CHICAGO – In his speech to the March 1 Rally to Reclaim Our Rights, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, blasted President Bush’s drive to war with Iraq and warned of plans by Attorney General John Ashcroft to further weaken the Bill of Rights and other constitutional guarantees.

Conyers said Ashcroft has given instructions to United States Attorneys around the country to step up the number of cases in which they ask juries to impose the death penalty. He added that Ashcroft had ordered them to count the mosques in areas under their jurisdiction, with the clear implication that the number of terrorism investigations undertaken by each U.S. Attorney should be proportional to the number of mosques.

Conyers warned of the threat to civil liberties posed by the USA PATRIOT Act and the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act, often called “Patriot Act II.” Among those dangers, he said, is a provision that would allow the government to strip away the citizenship of people born in the United States. Conyers also warned of that section that allows the attorney general to deport legal non-citizens without judicial oversight or explanation.

Conyers also discussed his lawsuit against President Bush for violating the Constitution’s clear language giving Congress the sole authority to declare war.

The March 1 event was hosted by the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights (CCDBR), an organization founded in the 1950s as part of a national network dedicated to opposing the constitutional infringements of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Luster Jackson, CCDBR president, chaired the event. Jim Fennerty, chairman of the Chicago Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, served as master of ceremonies during the fast-moving program

Speakers representing labor and immigrant organizations spoke of a new level of harassment of immigrant workers and increased attacks on the rights of workers and their unions.

Greetings and messages of support came from Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), State Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago) and Alderman Dorothy Tillman and several religious and community leaders.

The Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights is working with local labor, community and religious organizations to repeal Patriot Act I and the Homeland Security Act and to prevent Patriot Act II from becoming law.