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Jess Sundin speaks out on FBI repression against anti-war activists

“We’ve got to stay strong and be ready for whatever the government throws at us next.”
By staff |
July 1, 2011
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Photo of Jess Sundin speaking in Minneapolis.
Jess Sundin speaking in Minneapolis. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Fight Back! interviewed Jess Sundin, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, on the latest developments in the case of the anti-war and international solidarity activists who were raided by the FBI and who received subpoenas to appear in front of the Chicago grand jury headed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Sundin is among those whose home was raided Sept. 24, 2010. The editors of Fight Back! urge our readers to forward this important interview as broadly as possible.

Fight Back!: How has the campaign against FBI repression been going? What has been accomplished to date?

Jess Sundin: We have been very successful building a broad base of support around the anti-war and international solidarity activists who are being targeted by the FBI and U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. We have received almost 300 statements of support from faith, student, immigrant rights and other community organizations, including 32 labor unions. These statements have been backed up with actions - hundreds have come out to protests across the country to demand an end to the government abuses and thousands of signed petitions and made calls demanding the same. This work has resulted in letters of concern from a dozen U.S. Congress people, addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama.

There is no doubt that all of this pressure has kept those resisting the grand jury out of jail. It is still possible that prosecutors could impose immunity and jail some of us for not testifying, but with all of the public support we have, that won’t be easy for them. Around the country, people have signed the pledge to resist this repression, and to join in locally-organized emergency protests to respond if and when there are any indictments or arrests in our case.

Fight Back!: What are the main things that need to be done now in order to push back against the repression?

Sundin: This case took a surprising turn in May, when the Los Angeles home of veteran Chicano activist, Carlos Montes, was raided. Carlos has helped to lead the Committee to Stop FBI Repression in LA since last September, when the search warrant at the Anti-War Committee office listed him as a person of interest in this investigation. It came as a shock when interest turned into action. The FBI initiated a raid on his home, and Carlos is now facing 18 years for trumped up charges. He is the first person in this case to face charges, and the most important thing for us to do is to rally around him and call for the government to drop the charges. Around the country, people came out to protest on his first day in court, and called on the Department of Justice to call off the investigation of all of us. We need to help Carlos beat the charges - we’ve got to contribute to his legal defense and unite the immigrant rights and anti-war movements in rallying around him.

Fight Back!: What do you think is likely to happen in the months ahead?

Sundin: We understand that grand juries serve as indictment machines - that something like 98% give the prosecutors the indictments they ask for. Based on the limited communications we’ve had from the U.S. attorney, there is every indication that they are still pursuing multiple indictments. We will continue our work to bring the grand jury to an end with no indictments, while still preparing for the possibility of indictments. While we have no information on how many indictments are being pursued, or when they might come, we know that in some cases like ours, indictments have a come a year after FBI raids. We need our supporters to stay on alert.

Fight Back!: The government returned your passport for a limited time, what is the significance of that?

Sundin: Most of the property that was seized has still not been returned, and anything that has been returned was certainly copied first. Our attorneys asked for the return of my passport a few months ago, but that request was refused. In May, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she lives in Australia. We decided to make a second appeal for return of my passport, along with a letter from my mom’s doctor describing how my presence could aid in her treatment and recovery. The U.S. attorney agreed to let me have my passport in order to make a single trip to visit my mother, contingent on my agreeing to give it back to the FBI when I return home. In the conversations to negotiate this, the prosecutor made it clear that indictments are still being pursued, though they won’t likely come out in July, the month when I will travel to support my mom. The ridiculous conditions placed on the temporary return of my passport make it clear that I am still a target of this investigation, and this is not over. We’ve got to stay strong and be ready for whatever the government throws at us next.