November 11, 2011

Opening speech by Sarah Smith

*The following speech was given by [Sarah Smith](/profile/sarah-smith), one of the Midwest 23.*

I would like to welcome everyone here today to our very first national conference hosted by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Some of you have come from very far away, even driving from Florida and we want to thank everyone for joining us.

We are here to celebrate the movement we have built in the push back against FBI infiltration, the raids, and the subpoenas of anti-war and international solidarity activists. But we are also here to prepare for the coming indictments. We were attacked by the FBI and the US government because of our effective organizing around the Republican National Convention protests in 2008. The raids were also an attack on the ever-expanding Palestine Solidarity movement in this country. Over the past year, Stop FBI has reached out to many peace, human rights and solidarity organizations, and gained their support. Many of these groups stood up and defended us on their own initiative. Most importantly, the broad solidarity with our case by the trade unions has shown that they are the central and natural ally of the peace and human rights movement.

Since the raids in September 2010, the living situation of the people in the US has continually worsened. The American people are increasingly frustrated and angry that this system doesn’t serve us. People are angry that more US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in the 3 years since President Obama was elected, than in Bush’s two terms combined. In addition, More Latinos have been deported in the last 3 years under Obama’s administration than Bush’s administration
in 8 years – 1.1 million people have been torn from their communities and families and kicked out of this country since 2008. We saw massive protests in Madison by the public sector union workers and their allies. The postal workers union has been threatened with more than one third of their workforce being laid off. In the US 770,000 children in public schools are homeless, yet 13%, one out of 9 homes in the US now lie vacant. Faced with an ever-worsening situation people are starting to fight back. They will suffer the same FBI and government attacks as we have. This is where we can build solidarity. There is widespread sentiment that we are the 99%.

Most important since last year’s September raids, Occupy Wall Street has shaken up America. Millions identify with these youth. They are taking the same path as we have, and as Oakland, New York City, and Chicago clearly show, they are running up against the same repressive forces as we have. They are becoming an organizing center of the youth and workers fighting back against the 1% who own this country. Participating in Occupy Wall Street actions around the country can open up more opportunities than we could have dreamed of a year ago.

So here’s to our future! Let’s build a system where our tax money is used to give each of us a home, a job, and free health care, not to bail out corporations and to kill thousands of people like us in other countries. A system where we occupy Wall Street, not Palestine, Iraq,
and Afghanistan.

A country that refuses to separate families because of their immigration status, with no New Jim Crow system instituted against Black people. A country in which all people can legally marry whoever they want and gay youth do not need to resort to suicide to escape being bullied.

I want to see a system created in which the Irvine 11 are honored, not prosecuted, for protesting Israeli war criminals. Where Bradley Manning and the Cuban 5 are recognized as the national human rights heroes that they are and not as spies and enemies of the state.

We are here today to continue our struggle to fight for everything and more than I just mentioned. With that, I would to welcome you once again to today’s conference.