The FBI has had antiwar and solidarity activists from Chicago and Minneapolis in their sights for the past months. by Committee to Stop FBI Repression
On January 25th, twelve anti-war and international solidarity activists will be expected to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. They and eleven others from Chicago and the Twin Cities area in Minnesota in the past months were subpoenaed. Several of the activists had their homes raided. Documents, cell phones, storage disks, computers, and children's artwork were seized from their home. The subpoenas indicated the FBI was looking for evidence that the activists had provided "material support for terrorism." And, recently, it was discovered that the FBI had an informant, who went by the name of "Karen Sullivan," infiltrated an anti-war group in the Twin Cities.
I have personally interviewed many of the activists being targeted and have found no evidence that either should be facing any FBI investigation. A "witch-hunt" began on September 24th and, since then, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been working to get activists to testify before a grand jury in Chicago. So far, all the activists have refused to participate in this "fishing expedition."
Over the next few weeks, I will publish profiles of each of the activists the FBI is targeting. Each article published will tell the story of one activist and how he or she is being harassed and intimidated for exercising his or her right to organize and speak out against their government and the policies of their government in places like Colombia and Palestine.
Anh Pham and her husband were still in bed when the FBI came to their home on September 24th. Pham's husband went to the door and returned to tell Pham that FBI agents were at the door and wanted to speak to her. Pham asked him if they had a warrant. Pham's husband didn't know. Pham left the bedroom with her husband to go see if the FBI had a warrant, but by that time it was "almost a moot point." The FBI had let their selves into Pham's house.
The FBI presented Pham with a warrant. It said they were going to search through her apartment for any evidence that she had given "material aid to terrorism." They particularly wanted to know if she had helped the revolutionary forces of Colombia (FARC) or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They mentioned her work with the Anti-War Committee and her relationship with the Freedom Road Socialists in Minnesota. Specifically, they used the words "my indoctrination," and wanted to know about her "indoctrination" into the Anti-War Committee (AWC) and these groups.
Following presentation of the warrant, the FBI handed a subpoena to Pham, which said she had to appear before a grand jury on October 5, 2010. Then, they proceeded to put up 8 - by 11 sheets of paper with letters in the rooms of Pham's apartment. They told her and her husband to sit in the living room and proceeded to take photographs of all the rooms and search everything in the apartment--clothing, photographs, cook books, patterns, etc.
Pham's grand jury date was "the first of three dates" set in October for activists who had been subpoenaed to appear. All of the fourteen who were subpoenaed pleaded the fifth and refused to testify. A month went by and then on November 2nd, Election Day, Pham's lawyer was notified that Pham's subpoena had been reactivated.
"When I tell people what's happening to me and what I see in my subpoena, people who are not activists, who go to classes of mine and who are just people in day to day life who do any political work say that this is McCarthyism," explains Pham. "These aren't things they are getting from any literature we've put out, but these are things they remember from growing up here."
She fears the PATRIOT Act and the Holder v. Humanitarian Aid Law Supreme Court decision is being used by the government to prevent activism and deter Americans from getting into debates about what their country is doing in their name.
Pham joined the AWC when she was no longer a college student and had graduated. She wanted to be part of a group that wasn't a student group. Her profile on the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website says, "As a member of the AWC she helped organize local forums, pot-lucks and teach-ins as well as buses to Washington D.C.for protests. She traveled to El Salvador to attend an anti-globalization conference and then to Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine where she met with NGO workers and activist who shared their struggles."
When news came that the Republican National Convention was going to be held in St. Paul, Minnesota, the AWC began to do the work necessary to ensure a large mobilization against U.S. wars took place during the Convention.
"Many of us felt that because it was going to be held in the center of the country there was a fear that there would be no response and especially with the failed antiwar policies that there needed to be a strong response," explains Pham. The members of the AWC wanted the public to know there were people who thought the occupation of Iraq was wrong and the continued militarization that is going on in the country should be opposed.
The AWC applied for a permit. Their application for a large legally permitted demonstration on the very first day of the Convention was denied. The AWC organized a large coalition with antiwar organizations, trade unions, etc, which met over a period of time and held regular protests along the proposed march route. Finally, they were given the permit, which made the coalition proud. However, in the week before the Convention, when the activists saw the pens authorities expected the activists to use during their protest at the Xcel Energy Center, where the Convention was to be held, they realized they were not going to get anywhere near the center to really speak and deliver their message to those at the Convention.