Dozens gathered on the UF campus to protest his speech to the Florida Blue Key club.
By Associated Press
Published November 8, 2003
GAINESVILLE - The Patriot Act is key to the successful war on terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Friday at the University of Florida.
Ashcroft said the ranks of terrorists "are in retreat, their resources are dwindling. Only their hatred and lust for revenge is on the rise. Our nation's successes speak for themselves."
Ashcroft spoke about leadership, freedom and the merits of the Patriot Act, which expanded government surveillance capabilities to combat terrorism, to an audience of about 550 at the annual banquet of Florida Blue Key, one of the most exclusive clubs in the state.
More than 100 demonstrators gathered on campus to protest his ideals.
"He's taken away our civil liberties with the Patriot Act," said Erika Gubrium, a UF graduate research assistant.
Students and members of local civil liberty groups were among those who carried signs that read "Stop fascism" and "How many innocents have you deported or imprisoned?" as they protested before Ashcroft's speech.
"John Ashcroft's vision of justice means incommunicado detentions, "sneak and peek' searches and prosecution of entire organizations such as Greenpeace," said Rob Brinkman, chairman of the Alachua County Green Party.
Ashcroft defended the act by saying the United States has dismantled terrorist cells, disrupted weapons procurement plots and shut down terrorist-affiliated charities. No U.S. court has cited an abuse of the Patriot Act, he said.
"While there has been much misrepresentation of the Patriot Act, today Americans are engaged in a great debate about the preservation and protection of our liberty," Ashcroft said.