Fight Back! News

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Solidarity vs. FBI repression

By John Catalinotto

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following article from Workers World.

New York, NY – Attendees at regional conferences Feb. 19 in New York City and Chapel Hill, N.C., enthusiastically applauded anti-war and solidarity activists who have stood up to extreme intimidation and refused to testify before a Chicago grand jury. The meetings were part of growing support for 23 activists who have all taken the principled position that they will not appear before the grand jury.

The New York conference endorsed an action program that includes participating in national anti-war events in March and April, calling mass protests when activists are summoned to appear at grand jury sessions, and organizing emergency protests when indictments are handed down.

Two earlier regional conferences were held Feb. 12 in Oakland, Calif., and Chicago.

An original 14 subpoenas were issued last September after FBI raids on the homes of activists, mostly in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago. Those subpoenas were vacated, but nine new ones were issued in December and three of the original 14 were issued second subpoenas. On Jan. 25 the newly subpoenaed people also refused to testify. The grand jury now must decide how to go on with its attack on the movement, which those affected believe will continue in one way or another.

Muslims also target of FBI

One session of the New York conference focused on the many other instances of state repression after passage of the Patriot Act. Most of those targeted have been Muslims victimized by provocateurs working with the FBI, who entrapped people into nothing more than questionable conversations. The state would then bring charges of “conspiracy,” since nothing was actually done. Hundreds of people have been convicted and sentenced to long prison terms.

Another important session included discussions by attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild, who provided strategy on what to do if the FBI knocks without having obtained warrants for arrest or search.

Speakers explained how someone subpoenaed but not charged with any alleged crime could still face jail time. The grand jury can offer immunity from prosecution based on a person’s testimony. When that happens, the person no longer has Fifth Amendment protection and cannot refuse to testify. The grand jury can then find those who refuse to testify to be in civil contempt and can imprison them, without any trial, for as long as the grand jury is sitting.

Both Feb. 19 conferences drew organizers from labor, the local communities, anti-war groups, political groups, civil rights and civil liberties organizations. More than 100 — including people from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia — were present in Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina School of Law, while some 250 attended the New York meeting, including people from upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Three of those who had been subpoenaed were invited speakers at the New York conference: Sara Martin of Women Against Military Madness; Mick Kelly, editor of Fight Back! newspaper; and Hatem Abudayyeh, the executive director of the Arab American Action Network, a community-based organization in the Chicago area.

For more information, see speakers panel at the New York CSFR conference

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