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West coast conference opposes criminalization of anti-war, international solidarity activists

by staff |
February 21, 2011
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Oakland, CA - A crowd of 150 West Coast anti-war leaders and international solidarity activists met here, Feb. 12, at the Humanist Hall to help build a movement against the current wave of political repression emanating from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office in Chicago.

Speakers expressed solidarity and made donations from Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Bay Area Committees to Stop FBI Repression, from the United National Anti-War Committee, from the San Francisco labor council and other northern California unions, from socialist and left organizations, from Spanish Civil War veterans, from Sacramento Peace Action, and from the Revolutionary Student Union in Utah and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in Los Angeles.

Subpoenaed activists Hatem Abudayyeh, Anh Pham, Thistle Parker-Hartog, Tom Burke, along with attorney Bruce Nestor, shared their decades of experience as anti-war and international solidarity activists. Each described their commitment to social change at home and abroad, organizing with students, unions, immigrants and community groups. They spoke about the U.S. government’s repression of free speech and the right to organize. Bruce Nestor spoke about the likely indictments and trial of some of the 23 activists. The lawyer also described the new interpretations of U.S. law that make it possible for political activists to go to prison for providing humanitarian aid or promoting political speech that goes against the views of the U.S. empire.

Tom Burke, who chaired the meeting, said, “U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald, raising the ghost of Senator Joe McCarthy, is carrying out a political witch-hunt against American activists. The U.S. government is criminalizing international solidarity, and focusing on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Fact is the U.S. empire is losing its grip on the world and the regimes it props up are falling one by one. Our groups challenge U.S. wars and occupation, while saying the organizations who resist oppression are legitimate and good.”

Hatem Abudayyeh, whose home was raided by the FBI in Chicago, said, “Right now there is a dynamic and successful international movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its apartheid system where Palestinians are militarily occupied or treated as second-class citizens. Israel is more and more isolated in the world and American taxpayers are growing weary of funding Israel and its occupation of all of Palestine. Some in the current administration are targeting Palestinian-Americans and the Palestine solidarity activists as an ‘internal enemy.’ They are supporting oppression overseas and repression at home.”

Anh Pham of Minneapolis addressed the standing room only crowd, “Now we know a U.S. Federal Agent, whose fake name was Karen Sullivan, spied upon the anti-war movement and lied her way into the lives of many activists. She lied about everything over more than a two years. It is likely Fitzgerald’s trial will be based on her half-truths, distortions and lies.”

Thistle Parker-Hartog , a member of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee in Minnesota, spoke about two decades of international solidarity activism she has been part of. Thistle stated, "When I was in El Salvador, I learned from organizers how U.S.-funded death squads killed farmers and rural community members, nuns and priests, union organizers, and activists. I was able to accompany these targeted members in the first national free elections in that country. As a pacifist, the solidarity trips confirmed my commitment to working for peace and justice. The trips made me determined to promote international dialogue and understanding, and actively oppose the threats and war-making of the U.S. government. It is an ironic sign of the true malleability of U.S. foreign policy and the "terrorist" designations of the state department that the FMLN, who were called terrorists in the '80's by the U.S., is now the recognized governing political party of El Salvador."

A second panel, “Speak Out Against Repression,” expressed solidarity and lessons learned from others facing FBI and government repression. It included Michel Shehadeh of the Los Angeles 8 on “Organizing to defend the Palestinian movement,” Richard Brown of the San Francisco 8 on “FBI repression of the African-American community and the grassroots response,” Zahra Billoo of Council on American-Islamic Relations on “Attacks on Muslim charities and community leaders,” Nina Farnia of the Impact Fund on “The relationship between U.S. foreign policy and domestic FBI repression” and George McKinney, Southern California Immigration Coalition on “Organizing to oppose raids and deportations.”

The West Coast conference finished with a unanimous vote to organize for the March 19 and April 9 united national anti-war protests. Breakout meetings discussed local protests to respond to the next FBI raids, grand jury subpoenas, or the very real possibility of indictments and a trial. Others discussed further visits to U.S. Representatives and Senators to shut down the Grand Jury and stop the political repression. All the participants took note of the tremendous response of the anti-war movement and discussed ways to reach out to more groups and unions to join in ending this abuse of government power and stop the grand jury.