October 2, 2010

Defend Free Speech! No FBI Intimidation!

Statement from Socialist Action In the early hours of Friday, Sept. 24, FBI agents raided the homes of antiwar activists in Minneapolis, Chicago, North Carolina, and Michigan. The targeted activists participate in coalitions against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also work in solidarity with the people of Colombia and Palestine. At least some of them have ties to the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, publishers of Fightback newspaper. The federal agents searched the homes of these activists, and removed computers, cell phones, and other material for examination. According to news accounts, the FBI was looking for “evidence” of ties to “foreign terrorist organizations”—specifically, Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). The activists were served with subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury. This is a blatant attempt to divide and intimidate the antiwar movement on the eve of the Oct. 2 mobilization in Washington, D.C., which is supported by the NAACP, AFL-CIO, and numerous antiwar, immigration rights, and other social justice groups. The government obviously hopes that its allegations of illegal activity will chill free speech and scare people away from legal political activity. One of the targeted activists, Tom Burke, said: “The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes. They are designed to suppress dissent and free speech, to divide the peace movement, and to pave the way for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Latin America.” So far, the charges against the activists appear to be vague and unfocused. But we must not underestimate the potential consequences for the victims of these frame-up attacks. The current FBI operation has been undertaken after numerous round-ups of people in the Muslim, Arab, and immigrant communities—leading to kangaroo trials on spurious charges of “terrorism” and long prison terms for those who were convicted. Nor is this the first time that the antiwar movement has been targeted, and its First Amendment rights trampled upon. It was revealed in the September 2010 Inspector General’s “Review of the FBI’s Investigation of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups” that federal agents from 2001-2006, under the guise of stopping terrorism, had spied on antiwar activists and events sponsored by the Catholic Worker, Greenpeace, Quakers, and others. In regard to the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh, the report stated, the FBI even fabricated a terrorism threat when it knew that none existed, leading to “inaccurate and misleading” testimony being given to Congress. Even more recently, according to the media, the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security has spied on and attempted to disrupt the activities of antiwar and environmental activists in that state. All people who support civil liberties and the rights of free speech and political assembly must speak with one voice. We must say no to political intimation by police and federal agents. We must say no to McCarthy-style witch hunting of antiwar and socialist activists. We call on the entire antiwar and social justice movement to unite in defense of these activists. It’s at the core of our values as a movement to say: “An attack on one is an attack on all.”