Minneapolis, MN - Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) hosted a panel discussion here Nov. 2 at the University of Minnesota. The panel was made up of six anti-war and international solidarity activists from the Minneapolis, all of whom were raided by the FBI on Sept. 24th and were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. None of the affected activists have any charges against them; the FBI claims to be searching for evidence of “material support of terrorists.”
Panelist and SDS member Tracy Molm explained, “The material support law dates back to 1996, but it is starting to be interpreted more broadly.” With the recent Supreme Court ruling, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the definition of ‘material support’ has been expanded in a way that chips away at our civil rights. ‘Material support’ is no longer restricted to financial donations - passing on knowledge or communicating with ‘terrorist’ organizations might now qualify as material support. Many of the targeted activists have traveled to countries negatively affected by U.S. foreign policy, so that they can tell U.S. citizens how their tax dollars are being used to fund oppressive regimes and occupations.
The panelists also called into question how the U.S. defines foreign terrorist groups, asserting that the term ‘terrorist’ is used to describe organizations that oppose U.S. foreign policy and that the term is used as a political weapon. “All you have to do in our current society is call someone a terrorist and their rights go out the window,” stated Meredith Aby of the Anti-War Committee. “Terrorism laws are built to support a political agenda that I don’t agree with,” Molm said, “The people I am standing in solidarity with are not terrorists and speaking out is not a crime.”
All 14 subpoenaed activists invoked their Fifth amendment rights, and are united in their resolve to not testify before the Grand Jury. “Grand juries are not a democratic process,” insisted Anh Pham, of the Minnesota Immigrants’ Rights Action Committee. Jess Sundin, of the Anti-War Committee, explained why the activists mistrust the Grand Jury proceedings: in addition to being run entirely by a prosecutor with no judge, the proceedings are secret, and “this can be used as a weapon against our movements…to participate in this would legitimize it.”
Steff Yorek of the Committee Against FBI Repression and Mick Kelly of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) encouraged attendees to stand with the targeted activists, stressing the fact that the raids and subpoenas are an attack not just against activists, but also against a movement.
Yorek asked those present to be on the lookout for emergency calls to action in response to a second round of subpoenas and invited everyone to join the Stop FBI Repression Committee. “I don’t think anyone here should underestimate the importance of what we’re discussing,” warned Kelly, “We must move heaven and earth to shut down this Grand Jury, or it will be used to jail people in solidarity with the oppressed.”