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From the Open-Publishing Calendar
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Indybay Feature
View other events for the week of 6/15/2004
Date Tuesday June 15
Time 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Location Details
SF Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue
between Larkin and Polk
Event Type Protest
Organizer/AuthorTrevor Paglen

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognized artists who work in public, educational, academic and art contexts. For the past few years, their principal aim has been to help
the general public to understand biotechnology. By making scientific research accessible to laypeople through participatory performance experiences, CAE aims to demystify what is safe and clarify what is
dangerous about today's biotech industry.

CAE always undertake their work in a safe and considered way. The materials they use are strictly non-hazardous, can be legally obtained by anyone, and are commonly found in undergraduate-level biology labs.

A federal grand jury will convene on June 15 in Buffalo, New York, to consider bioterrorism charges brought by the Joint Terrorism Task Force against CAE member and University at Buffalo professor Steve
Kurtz. The grand jury is the latest installment in a bizarre investigation in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force seem to have mistaken CAE's latest art project for a biological weapons

According to the subpoenas served to at least seven artists, the charges fall under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has been expanded by the USA PATRIOT
Act to prohibit the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system" without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose" Those served with subpoenas include two founding members of CAE (Steven Barnes, Dorian Burr, Beverly Schlee), two artists who have collaborated with CAE (Beatriz da Costa, Paul Vanouse), and at least two other artists.

Many worry that the case could set a dangerous precedent by silencing a group of artists for work that stimulates vital public discussion. Many feel that with this case and others, the government is wildly overreaching its mandate to protect the public from terrorism.

"Groups like CAE stimulate the public debate that is necessary to a healthy democracy," said Claire Pentecost, an artist who has collaborated with CAE in the past. "This isn't a case of one artist
fighting for the freedom to express him or herself with images or speech that some of the public might find offensive. This is a case of a group of artists using performance to educate the public on issues
that affect all of us in our daily lives. The government's actions suggest a criminalization of a citizen's right to acquire knowledge by completely legal means. This goes to the very heart of democracy."

A number of other recent cases suggest that that the PATRIOT Act and other recent "security" measures have made freedom of speech increasingly fragile in the U.S.

ABOUT THE DEMONSTRATION: Please bring signs and banners if you can (see This is a peaceful demonstration.

Added to the calendar on Monday Jun 14th, 2004 11:38 PM
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