St. Paul, MN - The Minnesota legislature met in a ‘special session’ here, Oct. 18, to deal with flood relief for the southern part of the state. The legislators also had to face a determined delegation of people who were outraged about the federal government’s attacks on anti-war and international solidarity activists. On Sept. 24, a series of raids, subpoenas and attempted interrogations began against activists around the country.
People victimized by the raids and their supporters stood outside the doors of both the House and Senate chambers, stopping legislators as they entered, engaging many in long talks about the issue. Some legislators, who had memories of past FBI raids and infiltration, asked to get their pictures taken with the activists.
Although the special session lasted less than three hours, 62 legislators, including members of the leadership of the State House and Senate, signed a “Dear Colleague” letter addressed to President Barack Obama, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and the Minnesota congressional delegation. The letter was initiated by State Representative Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis) and State Senator Linda Berglin (D-Minneapolis), to support their constituents and others who were targeted by the raids.
The letter states in the preamble:
We have prepared and signed this resolution because its of great importance to all the people of Minnesota that our freedoms to peacefully dissent are not infringed upon and are an important and protected part of our Minnesota Constitution and the Constitution of the United States.
Echoing the resolutions passed by Minnesota’s 46,000-member AFSCME Council 5 and the Duluth Central Labor Body, the letter states, “Minnesota's elected officials have frequently gone on record in defense of trade unionists and others to educate, mobilize, and organize for the legitimate goals of peace, justice, and solidarity with all working people...”
The letter goes on to cite the “Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, and the FBI's harassment of nonviolent civil rights and peace activists of the 1960s and 1970s, saying that the current raids, “may be the beginning of a new and dangerous assault on the First Amendment rights of union activists and antiwar peace campaigners.”
Jess Sundin of the Anti-War Committee said, “Minnesota legislators recognize us as leaders of this state's peace movement and they know we have the support of the labor movement and their other constituents. Today many of them went on the record to stand up in defense of our rights to dissent and expressed their concern about FBI harassment of well-known community leaders. We will carry their support with us as we call for action at the federal level to stop this attack on our rights.”
Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness who was served with a subpoena Sept. 27, said of the number of legislators who showed support: “It shows the depth of outrage and opposition to the FBI attacks is deep and ready to be organized and mobilized.”
The Minnesota Committee to Stop FBI Repression has actions planned at the offices of U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken. There will also be a protest on Oct. 23, when President Obama is visiting Minneapolis.