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“They tried to raise the specters of Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover”

Jess Sundin on FBI repression
Statement by Jess Sundin |
September 25, 2013
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Jess Sundin speaking at Sept. 24 protest against FBI repression.
Jess Sundin speaking at Sept. 24 protest against FBI repression. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Fight Back! is circulating a speech delivered by anti war leader Jess Sundin, at the Sept 24 protest in front of the Federal Building in Minneapolis. About 100 demonstrators demanded an end to the federal investigation of anti war and international solidarity activists.

First, I want to say how much it means to me that you are all here today. It reminds me of the morning my home was raided by the FBI: When Garrett was the first friend to arrive, and then so many of you gathered outside all of our homes. There was the press conference on our lawn that afternoon – Marie, you were there; and the solidarity meeting that same night at the old Walker Church. Thank you all for standing with us that day, and every day, against political repression.

Three years ago, they busted through our front doors, armed with battering rams, search warrants and grand jury subpoenas, and they turned our lives upside-down. They treated us like terrorists, and the entire anti-war movement like some kind of criminal enterprise. The government set out to silence all of us, and to clear the way for war. Thanks to 23 grand jury resisters, and thousands of supporters, they failed. We are walking around free, speaking out against the agenda of war for empire, and standing here united against political repression.

When they raided our homes, they took books, photographs, computers, political papers, sign-up sheets – “evidence” of who we know and what we think. None of us talked to the FBI that day, but we later learned about the McCarthy-era questions they had planned to ask us. They wanted to know about the political groups we’re involved in, and the people we’ve worked with here and abroad. Who are your leaders? When are your meetings? Who takes the notes? How do you indoctrinate people? Are you now, or have you ever been…? Well, I didn’t tell them, but I’m telling you: I am now, and I have been for quite a long time been! Everything they took that day, they kept copies of, no doubt catalogued in some FBI/NSA/fusion center database. In the case of our Chicago friend, Hatem Abudayyeh, much of his property was never returned – held for evidence in this on-going investigation.

Now how many of you share my misfortune, of having met the undercover agent, the spy who called herself Karen Sullivan? I won’t say on this microphone what I call her now, but I think you can imagine. For two years, every word she ever said to me was a lie. Every word she said to you was a lie. She came to our meetings and our protests, our hospital rooms and our birthday parties. For two years, she worked full-time to destroy the Anti-War Committee, Freedom Road, and every organization or community we ever worked with. She sabotaged a solidarity trip to Palestine, and she used her key to let the FBI into the Anti-War Committee office three years ago today. The raids on our homes and office were based on her word. I have no doubt that the only case they could have against me and my friends is one that this professional liar manufactured.

From the outset, U.S. Attorneys said they were pursuing “multiple indictments of multiple people.” When prosecutor Barry Jonas was confronted by protesters in Chicago earlier this year, he said he couldn’t comment on “ongoing investigations” and that he has 8 years to bring charges in our case. Back in 2010, when I refused to testify in secret before the grand jury, I believed I might be jailed for that decision. Thanks to all of you, that didn’t happen.

But, I never imagined that I would live for three years under a cloud of suspicion, as a subject of an endlessly ongoing investigation. In its latest statement, the U.S. attorney’s office says, “there are no public criminal cases stemming from the investigation.” It seems clear enough that criminal indictments might already be there in secret, under seal, just waiting for the right political moment to bring them out. We are here today to show that the right political moment will never come. There will never be an easy time to take us. Our friends in the people’s movements will never stand by quietly while we are locked away like criminals for opposing the crimes of U.S. wars.

We have already proven that we are stronger than them, that we can prevail.

We beat the grand jury, and its McCarthyite witch hunt. Not one of us testified. And not one of us was jailed for refusing. Why? Because we stood together, and you stood behind us. It was solidarity.

And with solidarity, we beat back the attack on Carlos Montes. The FBI agents investigating us cooked up new charges related to an old COINTELPRO case against our friend, a Chicano leader and anti-war activist from Los Angeles. They wanted to put him away for years, but thanks to pressure by people like you and me, he wasn’t sentenced to a single day in prison!

Time and again, they tried to raise the specters of Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover, but we refused to be haunted by those old ghosts. Instead, through solidarity, we set an example of how to respond in the face of attacks: No one betrays their friends and political colleagues by testifying at a grand jury. And rather than hide in the shadows, we took the streets to say no to the attacks on us, and no to every attack on the people’s movements.

We’ve spent the last three years building unity with others fighting against repression, from anarchists, occupiers and environmentalists, to those facing terrorism charges like ours. We were here at this very courthouse when Amina Ali and Hawo Hassan were shamefully sentenced to years for sending charity home to war-torn Somalia. We rallied right here on this sidewalk for the Holy Land Five, who seek freedom from long sentences won by the same prosecutor we’re up against in our case. And we’re standing by Lynne Stewart, in her just demand for compassionate release, so that she won’t die of cancer in prison for her work defending another target of the bogus war on terror.

None of these people have done anything wrong, and neither have any of us. Was it wrong to march on the RNC against war and occupation? No! Was it wrong to travel to warzones like Palestine and Colombia, befriending those most-impacted by US policies of war? No! And to this day, is it wrong to believe in a better world – where there is no war and no want, but lasting peace built on a foundation of justice? No!

The FBI raids three years ago and the grand jury, in some ways, they changed everything. But in the ways that matter, they changed nothing. Every one of us who was targeted on September 24 has remained committed to building the people’s movements. We have not been silenced, but instead, we have used our defense campaign as a platform for speaking out against empire and all the wrong it does in this world.

All of us know more today than we did when the FBI arrived on our doorsteps. Of course, some of us learned that they’re watching us, personally. But now we also understand that the government has come to view every American as a suspect, and every activist or community leader as a target. While the government operates behind a shroud of secrecy, our right to privacy is gone. Grand juries, spying and warrantless phone and email monitoring have become standard operating procedure for the government. And the whistleblowers – from Chelsea Manning to Edward Snowden – are putting their freedom on the line, so that we can know the truth. We are witnessing a broad attack on democratic rights in this country today, and our case is part of that.

Freedom fighters are called terrorists, and war criminals receive Nobel peace prizes. We say enough is enough. We don’t want to live one more day in this upside-down Bizarro World.

For three years, we’ve stood by our activism, and insisted we’ve done nothing wrong. Today, on the three-year anniversary, and on the eve of a new war, we recommit ourselves to building the people’s movements. We defeated the grand jury, we defeated the attack on Carlos Montes, and now, we must demonstrate their complete failure in silencing activism, opposition to war, and international solidarity.

Solidarity is under attack! What do we do? Stand up, fight back!

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