Local leaders and groups ask President Obama and U.S. Attorney General to end Grand Jury investigation of peace and solidarity activists

NEWS RELEASE

February 7, 2011

From:  Seattle United Against FBI Repression

Contact:    
Ellen Finkelstein – 206.661.3241
Doug Barnes – 206.326.9771

For Release:  Immediately

Local leaders and groups ask President Obama and U.S. Attorney General to end Grand Jury investigation of peace and solidarity activists

More than 70 regional community leaders and organizations have signed an open letter calling on President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to use their authority to "stop assaults on freedom of speech and association, to halt FBI entrapment, [and] to keep nonviolent activists from being sent to prison.” The letter (attached) was issued by Seattle United Against FBI Repression.

Signers to the letter include Larry Gossett, Chair of the King County Council; Alice Woldt, Executive Director, Washington Association of Churches*; Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director, OneAmerica; Juan Jose Bocanegra, El Comité Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social; Angela Ying, Pastor, Bethany United Church of Christ; Rodolfo Franco, President, Washington Federation of State Employees Local 304*;  Terri Mast, Secretary-Treasurer, Inlandboatmen's Union; Jafar Siddiqui, American Muslims of Puget Sound; George Bakan, publisher of Seattle Gay News; Steering Committee of the Seattle National Lawyers Guild; Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation; Freedom Socialist Party; Jane Cutter, ANSWER Seattle; Elmer J. Dixon, cofounder of Seattle Black Panther Party; and many others.

According to Doug Barnes, an initiator of Seattle United Against FBI Repression, “People from a variety of communities have signed the letter because of their concern about FBI raids around the country on peace activists, labor organizers, Palestinian and Colombian solidarity groups, and socialists.” The raids began on Sept. 24, 2010 in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. Twenty-three activists have been issued subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury or face imprisonment.

The letter states, “Here in the Northwest, we have not forgotten the false FBI terrorism charges after 9/11 against the owners of a Somali grocery store and wire service in South Seattle. In 2009, Olympia activists planning nonviolent civil disobedience against the war in Iraq were infiltrated by an Army intelligence agent, who passed information to the FBI, police, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). …We are also disturbed by the FBI’s renewed targeting of the Muslim community with its so-called ‘sting operations.’…These FBI entrapment tactics are creating anti-Muslim hysteria in those communities, which should not be the policy of our government.”

The letter concludes, “We are greatly concerned about these threats to our democracy, our First Amendment rights, and the civil liberties of all people who reside in the United States.” Signers ask for a prompt “proactive response” from President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Local efforts are part of a nationwide mobilization to draw attention to the raids and Grand Jury subpoenas.
 
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* for identification purposes only

Open letter follows: _________________________

February 7, 2011

Dear President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Holder:                               

We write out of grave concern regarding the recent FBI raids on the homes of peace activists, labor organizers and socialists around the country.  The raids began on September 24, 2010 in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. Twenty-three activists have now been issued subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury or face possible imprisonment.  The FBI confiscated computers, cell phones, children's artwork, documents, personal papers and photographs, including one of Martin Luther King shaking hands with Malcolm X.  These violations of citizen privacy have been justified by FBI claims that it is investigating “material links to terrorism.”

The 16 women and 7 men targeted by the FBI are well-known in their communities as organizers for peace and justice.  They have no links whatsoever to terrorism. Yet the FBI has ordered them to provide information regarding their political work, address books and contacts in the U.S. and abroad, particularly in Palestine and Colombia.  This constitutes a sweeping witch hunt for information about protected citizen activity, one that calls to mind the McCarthyism of the 1950’s and the COINTELPRO operations of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Forcing these activists to provide such information could seriously jeopardize the lives of human rights advocates who are facing repressive governments in other countries.

Before Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, his organization, the African National Congress, was on the U.S. terrorist list because of its organized resistance to the fundamental racism of apartheid rule.  Would the FBI raid someone who wrote a letter of support to an imprisoned Nelson Mandela?  The Constitution protects every U.S. citizen's right to freedom of speech, association and assembly. It is these protected rights that the recent FBI raids and Justice Department subpoenas clearly violate, threatening democracy itself in these United States.

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice recently criticized the FBI for its inappropriate surveillance of peace and justice organizations.  But the FBI is apparently ignoring this report and continuing to abuse its authority. The Inspector General also revealed that hundreds of FBI agents had cheated on their domestic surveillance exams.  Apparently, serious corrections are badly needed.

Here in the Northwest, we have not forgotten the false FBI terrorism charges after 9/11 against the owners of a Somali grocery store and wire service in South Seattle. In 2009, Olympia activists planning nonviolent civil disobedience against the war in Iraq were infiltrated by an Army intelligence agent, who passed information to the FBI, police, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Recent media reports indicate that the FBI is acquiring an ever larger database of people who they claim need to be watched, apparently including peace activists, labor organizers and socialists.  

We are also disturbed by the FBI’s renewed targeting of the Muslim community with its so-called “sting operations.” Most recently the FBI attempted to infiltrate an agent provocateur into the Muslim community in Irvine, California, and it entrapped two young Muslim American men, including an Oregon teenager, into phony terrorist plots.  These FBI entrapment tactics are creating anti-Muslim hysteria in those communities, which should not be the policy of our government.

We are greatly concerned about these threats to our democracy, our First Amendment rights, and the civil liberties of all people who reside in the United States. Please use your authority to stop these assaults on freedom of speech and association, to halt FBI entrapment tactics and Grand Jury witch hunts, to keep nonviolent activists from being sent to prison, and to assure that all property seized by the FBI is returned to the rightful owners.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these most serious matters.  We await your proactive response.

cc:  Representative Jim McDermott,
       Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell

Sincerely,

Larry Gossett, Chair, King County Council

De'Sean Quinn, member Tukwila City Council

Susan Segall, American Friends Service Committee
Pacific Northwest Region

Alice Woldt Executive Director, Washington Association
of Churches*

Angela Ying, Pastor/Head of Staff, Bethany United
Church of Christ

Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director, OneAmerica.

Rodolfo Franco, President, Washington Federation of
State Employees L 304*

Juan Jose Bocanegra, Oscar Rosales Castañeda, El
Comite Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social

Paul Rogat Loeb, Author of “Soul of a Citizen”

K.L. Shannon, Police Accountability Chair, NAACP of
King County

Oscar Eason Jr, community activist

Terri Mast, Secretary-Treasurer, Inlandboatmen's Union

Marline Pedregosa, Secretary-Treasurer, SEIU, Local 6*

Mel Kang, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance,
Seattle Chapter*

Paul Bigman, Business Representative, International
Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 15*

Mike Andrew, Pride At Work, MLK County Chapter

Steering Committee of the Seattle National Lawyers
Guild Chapter

Elmer J. Dixon, Co-founder and former member of
Seattle Black Panther Party

Arab-American Community Coalition

Rev. Rich Lang, Trinity United Methodist Church

Women In Black - Seattle

Ellen Finkelstein, Western Washington Fellowship of
Reconciliation

Gerry Condon, Veterans for Peace

Heather Day, Community Alliance for Global Justice

Neil Fox, Attorney at law and member of the National
Lawyers Guild

Ziyad Zatoun, concerned activist

Doug Barnes, Freedom Socialist Party National
Secretary

Anne Slater, Radical Women National Organizer

Patricia Imani, member Port Militarization Resistance

Lois Danks, Coordinator Stop the Checkpoints

Marilyn Mayers, Peace Ministry team, East Shore
Unitarian Church

Karen Weill, Dean Tuckerman, Larry Hildes, members of
the National Lawyers Guild.

Cindy Domingo, Co-Chair, U.S. Women & Cuba Collaboration and former National Coordinator,
Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes

Michael Withey, Attorney at Law, Attorney for the
Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes

Jane Cutter coordinator, ANSWER Seattle

Palestine Solidarity Committee - Seattle

Edward Mast, Linda Bevis, Palestine Information Project

Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign

Garry Owens, Legacy of Equality, Leadership and
Organizing (LELO)

Socialist Alternative - Seattle

Leela Yellesetty, Seattle International Socialist
Organization

Voices of Palestine

Peace Action Group of Plymouth Church UCC, Seattle
Washington

Seattle International Human Rights Coalition

Jafar Siddiqui, American Muslims of Puget Sound

James Squire, Physicians for a National Health
Program*

Mark Cook, member of Seattle Jericho

Jonathan Lawson, Co-founder, Reclaim the Media

Colette Cosner, Regional Organizer, Witness for Peace
Northwest

Bill Aal, Co-founder, Tools for Change

Chaim Eliyah, Coordinator, Seattle CISPES- Committee
in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador

George Bakan, publisher, civil rights activist - Seattle Gay News

Dan DiLeva, Socialist Alternative & October 22nd
Coalition to Stop Police Brutality*

Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture

Jamie Mayerfeld, Washington State Religious Campaign
Against Torture

Rev. Wesley Nordman, Pastor, Woodland Park
Presbyterian Church

Luzviminda Uzuri "Lulu" Carpenter, Secretary General of
Pinay sa Seattle, of GABRIELA-USA

Ruth Yarrow, Mike Yarrow, Karen Jones, & John Repp,
members of the Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War
(SNOW) steering committee

Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS),
Seattle/King County - a multi-union organization for
workers' rights

Henry Noble, member International Association of
Machinists 751 retired

Martha L. Schmidt, Attorney at Law and member of
National Lawyers Guild

Aline B. Carton, Attorney at Law and member of National Lawyers Guild

Duff Badgley, Coordinator for No Biomass Burn, a
Seattle eco-activist group

Larry Ebersole, MA, Amnesty International USA Area  
Coordinator in WA*
___________________

* For identification purposes only