Chicago activists protest latest round of FBI subpoenas

A CNN ireport about the Demember 7, 2010 rally in Chicago to stop FBI and Grand Jury repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.

From a CNN ireport:

December 7, 2010 | Chicago, Illinois

Posted by: kszremski

iReport —

A group of about 100 activists braved frigid temperatures to protest the latest round of FBI subpoenas in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Monday night.

The FBI issues summons to appear before a federal grand jury to three college students Friday. They are scheduled to appear on Jan. 25, said their attorney Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild. The women are being targeted because they traveled to the Palestinian occupied territory of the West Bank, he added.

The new subpoenas bring to 17 the number of activists throughout the Midwest that have been targeted by the FBI for their Palestinian and Colombian solidarity work.

On Sept. 24, the FBI raided several homes in Minnesota, Chicago and Michigan and issued to subpoenas to 14 people.

To date, all 14 have refused to testify, causing Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to withdraw the summons. However, he has since reissued subpoenas to three Minnesota women, who are facing “indeterminate imprisonment” if they refuse to testify again, said Maureen Murphy of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

The national committee was formed in response to the Sept. 24 FBI raids.

Grand juries are used to determine whether to charge a person with a crime. They differ from juries in criminal trials in that they are not screened for bias, according to the website Grand Jury Resistance Project. In addition, grand juries are conducted in secret without a judge and defense lawyers are not allowed into the room with their clients. However, they may confer with their clients outside the courtroom.

Many people claim that grand juries are misused to silence political opposition.

“Because of their broad subpoena powers and secretive nature, grand juries have been used by the government to gather information on political movements and to disrupt those movements by causing fear and mistrust,” the Grand Jury Resistance Project website states.

That’s a stance the National Lawyers Guild takes. According to its website, the Guild denounces the recent FBI actions.

“The Guild denounces the attacks on free speech, freedom of association, and the right to dissent that these actions represent,” the website states. “The raids and summonses reflect escalating hostility toward individuals and groups working in solidarity with the Palestinian and Colombian people and are blatantly political attacks on peaceful activists.”

The NLG has established a hotline for activists contacted by the FBI and has issued a Know Your Rights brochure and other information.

Murphy was upbeat about the event. The “push back” against the government has show results. Rallies and demonstrations have taken place in at least 60 cities nationwide, she said.

For more information on this issue:

Committee to Stop FBI Repression,

National Lawyers Guild,

Grand Jury Resistance Project,

For action items:

American Muslims for Palestine,

Full Disclosure: I am the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine, which endorsed Monday’s rally.