Salt Lake City, UT - State-sponsored repression and infiltration of anti-war groups is nothing new. But it can certainly take on new and particularly nasty forms, as Jess Sundin can tell you.
On Feb. 12, Sundin told the students of Westminster College a stunning tale of FBI repression that changed her life and the lives of her fellow activists. More than a dozen attended to hear her speak at the event hosted by the Revolutionary Students Union.
“I've dedicated my life to building international solidarity and friendships across borders,” she said. “Two and a half years ago that dedication brought the FBI to my door.”
She, her partner, and of other activists were the focus of a nationwide raid that involved more than 70 FBI agents and six locations, with the purpose of silencing them and ending their efforts. Sundin said her belongings were searched and seized, and she was ordered to testify before a grand jury that sought to investigate “material support of terrorism.”
She and all other activists under investigations refused to testify in front of the grand jury. The possibility of indictments is still a real danger.
“It's still hanging over us,” she said. “The police could come to our home tomorrow and arrest us.”
Sundin explained that an FBI infiltrator exploited the gender and sexual orientation of members of the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee in order to spy on their legal organizing. “Karen Sullivan,” who lied about being a queer mother to gain trust, joined the well-known and respected group, pretending to be a friend and fellow activist.
All the while, Sullivan was informing government officials of their activities, who even went so far as to prevent a group of activists from entering Palestine to meet with a legal women's group there.
Sundin said that international solidarity work remains not only commendable, but also essential.
“In fact the case against us, the work that we've done that's being criminalized, is the same kind of work that helped to bring apartheid in South Africa to its knees,” she said.
Throughout the presentation, Sundin, a member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, stressed that she is free today due to the work of people willing to stand up against repression and support both her cause and the cause of others. Hundreds of people rallied to prevent the trumped-up case against her from moving forward, she said.
She also spoke about the support for Carlos Montes, a Chicano activist from California who faced similar repression, and the Holy Land 5, currently in prison in the U.S. for their charity work for Palestine. She said that to demand their freedom is also a demand to the freedom of all activists. She said hundreds of people are currently in prison for daring to fight against war and disagree publicly with U.S. policy.
“It's about this: there is a conflict and the U.S. has picked a side, and when we pick a different side, the government says it is illegal to extend a hand of friendship,” she said. “That's what we've been targeted for.”
Nevertheless, Sundin says that she remains committed and encouraged others not to be daunted by the tactics used to silence those who are trying to build a better world and end U.S. wars.
“Don't be afraid - because the fact is that being open and being outspoken in defense of ourselves and our work has done more to expand the political space for all of us to continue to build solidarity between each other and across the globe.”