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Odd bedfellows fall in line

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Residents of Kenai, Alaska, usually worry more about the number of king salmon in the river than what the nearest FBI agents are up to 80 miles away in Anchorage.

Yet this summer, the Kenai City Council in this small fishing town voted to limit cooperation between their 15-member police force and federal agents who may be seeking information about individual citizens.

The source of their concern: the USA Patriot Act, which expanded government antiterrorism tools and has become a punching bag for anger about law- enforcement powers post-9/11.

A grass-roots movement has pushed through similar resolutions in 200 communities in 34 states in the two years since Congress passed the act. The cause has been embraced in some surprising corners of the country by an unlikely left-right alliance of peace and pro-gun activists alike.

"In a broad sense, the concerns of the right and left are similar," says Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington. "They fear whoever is holding power will abuse their political opponents."

For 1960s-era activists, the Patriot Act's provisions expanding government surveillance and detention powers bring back memories of times when the FBI spied on civil rights leaders and infiltrated antiwar groups. Younger activists feel impelled to protest even as they have done against foreign causes such as apartheid in South Africa or Burma's military dictatorship.

So it's perhaps not surprising that the first resolutions were passed in the spring of 2002 by peace movement veterans in liberal college towns such as Ann Arbor, Mich., or Northampton, Mass.

"It's a threat to the democratic process," says Nancy Talanian, a Northampton activist who founded the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to help other activists get resolutions passed. "These changes are not necessarily protecting us from terrorism."


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