeth" in opposition to the Patriot Act, which, critics note, was enacted in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but has already been used to investigate hundreds of nonterrorism-related cases.

John Gibson of the Santa Cruz Bill of Rights Defense Committee says that what the council passed in 2002 was a "seriously watered-down version of its original resolution," compared to the state of Alaska and the cities of Arcata and Palo Alto, which have passed legislation that actually instructs all law enforcement officers statewide not to cooperate with the FBI."

Gibson reports that though the SCBORDC has collected thousands of signatures in support of its request, the group was recently told by councilmembers that such an action would violate the city's charter.

All of which frustrates the hell out of Gibson, who notes that with "Patriot Act Two on its way and terms like 'ecoterrorism,' 'domestic terrorism' and 'narcoterrorism' being used daily in the media, we're facing a flood of legislation that can't be stopped with pillows. A resolution may look like a sandbag, but it's nothing more than a freaking pillow."

Reached by phone, City Manager Dick Wilson told Nüz that Arcata and Palo Alto's ordinances are "mealy-mouthed at best" and that, yes, he is the only one allowed to give direction to city employees.

"It's perfectly appropriate for elected officials to raise questions and express their concerns, but it's up to the courts to declare laws unconstitutional," Wilson opined.

With the SCBORDC maintaining that the Patriot Act requires people such as police chiefs to violate the Constitution, Reilly says she'd be happy to agendize this item--if the SCBORDC can bring her something that doesn't violate the city charter and that is more supportive of the Police Department.

Says Reilly, "That way we can say, 'We think this must be putting you in a bad position, and we support your continuing community policing.'"

Agit Props

* Concerned about the 2004 election? Check out Unprecedented, the groundbreaking documentary about the undermining of democracy in 2000, when Dubya was selected president. Bonus footage exclusive to the DVD includes an interview with Gore Vidal. UCSC Media Theatre, 7pm, Oct. 20. Students free. 831.459.7676.

* Concerned about the déjà vu-ness of the Iraq quagmire? Check out The Friendship Village, a gut-wrenching documentary about Vietnam vets helping victims of Agent Orange-related disabilities. Says local resident and Vietnam vet Carl Stancil, who'll be on hand for a post-screening Q&A, "The troops are in an awful situation. They know the Iraqi people don't want them and that they are sitting ducks. Many now know that they were lied to about the reasons for this war, and they know they might die for a lie. They must be feeling fear and rage, like the Vietnam vets did. It's betrayal at the highest level." To attend an Oct. 15 Friendship Village benefit dinner, call 831.459.7259.

* Concerned about the state of fashion in the 21st century? Get yourself down to Seventh Sense 2003, which is, as the organizers themselves like to say, "where fashion meets identity." What you'll see will blow your mind and hopefully move you to leave the PJs and flip-flops home next time you mosey along Pacific Avenue--which may be the most fashion-challenged downtown in the whole known universe. Louden Nelson Auditorium, 8pm, Oct. 17-18. Call 831.454.9547.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the October 15-22, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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