Stop the Grand Jury Witch-Hunt (September 2012)

This Thursday, September 13, two anarchists will be headed to court in Seattle, facing subpoenas to a federal grand jury investigating radical political movements in the northwest. The most likely outcome is that they will both be jailed, not for anything they’ve done but simply for refusing to participate in the secret hearings.

The Committee Against Political Repression is asking people to fax petitions to US Attorney Jenny Durkan this Wednesday (September 12), demanding she end the grand jury investigation. The petition, and the fax number are here.

I wrote a short piece about the case for the CAPR website, explaining why I think the grand jury is dangerous and why it’s important to support those resisting.

I’m in good company: A bunch of other scholars, writers, and artists, including Noam Chomsky and David Graeber, have also written in support. And more than 350 organizations around the country have endorsed a statement of solidarity with those targeted by the investigation.

My full statement appears below. For updates on the case, visit:

“These are attacks against the very principle of solidarity.”

The FBI and US Attorney are behaving almost exactly as one might expect. The Justice Department’s goons have been in the business of hunting subversives since J. Edgar Hoover helped to orchestrate the 1919 Palmer Raids. And the grand jury system — though originally intended as a safeguard against prosecutorial power — has been completely converted into a mechanism of bureaucratic inquisition. The use of these tools against anarchists in the wake of the Occupy movement is almost too predictable.

Still, there is something unseemly, and even disturbing, about men with assault rifles kicking down doors in order to seize anarchist literature, the summoning of activists to secret hearings where they will be ordered to name names, and the threats to jail people who are accused of nothing more than refusing to become government informants.

Such acts on the part of the state are offensive even from the perspective of Constitutionality. But they are something more than violations against individual rights. These are attacks against the very principle of solidarity, the notion that people might stand together and defend each other. They are efforts to foreclose on even the possibility that social movements might arise and challenge those who hold power in our society.

Therefore, those who refuse to testify before the grand jury, and who risk imprisonment for doing so, are acting to support all of those resisting oppression and fighting the injustices of our society. We must defend them in return.

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