October 11, 2010

Solidarity Statement from Peace Action Wisconsin

Peace Action Wisconsin strongly condemns the coordinated FBI raids against anti-war and international solidarity activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, and the subpoenas obligating at least a dozen people to testify in front of a grand jury. The activists have not been charged with any crime, and yet the FBI subjected them to an invasive “fishing expedition” which saw much of their property confiscated, a clear violation of the ban on unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

The activists whose homes were raided are members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, and Students for a Democratic Society — all organizations that have actively opposed U.S. foreign policies.  The FBI also raided the office of the Anti-war Committee in Minneapolis, which had helped organize the mass demonstration during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

While these particular raids appeared to be targeted, they have a chilling effect for everyone who works in solidarity with groups overseas to oppose U.S. policies. The FBI has made no attempts to alleviate the serious concerns about the infringement of constitutional rights of non-violent activists, which is very troubling given its well-documented history of repression of social justice movements. These raids are just the latest example of the vague and overly broad charge of “material support for terror” under the PATRIOT Act being used to target groups and individuals who oppose our government’s actions abroad. The “material support” statute is so broadly written that it can, and does, include international peace-building activities that are not in any way intended to support terrorism. If this law were in place two decades ago, many hundreds of American supporters of Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement could have been targeted and actually convicted as terrorist supporters.

The raids come just days after the U.S. Justice Department Inspector General issued a report sharply critical of FBI surveillance of peace groups from 2002-2006, concluding among other things that there was no factual basis for the terror claims the FBI made to justify their actions.  The Inspector General report also found that FBI Director Mueller testified falsely to Congress about the surveillance of peace groups. On the day of the raids, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) released an 88-page document titled “The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the U.S.”

While Peace Action Wisconsin opposes violence of any type, we strongly defend the constitutional rights of our citizens to freedom of association and speech, even when it includes voicing support for or having contact with groups who are currently placed on the government’s “terror” list. We demand the U.S. government immediately call off the grand jury proceedings, return all confiscated property, and announce measures to ensure that there are no further violations of the basic rights afforded by the U.S. constitution.

Rather than violating the basic constitutional rights of our citizens, our government should address the tactics it employs that terrorize citizens of the world, such as illegal bombings in Pakistan with remote controlled drone airplanes, the indefinite detention of foreigners without charges in military prisons and at Guantanamo, or the billions of dollars in weapons that we funnel into already violence-plagued regions such as Latin America and the Middle East each year. Experts worldwide agree that U.S. actions such as these are in large part responsible for increases in membership and popularity of many “terrorist” groups the U.S. government says it wants to eradicate. Ending these and other violent actions by our own government would be the most effective way to reduce terror worldwide and would not violate the basic rights enshrined in our constitution.