Meeting pledges to ‘stop grand jury’
Published Nov 12, 2010 7:53 PM
“Stop the grand jury!” That was the main message of a Nov. 6
meeting here called to form a national defense committee to defend anti-war,
anti-racist and international solidarity activists from the Midwest who were
hit by FBI raids on their homes on Sept. 24. Some 150 people jammed the back
room of the Church of St. Marks on the Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East
Side, where they pledged to help build a movement against FBI repression and
grand jury intimidation.
Anti-war activists targeted by FBI establish
national defense committee at New York
WW photo: John Catalinotto
Many in the audience were themselves anti-war activists. About half had
attended the United National Antiwar Committee’s regional meeting at the
same location earlier in the day. UNAC spokesperson Joe Lombardo pledged
support to those under attack.
Many others were stalwarts of local committees to defend political prisoners
like Mumia Abu-Jamal. Many came from political organizations in the city,
including a strong delegation from Workers World Party. All were in solidarity
with those under attack.
The audience applauded the decision of the 14 subpoenaed activists not to
appear before a grand jury. They each signed a letter from their lawyers
stating they would refuse to testify. The subpoenas were then withdrawn, but
this did not mean that the case was dropped.
At the Nov. 6 meeting, civil liberties attorney Bruce Nestor, who represents
those subpoenaed, said the Department of Justice is re-subpoenaing three of the
14 targeted anti-war activists. Nestor explained that they have the choice of
testifying against their friends and the movement or potentially serving jail
time for contempt of court if they refuse.
Among those speaking were several of the activists whose homes were raided:
Steff Yorek, Mick Kelly, Hatem Abudayyeh and Jess Sundin. Tom Burke co-chaired
the meeting with Cherrene Horazuk.
Kelly gave an overview of the FBI offensive, which reached as far as California
and North Carolina, although most of those subpoenaed were in Minneapolis and
Chicago. He also thanked the movement in general for the quick and widespread
solidarity expressed in demonstrations in more than 60 cities in the first
weeks after the home invasions.
Sundin and Abudayyeh added more political insight, and also gave a feel for the
personal side of being ambushed by the FBI and having your home, your life and
your children’s sense of security disrupted by the brutal state
A special report from Noor Elashi, daughter of Holy Land Foundation founder
Ghassan Elashi, made it clear that the repressive law making it illegal to give
“material aid” of any sort to a group the U.S. State Department
decides to call “terrorist” is an ugly, undemocratic weapon. After
Ghassan Elashi’s first trial ended in a hung jury, another jury at a
retrial found Ghassan guilty of giving aid to the Palestinian liberation group
Hamas, which was elected by the people of Gaza and has resisted Israel’s
blockade of the densely populated area. He was sentenced to 65 years in
Noor Elashi, who has been working on a book about her father’s case, has
not been allowed to visit him for a year. She pointed out that Attorney General
Eric Holder praised the prosecutors and the FBI investigators at an awards
ceremony in Washington Oct. 27 for their persecution of the Palestinian
The organizers introduced Sara Flounders of the International Action Center,
underlining the contribution that she made to building the meeting. Flounders
made an appeal for funds. Both the response to this appeal and many comments
showed the breadth of support within the anti-war and progressive movements for
those under attack. Ten of the 14 are trade unionists, some are known for
organizing the protests at the Republican National Convention and anti-war
activities as well as showing solidarity with anti-imperialist struggles in
Colombia and the Middle East.
The audience was clearly heartened that those under attack had refused to
cooperate, that this set an example for the movement as a whole; many said it
was the only way to stop the grand jury. At least 100 people committed to take
to the streets in emergency protests the day after new subpoenas are
Some of the activists also made it clear they believed it was completely
legitimate to show political solidarity with the liberation movements in
Colombia and Palestine.
To anyone knowledgeable of the crimes of U.S. imperialism, it was painful to
think that the criminals in the state apparatus, who are responsible for the
most horrible murders of the Iraqi and Afghan people, who finance state and
paramilitary terror against the people of Colombia, who arm the Israeli
terrorist state against the Palestinians, can dare to threaten activists here
for taking the side of oppressed peoples fighting for their freedom. Stop the
For more information see StopFBI.net. To sign a petition of support, see
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