Peace activists say FBI raids are a threat to dissent
Watch the protest online at http://www.youtube.com/user/aanews
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (September 24, 2010) – Members of several area peace and justice groups gathered Friday in front of the ING Building in downtown Minneapolis, in support of five local antiwar activists that had their homes raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI reportedly searched homes of activists in several states for suspicion they are providing “material support” to groups either directly or indirectly involved with terrorism. The raids of five local people and a dozen people altogether in several states prompted similar protests over the weekend. Speakers including some of the subpoenaed activists that are ordered to appear before a Chicago grand Jury on October 12.
The home of at least one Asian American employee of the University of Minnesota employee, was also reportedly raided but was not a speaker at the event. It is not known which groups Anh is involved with other than being a member of the same union as some of the other speakers.
Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyers Guild, an organization that has worked to defend the right to dissent since 1936, said that material support laws being applied with the Friday raids were created in 1996, during a democratic administration, and now enforced under a democratic administration and congress.
“This is about a series of laws that gives increasing power that is not subject to review to the president and the national security establishment,” said Nestor.
Material support laws typically target people identified as extremist in their views. Nestor said the Friday raids reveal a new and frightening extension of the law to target people connected with political and social movements and tie these groups to terrorism. He said these agencies are interpreting coordinated discussion as material support and justifying an itemized fact-based intensive inquiry as enough evidence to subpoena and raid homes.
Once arrested individuals will be asked who they know, who they talk to; and what they think. He said if the choose to remain quiet they may sit in jail until the grand jury term ends months later.
Nestor said that recent Supreme Court rulings in July upheld the laws and that they can now be applied in such a way as to make the 1980s protests against Apartheid in South Africa a felony. He said that former President Jimmy Carter’s work to provide election education in Lebanon could make him a felon because it would be impossible to do the work without talking to people that may be connected with Hezbollah.
The antiwar activists have common links and many of them have traveled to Colombia or Palestine for international solidarity work. The activists were involved with the protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. They are involved in efforts to stop the DNC from coming to Minneapolis in 2012.
Anyone can now be a target if their connection is deemed to an anti poverty, anti war, solidarity, social justice, racism, gay and lesbian, women’s equality, peace and freedom, Nestor said.
“Let’s be objective about what happened on Friday, whether you support it or not,” he added. “The internal security forces of the United States, increasingly integrated on a local, state and national level, carried out a raid using law enforcement and internal security agents from the local and national security agencies, against dissidents who opposed government policy.”
Marie Brown, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, said the antiwar activists are people of conscience who stand with the poor and oppressed and are committed to speaking out against injustice.
“What we are witnessing now is a war on dissent and free speech,” said Brown. “These raids are a witch hunt by the FBI to silence activists like them.”
Jess Sundin, a member of the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, said her home and the offices were raided by the FBI early Friday morning. She said there was no evidence to support the accusations and that her books and music were taken along with other personal effects as her first grade daughter watched.
“I have never and there will be no evidence otherwise to fund to materially aid those in other countries,” said Sundin.
Sundin said the raids go in the face of the freedom of speech and the constitutional right to our own ideas that she learned while growing up in Spokane, Washington. A self-described clerical worker who had only recently gained stable employment, Sundin said the experience reinforced her belief in freedom of speech and that she will go through this experience mindful to set the example for her daughter about the importance of standing up for what you believe in.
Sundin said the activists will continue to learn and teach the truth and it with others through stories.
“It is important to build organizations that have a common voice,” she said. “These small organizations are run by volunteers that organize protests, and by meeting they are guilty of spreading the truth, speaking out and teaching and learning about US foreign policy.”
Sara Martin, WAMM board co-chair and member of the Anti-War Committee was also served with a subpoena. She asked when it became a crime to be an antiwar activist? She asked when it became illegal to be in solidarity with peoples in countries working to oppose and resist US imperialism, occupation and war, or to speak out against the support of governments that oppress its own people?
“Since never,” said Martin.
“The last time I looked it was the responsibility and indeed the right of every citizen to hold our government to account,” she added.
Tracy Molm, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, was another speaker who was subject to an FBI raid. She said to stop speaking out means that we condone our tax dollars continuing to support oppressive regimes around the world.
“We can’t stop now, we need to re-double our efforts,” said Molm. “We know they do this when we’re effective and we need to continue to be effective and stand up.
The Press Conference was organized by the Anti-War Committee, and supporting organizations Woman Against Military Madness, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Welfare Rights Committee.