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[The following is a copy of a speech that was given by Katrina Plotz, an activist with the Anti-War Committee who is one of the 14 activists issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury, given at a demonstration in Minneapolis on October 12.]
My name is Katrina Plotz, and on September 27, FBI agents knocked on my door and handed me a subpoena to appear before a grand jury in Chicago on October 12. Well, today is October 12 and as you can see, I have declined their invitation to testify, and have chosen to stay right here in solidarity with my friends and fellow activists in Minneapolis.
I’ve been a member of the Anti-War Committee here in Minneapolis for the past 4 years. And I am proud to be part of a movement that continues to speak out and demonstrate opposition to U.S. wars in the Middle East and U.S. sponsorship of oppressive governments around the world. For years, we’ve openly organized rallies, marches, and educational events to raise awareness and demand justice for people at home and abroad. We’ve done so under both Republican and Democratic presidents, we’ve marched with tens of thousands of like-minded people, and we’re not going to stop now.
In 2006, I had the opportunity to travel to Colombia. As part of a two-week delegation, I met with trade unionists, student activists, and human rights defenders, who bravely shared their stories despite risks to their own personal safety. Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist, and progressive activists who organize for social change are often harassed, threatened, or killed by a repressive Colombian government that is funded and supported by the United States. I went to Colombia to learn about the impact of U.S. tax dollars on the Colombian people. Upon returning, I wrote several articles and spoke out publicly numerous times about what I learned and witnessed. I am guilty of nothing other than seeking and sharing information about the impact of U.S. foreign policy abroad. I have done nothing wrong. And my friends and I should not be subjected to harassment or intimidation from the FBI because of our political views.
In August of 2009, I was scheduled to be part of a delegation to Palestine. I was looking forward to meeting with Palestinians, hearing their experiences, and learning about their lives under an Israeli occupation that exists and continues because of U.S. support. But I never had the chance to hear these stories. At the airport in Tel Aviv, I was detained by Israeli security officers, interrogated, and denied entry to Israel. Apparently, they had learned of our plans to meet with Palestinians and didn’t want us to witness living conditions under Israeli occupation. A fellow traveler and I, Sarah Martin, refused the initial order of deportation, and we were jailed overnight. And now we both face subpoenas from the FBI due to our political activities.
We have chosen not to testify. I, along with 13 others who have been subpoenaed, have chosen not to participate in this grand jury investigation. Our decision does not mean we are guilty of any crime nor should it indicate that we have anything to hide from the public. I personally am happy to talk about my political views and activities in the anti-war and international solidarity movements. However, I am not willing to participate in a grand jury fishing expedition or witch hunt that targets activists for our political views. Grand juries are secretive, coercive tools for the prosecution only. During a grand jury proceeding, there is no judge or defense attorney in the room, hearsay evidence is allowed, and jurors are not screened for bias. Because the process is so questionable, many judges and attorneys have called for the abolition of the federal grand jury system.
Though anti-war activists are currently being targeted, it’s actually the FBI that should be scrutinized. Over the years, the FBI has sought to intimidate and harass countless activists that are viewed quite positively today, including Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Anti-apartheid groups in South Africa once appeared on the FBI’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, as well as the FMLN which is the political party of the current, democratically elected president of El Salvador. The FBI clearly has a history of targeting progressive activists who seek justice and labeling them terrorists as a tool of political repression. And the FBI clearly isn’t even willing to comply with its own rules regulating the surveillance of Americans. Just days before the FBI raided the homes of activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, the Department of Justice issued a report declaring that FBI agents, including supervisors, had cheated on an exam that covered policies on domestic spying, and that they had lied to Congress about their surveillance of activist groups. It’s clearly the FBI that should be investigated – not the political activities of peace activists. Thanks to all who have supported us in this difficult time. We have no plans to talk to any grand jury, but at the same time we will not remain silent about injustice. Thank you.