In Detroit protesters demand: 'FBI off our backs, enough attacks'
Detroit, MI – As part of nationwide protest actions September 27 and 28, in Detroit today a broad array of activists and community members denounced the FBI raids and harassment against members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Students for a Democratic Society at a protest rally at the McNamara Federal Building.
Hoisting placards such as “Stop FBI Raids,” “Freedom to Dissent,” and “FBI Terror Must Stop,” dozens of protesters came out in solidarity with those attacked and invaded by the FBI.
“The FBI they got it wrong. They thought they'd scare us off. They thought we wouldn't want to fight the system when we saw what they were doing to the Freedom Road, SDS and others. They thought maybe they could pick us apart, pull us away and have us all say, 'well they're just troublemakers we're not going to defend them.' Well, every progressive group in this country is coming out against the FBI, against its terror, against the agents that raided homes in Chicago and even stole kids' toys,” said Martha Grevatt, a UAW member and organizer with the Bail Out The People Movement, at the Detroit protest.
In the early morning hours of September 24 fully armed FBI swat teams invaded the homes of FRSO, SDS, the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee and other progressive activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan stealing boxes of personal and organizational effects and seizing computers, cell phones and other items. FBI agents also “visited” activists' homes or called activists in California, Milwaukee, Michigan and North Carolina in an attempt to intimidate them. No activists have been arrested yet but at least 11 thus far have been served with subpoenas notifying them to appear before grand juries in October.
The government is accusing the invaded organizations of “material support for terrorism” but representatives of SDS and FRSO categorically deny this and say the FBI is engaging in another witch hunt and fishing expedition in an effort to fracture and divide the international progressive movement.
Demonstrations, press conferences and other protest actions are erupting across the United States from coast to coast since the raids and over 30 were held on September 28 and 29 alone. Activists are also using many communication mediums including videos, blogs, and email appeals to help defend those attacked by the FBI.
The demands of protesters are: Stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists; Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.; and End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.
“The FBI is doing this to intimidate us but it's backfiring because people all over the country are coming together to say 'no to this witch hunt, no we're not going back to McCarthyism.' We know COINTELPRO is still alive and we fought it for decades and we're going to fight it now. We're going to stand up to the FBI's oppression and we're 'gonna push them back,” said Grevatt.
‘FBI off our backs: Enough attacks!’
At the Detroit protest as the crowd chanted, “FBI off our backs: Enough attacks,” “Solidarity is not a crime: From Colombia to Palestine,” and other slogans, Mr. Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), spoke to this reporter.
“I’m here to defend the 1st amendent and for the freedom of speech and of association. The recent raids that took place on peace activists are basically amounting to a witch hunt to chill the 1st amendment rights of Americans,” said Walid who is well-known internationally for defending Arabs, Muslims and others under attack from the U.S. government and is a leader of those seeking justice for Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah who was murdered by the FBI in Dearborn, Michigan on October 28, 2009.
Said Walid, “Now, ironically, one week ago the Department of Justice Inspector General released a report saying the FBI had been improperly targeting and surveilling peace activists. And we see that the FBI are attempting to intimidate and chill the activities of peace activists that are against the mainstream status quo in terms of the U.S.’ policy, in terms of Palestine and Colombia. The diminishing of the constitutional rights of one group of people places a danger on the rights of all Americans. That’s why I’m out here today.”
At the Detroit action, representatives from a broad array of progressive organizations in Metro Detroit participated including Solidarity, the Green Party, the United Auto Workers (UAW), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Lawyer's Guild, the Auto Worker’s Caravan, Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Bail Out the People Movement, UAW’s Pride at Work, Peace Action Michigan, Detroit People's Task Force, Workers World Party, Labor Notes, International Action Center and Labor Exchange.
Numerous members of the protest sponsor, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI), also spoke out at the Detroit protest.
“We have a right here in the United States to stand up and say we oppose what our government is doing all over the world. They rob hundreds of billions of dollars every year from us for the death machine, for the war machine. And all they don’t use for death and destruction they turn over to the bankers and multinational corporations to oppress us, to exploit us and we have a right to speak out against these unjust policies just like our sisters and brothers who were raided by the FBI. They have a right to speak out against what the federal government is doing and we must support and be in solidarity with them, “ said Abayomi Azikiwe of MECAWI.
International solidarity makes us strong!
At the Detroit protest rally, persons of many nationalities participated and protest organizers received various communications from those who couldn’t attend. The messages express solidarity for those attacked by the FBI.
Amolak Singh, General Secretary, of LOK MORCHA (Peoples' Front) Punjab (INDIA), sent a solidarity statement to MECAWI on September 26 after receiving an email from this organization about the September 28 protest rally.
“LOK MORCHA, a democratic revolutionary organization of the struggling people of Punjab, wedded to anti-imperialism & anti-feudalism, strongly condemns the FBI raids on Anti-war and solidarity activists in the U.S. The U.S.-rulers, aided and abetted by corporate giants and at their behest are waging unjust and aggressive wars against the people of various countries in the world, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Latin-American countries, to plunder their natural resources and wealth,” wrote Singh.
Added Singh, “In the garb of war-on-terrorism, the U.S. -rulers have in fact launched a war against their own people as well as the people of the world. They are crushing the democratic rights of the American people. It deserves strongest condemnation. Although being thousands of kilometers away from you, we cannot physically join you in this dark hour, but we will espouse your cause amongst the people of India and expose the perfidy of U.S. rulers.”
And the San Francisco Labor Council on September 27 unanimously passed the resolution, “Condemn FBI Raids on Trade Union, Anti-War and Solidarity Activists.”
Protests are ongoing to fight this most serious attack on the entire international progressive movement by the U.S. government, capitalist corporations and the banks.
For more information, updates, information on protests and more: www.antiwarcommittee.org, www.fightbacknews.org, www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org, www.iacenter.org.
Bryan G. Pfeifer is a member of MECAWI, www.mecawi.org.
Article may be reproduced in whole or in part provided full attribution is given to author.