Chicago, IL - With signs reading, “Opposing war is not a crime,” and “Two years is too long,” 100 people gathered at the Federal Building here, Sept. 20, to protest FBI and U.S. Attorney attacks on anti-war activists that began with FBI Raids in September 2010. Altogether, seven homes were raided and 23 people were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury. The warrants and subpoenas alleged there was an ongoing effort to provide ‘material support’ for foreign terrorist organizations in the Middle East and South America.
The protest called for an end to the investigation into the activists, and for the return of property seized from the home of Hatem Abudayyeh and his family.
The Reverend Dan Dale, pastor of the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ and Sister Zakiyyah Muhammad, a well-known African American community activist, delivered a letter to the offices of the U.S. Attorney, Gary Shapiro. Addressed to Shapiro and Attorney General Eric Holder, and signed by 80 prominent community leaders, academics, union and elected officials, the letter calls for an end to the federal investigation.
Referring to recent statements from the Dept. of Justice, the letter read, “Several months ago, your office announced that Goldman Sachs would not be indicted as a result of your investigation into their conduct, and last month you also announced that no-one would be indicted for the torture of captured Afghan militants. It would behoove you, under any standard of fairness, to now announce the end of your investigation of the people whose homes were raided two years ago and who were subpoenaed to your grand jury.”
Voices of support and resistance
At a press conference, several speakers made statements. First was Barbara Ransby, a local professor who last year joined a delegation of oppressed nationality women in a visit to Palestine. “It’s a frightening thing when the government threatens grassroots activists based on their political beliefs, especially people who have been conscientiously working for the poor and working people. This chapter should be closed.”
Bernardine Dohrn, an internationally recognized political activist because of her role in the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s and 70s, spoke about being subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in May of 1982 in New York City. “Exactly 30 years ago, I was in the federal lock up in New York City, having refused to cooperate with an unjust grand jury. I have some experience with what these people have gone through, having their homes raided, and then having a continuing investigation for two years.”
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner, said, “I join you today in solidarity, along with all the other elected officials who have written letters and manifested their support in different ways for the individuals affected by this investigation. I’m here because I swore a vow to uphold the U.S. Constitution.”
Finally, Hatem Abudayyeh spoke. In addition to the 23 people in this investigation, and the property seized from his home, he added, “[This] is about my nationality and my organizing work. It is about FBI and local law enforcement entrapment and surveillance and informants sent to our mosques and churches and community centers and workplaces. It is about our government trying to sell the notion that caring and talking and teaching about Palestine, that criticizing our government’s support of Israel, that asking Americans to boycott Israel and to end U.S. aid to Israel, is somehow a criminal act.”
Also present at the protest were Stephanie Weiner, her husband, Joe Iosbaker, who were raided in 2010, and several of the Palestinian Americans who were subpoenaed in 2010.