Midwest Social Justice Community Rallies Around Investigated Antiwar Activists
Last Friday's national "terrorism" raids against antiwar activists continue to dominate conversation in the Twin Cities social justice community. On Monday, over 200 people rallied outside the FBI building at Marquette and Washington in downtown Minneapolis (see photos from TC Daily Planet), and Thursday evening will be the formative meeting at Walker Church for a solidarity committee to defend those investigated for alleged "material support of terrorism."
Speakers at Monday's rally said that now 13 people in total have been subpoenaed to the Chicago grand jury, including Women Against Military Madness board co-chair Sarah Martin. Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyers Guild--Minnesota chapter (shown in video at left) emphasized at the rally that "These [material support for terrorism] laws started in 1996 under a Democratic administration. They're being enforced now under a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress."
Expressions of solidarity have poured in from across the left political spectrum: progressives, greens, socialists, anarchists and the unaffiliated. Among them: CCDS Statement Denouncing FBI Raids | Community Solidarity Statement (from Walker Church meeting) | OWO Statement Against September 24 Raids | APSC/Uhuru Solidarity Movement Expresses Support | Anarchist Solidarity Against the Political Police | FBI Raids Antiwar Homes in Midwest (from Revolution Newspaper) | More at StopFBI.net and Fight Back! News See also: Labor Beat: Raid on a Nation (Video) (Article continues below)
Perhaps the most nationally well-known person targetd in the raids was Hatem Abudayyeh, the executive director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network. The Network was founded in Chicago in the late 1960s, and since then Abudayyeh has been the most prominent Palestinian activist in the city, said Joe Iosbaker, another Chicago antiwar organizer raided along with his wife, Stephanie Weiner. Abudayyeh has been a leader not just in the antiwar movement but also in resisting anti-Muslim bigotry.
Nestor of the NLG said Monday that during the raids he was at the National Lawyer's Guild's conference in New Orleans, where the day before, a seminar convened regarding the "material support for terrorism" law, the basis of the current investigation. He said the law has until now been used against "people who in many cases can be comfortably painted as the other," such as Palestinian-Americans. Abudayyeh is a Palestinian-American (and U.S. citizen), but most of the others raided and subpoenaed are white and from a political background previously untargeted under the law.
Nestor noted that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July affirmed the broadening scope of the law, which is being construed in such a way that simply talking with a designated "foreign terrorist organization" ("FTO") can constitute the crime of "material support." He stated, "It just might make [former] President Carter a felon for providing election aid in Lebanon, because you can't go to Lebanon and teach people how to have elections unless you work with Hezbollah" - which is one of the political and resistance organizations termed a "FTO" by the U.S. and listed in search warrants for the September 24 raids.
University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society member Tracy Molm was raided on the 24th and also spoke at Monday's rally. "Today we stand with progressives and people fighting for justice throughout history. We know that FBI and government harassment is standard in this country," she said. "But that will not stop us. This will not stop me from speaking out for the people of Palestine and the people of Colombia. I am proud to stand with everyone here and I hope this will not stop you from standing up for what's right in our own country and abroad."
Molm, Martin and the other subpoenaed activists were asked to appear in Chicago on varying Tuesdays in October, some beginning less than a week from today on October 5. Failure to cooperate with a federal grand jury can potentially lead to prison time on civil contempt charges for the duration of the grand jury (or longer with less common charges of criminal contempt), which can run up to 18 months. In the most recent activist grand jury case in the Twin Cities, Carrie Feldman was jailed for around four months after her second time refusing to speak, before being unexpectedly released. (See also: Grand Jury Resistance Project)
Democracy Now reported that hundreds of people rallied in at least 12 cities on Tuesday after a similar number did so on Monday; major protests included New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
See also: Amy Goodman: FBI Raids and the Criminalization of Dissent
During the 1980s, over 100,000 people and 3,000 organizations were investigated as part of the federal government's effort to crush resistance movements in solidarity with the people of Central America, in particular the people of El Salvador and the FMLN (Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front), which now leads the government in that country. Many of the government's attacks were aimed at the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, or CISPES, and spread from there to numerous other antiwar organizations. CISPES filed a successful lawsuit in 1987 that resulted in a censure of the FBI.
Part of the government's strategy then was to attack leftist Central American immigrants, much as the government has gone after Middle Eastern immigrants in the years since 9/11. Much of its goal was to suppress the truth of the United States' proxy war in El Salvador by preventing people from traveling there. Likewise, targets of last week's FBI raids have said that they see their role in the movement as one of spreading knowledge of the on-the-ground reality about Palestine and Colombia, rather than directly funding movements there; accordingly, the search warrants and subpoenas seek information on travels to those countries.
Currently, the Israeli government is the #1 recipient of U.S. military aid, and the Colombian government is #3.
As an aside to Monday's protest at the Minneapolis FBI building, several protesters noticed a tan car full of plainclothes Ramsey County investigators taking photos of the crowd. A TCIMC videographer confirmed the sighting on tape, and the investigators--the same ones who have been trailing the RNC 8 for nearly four years--then moved away. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher has for years been trying to position his department as the leading "counter-terrorism" local law enforcement agency, including by sending deputies to spy on protesters in other counties and even states at taxpayer expense.
For more context, see this report and video of Fletcher speaking at an open meeting about police "criminal intelligence" databases only the day before last week's raids. Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent turned Minnesota peace activist, writes that the latest assault in the government's war on dissent falls just days after a scathing review of post-9-11 "terror investigations" by the FBI Inspector General, and revelations of improper surveillance in Pennsylvania condemned even by that state's Governor (see also Rowley's update).
Also across the street from Monday's protest, over a dozen Minneapolis police officers including Chief Tim Dolan stood watch alongside a booking van. Dolan later told reporters that there were "no problems." Apparently he and Fletcher disagree.
As the federal government expands the list of resistance organizations it deems terroristic, the resistance isn't backing down, either. Locally, plans are still on for two significant events in October: the local protest at the U of M for the National day of Action to Defend Public Education on October 7 and antiwar protests marking nine years of the war against the people of Afghanistan October 16 in both Minneapolis and Chicago.