Stop FBI repression meetings across U.S.
Published Feb 17, 2011 11:35 PM
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression (www.stopfbi.net) has called regional
conferences the weekends of Feb. 12 and 19. The committee was formed after 14
activists in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan were ordered to testify before a
federal grand jury in Chicago after the government raided some offices and
homes. Another nine activists in Chicago who had participated in Palestine
solidarity activities were subpoenaed in December. All 23 have refused to
testify. Below are reports from the Chicago and Oakland meetings.
Three-point strategy for action
Labor, international solidarity and social justice activists from across the
Midwest met in Chicago on Feb. 12 to respond to what the federal government
calls an investigation of “material support for foreign terrorist
organizations,” but those subpoenaed say otherwise.
“From the time the FBI first knocked on my door, it was clear that this
was all about our ideas and political beliefs,” said targeted activist
Jess Sundin of Minneapolis. “They were after flyers, address books and
information about political events.”
Federal law prohibits sending aid to any group on a list of organizations
maintained by the U.S. secretary of state. “None of us sent guns or money
to anyone on the list. ... We have called for freedom for the peoples of
Colombia and Palestine. Some of us have given modest contributions to
humanitarian groups which are doing legal work on the ground. The government
seems particularly interested in funds that were raised for the Union of
Palestinian Women’s Committees, a group that is not on the list and which
is not banned by Israel,” Sundin explained.
Sundin also challenged the government’s designation of groups like the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine as “terrorist,” pointing out that in the
past the U.S. similarly labeled freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela’s
African National Congress and El Salvador’s FMLN.
Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild, a lead attorney for the targeted
activists, stated that the FBI is continuing to ask people about Palestine
solidarity activities, including humanitarian trips to Gaza.
The conference was welcomed by Carl Rosen, regional president of the United
Electrical Workers, who pointed out that the FBI “hampered our ability to
get justice at Quad City Die Casting,” a plant in Illinois that faced
closure. As the UE was preparing to hold a peaceful protest, the FBI contacted
police there to warn them that “dangerous people” were coming: two
labor activists from Chicago, whose homes were later raided by federal
Dr. José López, a Puerto Rican community leader in Chicago, described
how grand juries have been used as political weapons against the Puerto Rican
independence struggle since 1936.
Christina Abraham, an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations,
said, “The FBI is not only about crime investigation, but also about
gathering intelligence on the political opinions and activities of people who
never engaged or will engage in criminal activity.”
Abayomi Azikiwe of the Pan-African News Wire in Detroit described the
activities of the FBI against the Black community, from J. Edgar Hoover’s
effort to destroy Marcus Garvey’s organization to its spying on and
sabotaging of the activities of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Black Panther Party, to the
“targeted assassination” of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was
shot 20 times by federal agents in Dearborn, Mich., in 2009.
By acclamation, the conference approved a three-point action strategy:
participation in national anti-war events in March and April; mass protests
when activists are forced to appear at grand jury sessions; and emergency
protests when indictments are handed down.
A West Coast Conference to Stop FBI and Grand Jury Political Repression packed
Humanist Hall in Oakland, Calif., on Feb. 12 and pledged support for the 23
activists subpoenaed by the Grand Jury in Chicago.
Four of those targeted by the witch hunt — Anh Pham, Hatem Abudayyeh,
Thistle Parker-Hartog and Tom Burke — all raided or served subpoenas by
the FBI, said they believed this was only the beginning of a new wave of
political repression but were heartened by strong initial support for their
Two past targets of government repression — Palestinian activist Michel
Shehadeh of the Los Angeles 8 and former Black Panther Richard Brown of the San
Francisco 8 — said their cases proved that determined political struggle
can push back and defeat a witch hunt by the repressive state apparatus.
Masao Suzuki, a Skyline College professor who was himself visited by the FBI
recently, recalled how, when his mother and father, who had been U.S. delegates
to a 1952 Pacific Rim Peace Conference in Beijing, reported on the conference
in the very same Humanist Hall in Oakland, two FBI agents in business suits
ostentatiously stood at the back of the hall making notes.
The regional organizing conferences across the country follow “Stop FBI
repression” demonstrations in 50 cities on Jan. 25.
L. Paulsen contributed to this article from Chicago.
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