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Protesters vs. FBI repression say: ‘Solidarity is not a crime!’

By Betsey Piette |
February 5, 2011
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following article from Workers World.

When the FBI delivered subpoenas for nine Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago to appear before a grand jury on Jan. 25, the response was loud and clear: Protests, press conferences and forums were held in more than 45 cities in the U.S. and around the world on that date to stand in solidarity and say no to FBI repression.

San Francisco

This same grand jury was impaneled by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to indict 14 individuals in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, some of whose homes and offices were raided in September. Many feel it’s a fishing expedition targeting activists in solidarity with Palestine and the Colombian people. Six of those subpoenaed to appear in Chicago were Arab Americans.

Many of the protests denounced this attempt by the U.S. government to criminalize solidarity with the Palestinian people. Protesters, including those summoned to appear before the grand jury in Chicago, vowed to continue to work to end U.S. aid to Israel.

Organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, one of the largest demonstrations took place outside the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, where more than 250 people crowded the sidewalk during rush hour. A number of the activists who were subpoenaed but refused to appear before the grand jury addressed the rally.

In New York City people rallied in front of the FBI offices chanting, “Stop the subpoenas, Stop the raids! We are here and not afraid!” Groups supporting the protest included the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights, Al-Awda-NY, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the International Action Center, Veterans for Peace-NY, the Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum, Workers World Party, The World Can’t Wait, the Free Mumia Coalition and others. Ralph Poynter, spouse of jailed lawyer Lynne Stewart, read her statement. Stewart is serving 10 years in federal prison after being framed up by the government for her steadfast defense of politically targeted defendants.

At a picket line and street meeting in Cleveland, speakers stressed the long history of FBI spying and grand jury harassment against Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights activists and the anti-war movement.

In Los Angeles, protesters gathered outside the Westwood Federal Building, which houses the FBI offices. A tribunal was held where members of Students for a Democratic Society, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the International Action Center, the South-Asian Network, the Labor Strategy Center, the Freedom Socialist Party, the Answer Coalition and the National Lawyers Guild testified as witnesses to crimes committed by the FBI against solidarity activists. Participants pledged to intensify resistance.

In Atlanta a dozen people withstood cold wind and rain to stand downtown with banners against FBI repression and in solidarity with imprisoned soldier Bradley Manning. Flyers were distributed and a press conference was held.

Cleveland

Subfreezing temperatures failed to dampen the spirits of participants in a strong, diverse picket line in Detroit comprised of members of labor unions, youth groups, anti-war and other progressive organizations. Chants included “From Iraq to Palestine, solidarity is not a crime!” and “FBI off our backs! Enough attacks!”

A speakout after the picket included solidarity statements from youth/student organizations at two universities in Arizona. Debbie Johnson of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, sponsor of the rally, demanded an immediate halt to grand jury proceedings; that those targeted receive justice and have returned to them all of the items that were stolen by the FBI; and that all government attacks against progressive and revolutionary activists cease.

‘Free, free Palestine!’

In Philadelphia a press conference brought a number of activists together to denounce the FBI harassment campaign. It was followed by a forum on FBI entrapment of innocent Muslims featuring attorney Steve Downs, a founding member of Project SALAM; Dominick Calsolaro, member of the Albany, N.Y., City Council, which passed a resolution in support of justice for Muslims targeted by preemptive prosecution; and Burim Duka and Leila Duka, brother and daughter of members of the Fort Dix 5. Endorsers included the ACLU-PA, the CAIR-PA; the Brandywine Peace Community; the International Action Center; and Philadelphia Against War.

Speakers and audience members commented on and linked the FBI repression of activists; the targeting of Muslims; Immigration and Customs Enforcement and police collaboration; police brutality, including Philadelphia’s stop-and-frisk policies; and the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security spying on more than 300 groups and individuals in 2010 for potential “terrorist” activities. Abdus Sabur, father of a young Black man brutally beaten by police in September, spoke movingly about his son’s experience and urged Philadelphia’s City Council to pass a resolution supporting the Muslim community.

In Raleigh, N.C., activists gathered outside the Federal Building with signs reading “Federal Bureau of Intimidation” and “Hands off Activists.” Participants included the Triangle Committee to Stop FBI Repression, the Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee, FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) and the National Lawyers Guild. Khalilah Sabra of MAS (the Muslim-American Society) Freedom read a statement by a ninth-grade student on the injustice of repression.

At a noontime rally and an early evening demonstration in Boston hundreds of flyers were distributed to passersby and rush-hour commuters, many of whom applauded the demonstrations. A man whom activists suspected was an undercover agent, likely FBI, filmed participants and appeared to be trying to provoke a response.

More than 200 people chanting, “Free, free Palestine! Solidarity is not a crime!” protested in front of the Federal Building in downtown San Francisco. Coordinated by the newly formed Bay Area Coalition to Stop Political Repression, participants staged a dramatic enactment of 23 duct-taped grand jury resisters marching into the Federal Building to return their subpoenas.

Speakers included Richard Brown of the San Francisco 8, who served time for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury witch hunt targeting the Black Liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Brown stated, “The FBI and police are the real terrorists.” Monadel Herzallah, a key organizer and member of the Arab American Union Members Council, announced that the subpoenaed brothers and sisters did not come to court as ordered.

Another case of FBI intimidation was reported from Memphis, Tenn., where solidarity activists planning a public event at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center were visited by the FBI and a Memphis police SWAT team who claimed they were there to “keep peace” at the demonstration. Two activists’ homes were also visited by the sheriff’s department with bench warrants.

For reports on actions and events in other cities, including St. Louis; Salt Lake City; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Dallas; Tucson, Ariz.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Seattle; Providence, R.I.; Asheville, N.C.; Louisville, Ky.; Albany, N.Y.; and Kyiv, Ukraine, visit the Committee to Stop FBI Repression at www.stopfbi.net.

John Catalinotto, Judy Greenspan, Dianne Mathiowetz, John Parker, Bryan G. Pfeifer and Susan Schnur contributed to this roundup.

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