An interview with Tom Burke, a Michigan activist subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury for his solidarity work in Colombia and also labor organizing.
Please tell us about the FBI raids and Grand Jury repression of
On Sept. 24, under the orders of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the FBI raided two homes in Chicago, five in Minneapolis, and the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis. Agents carted off cell phones, computers, personal notebooks, political documents, children’s artwork, books and boxes full of whatever they wanted. Here in Michigan, the FBI followed me to my wife’s work where they gave us subpoenas to Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury in Chicago. Of the original 14 activists subpoenaed, many of us are well known in the anti-war and union movements, speaking at meetings and appearing in the media. Nevertheless, the raids on family homes shocked our children, our neighbors and us, but we quickly started organizing to put a stop to this outrage.
Next in December, the FBI went to the homes of nine more activists, many Arab-Americans, all Palestine solidarity activists. So now there are 23 international solidarity activists subpoenaed. The activists decided not to speak at the Grand Jury—a secret inquisition, with no judge, the jury hand selected by the U.S. prosecutor, and you are not allowed to have a lawyer with you inside the courtroom.
Why is the U.S. government doing this?
U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald claims to be investigating material support for terrorism, but it is political repression pure and simple. The U.S. government is violating our right to free speech and the right to organize. We have done nothing wrong, only organized protests against U.S. wars and occupations overseas. Those of us raided and subpoenaed organized the big 30,000-person anti-war protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in 2008. Leading up to the RNC protest, a Federal Agent “Karen Sullivan” joined the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, lying about her name, her identity and her purpose. She pretended to be an anti-war and international solidarity activist who cared about the people she worked with and their cause promoting peace between the U.S. and peoples in other countries. It was all a big lie and now Fitzgerald is considering using the Federal Agent to indict, put on trial, and imprison some of us. It seems the U.S. government is particularly interested in those amongst the 23 subpoenaed activists who are members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization that publishes Fight Back!, a newspaper.
So what will happen next?
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald may pursue a new type of McCarthyism where he puts us on trial for holding revolutionary ideas, for speaking our minds and for writing and publishing articles opposed to U.S. war and Empire. Fitzgerald may decide to call some of us back in front of the Grand Jury and when we do not testify, he can jail us for many months or even years. Otherwise, Fitzgerald may arrest people and hold a political trial about our support for movements and groups fighting oppression in their countries, with the goal of sending some or many of us to Federal Prison for years.
What are your plans?
The response of the anti-war movement and unions, student groups, professors, various faith activists, is outstanding. There were 70 protests in the two weeks following the raids. Then we formed the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR), and on Jan. 25, 60 cities protested in solidarity with the nine refusing to appear at the Grand Jury. Now we are asking for solidarity by people signing the Pledge To Resist on our website. We want groups to send solidarity statements like Gainesville Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) did. Organize your campus and professors to sign a letter.
Anything else you want to add?
Those active in Central and Latin American solidarity know the history of repression. We are asking you to help organize and stop this round of repression. The activists are being targeted because of their solidarity with Colombia and Palestine in particular. The U.S. Empire is staking its strategy for domination and exploitation on those two places. We are asking you to organize solidarity with us and put an end to U.S. wars of aggression and stand with oppressed peoples.
For more information and to see how you can get involved, check out CSFR’s website at: http://www.stopfbi.net/.
You can sign the petition here: http://www.stopfbi.net/petition/national.