January 11, 2011

Indigenous Social Justice Association: Stop the FBI raids — say “no” to grand jury witch-hunts

Indigenous Social Justice Association: Stop the FBI raids — say “no” to grand jury witch-hunts

Indigenous Social Justice Association logo

Stop the FBI raids — say “no” to grand jury witch-hunts

International Statement of Solidarity from

Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne

There is a growing movement in the U.S. to resist FBI raids on activist organisations. This is because, for far too many years, the policing and criminalising of dissent has been used to harass the movements of the oppressed and down trodden and those campaigning for justice.

Let us look back in history for a second and remember how U.S. state harassment and intervention (through COINTELPRO) was used against both the Black Panthers and the Native American movement to smash radicals and tame the movements.

We are inspired that the Committee to Stop FBI Oppression now has chapters emerging right across the United States. But solidarity knows no borders! The support is global, including here in Australia.

These raids and subpoenas are an attack on anti-war and other progressive movements. They are an attack on the freedom to speak, the freedom to assemble with like-minded people, and the freedom to tell the U.S. government that their actions and policies are wrong. This is a blatant attempt to clear the way for more wars and occupations of other countries by the U.S. military. The subpoenas served on activists are coupled with an ugly tool called the Grand Jury, which is closed to the public. The Grand Jury system, long since abolished in most democratic nations, denies an individual her most fundamental of civil rights and poses a grave threat to the constitutional rights of every American. The Grand Jury is designed to pit activists against each other to smash the movements.

In America hundreds of activists have been systematically raided in the name of hunting down “ecoterrorism.” This includes anarchists, socialists and animal rights and environmental activists to name but a few.

Now we have witnessed the FBI raiding seven homes and an anti-war office on Friday, September 24, 2010. It handed subpoenas to testify before a federal Grand Jury to fourteen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. Since September, the roll call of those who have been targeted and who have stood firm and resisted, has continued to grow. These modern day witch-hunts and fishing expeditions are totally unacceptable and an erosion of free speech and civil liberties.

In Australia, we too experience intimidation by the state and harassment of activist. A repressive body — the Australian Building and Construction Commission — strips unionist in the building industry of their democratic rights and demands they squeal on their comrades or face jail.

Our most celebrated recent political prisoner is respected Aboriginal leader, Lex Wotton, who is from Palm Island. Lex was jailed for leading a “riot.” He actually took part in a completely justified and very necessary act of resistance. The movement sees Lex as a freedom fighter and a popular hero.

Wotton’s trial came in the wake of the death in custody of an Indigenous man — Mulrunji Domadgee — while in custody of the police in Palm Island. According to the Palm Island police, Domadgee apparently tripped, fell, and had his liver severed in half; an injury doctors said is consistent with him being kicked in the abdomen with significant force. Yet, in spite of a recommendation by the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission to lay charges against Palm Island Police Senior Sgt Chris Hurley over the death, the Queensland DPP never laid any charges.

When the Indigenous community of Palm Island protested in response, their legitimate outrage was dubbed a “riot” by the right-wing mainstream media. Arising from this so-called “riot” the community of Palm Island were subjected to heavy-handed raids and interrogation. Instead of raising charges against Senior Sergeant Hurley, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh decided to give the Palm Island police bravery medals, while arresting Wotton for his supposed “role” in the so-called “riot.”

Lex was sentenced to six years in prison in November 2008 sparking a huge campaign to demand his immediate release. The Queensland Parole Board finally approved Wotton’s application for release after two-years of wrongful imprisonment. But, having released him, they imposed a range of repressive conditions. These include a ban on attending public meetings without prior approval, a ban on gambling or attending venues where gambling is conducted and a ban on speaking to the media. The Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said the conditions would restrict Wotton’s ability to “fit into the community.”

The Palm Island affair exposed the blatant and continuing racism against Aboriginal people in this country. Two hundred plus years worth! Lex is certainly no terrorist and he is effectively politically muzzled.

The Indigenous Social Justice Association is campaigning to demand that Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland lift the gag from Lex Wotton. You can show your solidarity.

Contact the Premier at: Anna Bligh MP, Premier of Queensland, PO Box 15185, City East, Queensland 4002, AUSTRALIA. Or e-mail: thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au

Australia is not the paradise that many overseas visitors seem to think it is. Asylum seekers are locked in detention. Muslims are demonised and systematically raided and imprisoned as terrorists. Workers are spied on and activists face restrictions on the right to protest. For example, Radical Women is currently campaigning to beat back systematic harassment by the City of Melbourne, which aims to restrict their right to protest against the anti-abortion rightwing.

I to am no stranger to the FBI. Several years ago while I was living in America and indeed whilst I was back in Australia the FBI questioned me extensively about whether I was involved in the Earth Liberation Front. Federal police tipped off by the FBI questioned me on the doorstep of my home. My friends were followed and harassed. My husband was taken at gunpoint to be questioned about the Earth Liberation Front. Anarchist Black Cross Melbourne — a group organising in solidarity with political prisoners — was demonised and seen as a threat. This harassment of me has now stopped. But what I learnt is that we must remain vigilant and stand in solidarity. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Marisa on behalf of the Indigenous Social Justice Association — Melbourne

11 January 2011

Marisa is an activist with the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) and Anarchist Black Cross. She is also a presenter of the Doin Time Show broadcast on Community Radio, 3CR.

For more information about ISJA or a copy of the international petition to demand the gag be lifted on Lex Wotton see: http://www.isja-msg.com/

For more information about the Committee to Stop FBI Repression see: http://www.stopfbi.net/