Resistance is key: The 2010 FBI raids on anti-war and international solidarity activists
Nine years ago, on September 24, 2010, the FBI raided and subpoenaed Midwest anti-war and international solidarity activists in a bogus attempt to discover “material support of terrorism.” The FBI’s campaign of repression ordered more than 70 FBI agents to raid seven homes and two offices of leading activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. The FBI subpoenaed those raided, and that same morning subpoenaed others in those cities as well as Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Some of those raided were longtime veterans of our movement; some were mothers, some were trade unionists, and some were members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization – but all were targeted for speaking out in solidarity with working and oppressed people, especially in Palestine and Colombia.
On the same day, the FBI also sent agents to intimidate activists in California, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
More subpoenas came in the weeks after, until a total of 23 were summoned. The government threatened to jail anyone who failed to appear before a secretive grand jury in Chicago, but that threat could not break the spirit of those who made up the Anti-War 23. After a ferocious defense campaign that saw a staggering amount of support from all over the world for the activists, none of those targeted by the FBI appeared before any grand juries and none went to prison.
A grand jury is a kangaroo court that is designed so the prosecution gets its desired outcome. Witnesses, even those being compelled to appear, are not allowed an attorney. There is an old saying that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. Put another way, it’s a court that allows the rich and powerful to do whatever they want. We see that a grand jury will never indict on police misconduct but will attack anyone the prosecutor tells it to. Instead of giving in, the Anti-War 23 and friends spoke out about the government's attempt to intimidate them because of their ideas and activism. Their voices were heard around the world and caused many to speak out as well.
The government was upset that people were speaking out against injustices in Colombia, Palestine and in other places where people were fighting for liberation. A year later, the government raised the stakes by launching another raid on the home of famous Chicano liberation leader Carlos Montes in Los Angeles. Montes faced trumped-up charges but returned to the streets and continued to speak out and organize. The case against him was defeated.
The government then arrested an icon of the Palestinian liberation movement, Rasmea Odeh. Odeh was a veteran organizer community in Chicago. She was forced to depart the U.S. after an almost four-year legal and political struggle. Rasmea Odeh and her defense campaign put Israel on trial for its crimes and lifted up the cause of Palestinian liberation.
Evidence, including court documents, established that the raids on the Anti-War 23 and the cases of Rasmea Odeh and Carlos Montes were closely linked.
Support for all those targeted continued to grow, and the activists continued to resist and fight the repression. Concentrated repression like this was relatively rare after the 1970s, but we proved that you can fight back and win. It was the outpouring of support and the principled stand of those targeted not to appear before any grand juries that helped carry the day. Trade unions, student groups, community organizations and a broad solidarity network capable of organizing protests in over 100 cities around the world sent a clear message that we will not be intimidated.
As a whole, the enemy's attack was defeated and ongoing attempts to silence our movements continue to be held back. Our movements remain vigilant and understand that these attacks are not over, and our solidarity with one another grows stronger everyday.
Activists from all over, including many who directly faced the raids nine years ago, are planning to attend an important conference this fall. On November 22-24, they will attend a conference to refound the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression in Chicago. The NAARPR is an important organization that has led many critical struggles over the past 46 years, including struggles similar to the defense of the Anti-War 23 and their friends. Important organizers like Angela Davis and Frank Chapman will be there to help lead the conference. Activists from around the United States will plan ways to build the fight against police crimes, for community control of the police, to build the fight for the wrongfully incarcerated, and to support those who resist state repression like the Anti-War 23. Everyone who wants to stand up for justice and build these fights should register online at https://conference.naarpr.org/ and attend the NAARPR conference in Chicago.
The battle for justice is far from over, and this event is a step on the road towards liberation.