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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 authorities

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 cause.

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.