Academics Oppose FBI Harassment of Activists

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A message from Abdul Alkalimat, an educator at The University of Illinois and a long time activist with such projects as the website and eBlack Studies.

"The tradition of Black Studies is to uphold democracy and prevent the emergence of a police state.  Every chance we get to make this point upholds the legacy of Frederick Douglass, Harriet and Sojourner, Ida B. Wells and DuBois, Paul Robeson and Claudia Jones, of Malcolm and Martin.

“When they attack, we must act.


Here is one such case. Please sign on to this letter.”

Academics Oppose FBI Harassment of Activists

We the undersigned professors and instructors at institutions of higher learning, and independent scholars join in asking you, President Obama, to direct Attorney General Holder, to immediately review, reconsider and reverse your decision to call 23 peaceful anti-war activists before the
Grand Jury for their legitimate protest activities. Furthermore, we add our voices in opposition to the coordinated raids carried out in September, 2010 by 70 FBI agents against seven of the homes and one of the offices of these anti-war organizers in Chicago, Grand Rapids and Minneapolis. The harassment of these individuals has continued.

Since there are no criminal charges against the 23 people who have been subpoenaed, they cannot even defend themselves. However, those who have refused to participate in the Grand Jury fishing expedition are doing so as a matter of principle. The Grand Jury, as you know, is a secret session where those subpoenaed have no right to counsel - no right to see evidence brought against them, and no right to cross examine witnesses against them; and can be interrogated behind closed doors about themselves and others. We support the activists in this decision.

The subpoenas these activists have been served are based on the conservative decision by the Supreme Court in the Humanitarian Law Project case earlier this year in which the Court deemed that even non-violent conflict resolution work with certain organizations could be deemed support for terrorism. This kind of convoluted logic is a dangerous and slippery slope.

There are a number of points in this country’s history in which government repression ruled the day and instilled fear in anyone who dared to dissent. Examples include the 1919 Palmer Raids, the House Un-American Activities Committee and its various offshoots in the 1950s and early 60s, and the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In each case historians have looked back and condemned the actions of the government officials who authorized spying on innocent citizens from Albert Einstein to Jane Addams to Paul Robeson to Martin Luther King Jr. Please don’t allow this kind of repression to occur on your watch. This is not the historic mark you want to make.

In response to the pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East you rightly praised the courage of the protesters who dared to speak truth to power. We are all duplicitous if we praise dissent in other places and punish it at home. Activists in two states had their homes raided, computers, cell phones and even family photos taken, and their lives turned upside down. Some of these people have never even traveled to the places in the world they are accused of involvement in. They now wait for possible indictments that could render them criminals for daring to criticize U.S. policy. As academics we understand the critical importance of freedom of speech and expression. We teach our students to be critical thinkers and to act on their conscience. Surely, the President that many of us voted for, rallied for and placed so much hope in, will not be the President who puts peaceful community organizers behind bars. We ask you to reaffirm your commitment to freedom of expression and immediately stop these aggressive and unwarranted legal actions against non-violent social justice activists.


1Ayesha GillUniversity of CaliforniaOakland CA
2prexy nesbittColumbia Collegeadjunct professor History DepartmentOak Park IL
3Thomas GoldpaughMarist collegeAssociate professor, EnglishKingston NY
4David Pankerno collegeIndianapolis IN
5Joan LandesPenn State UniversityProfessor, History and Women's StudiesUniversity Park PA
6Richard ClemensCamosun CollegeEducationSonghees Nation DC
7Lynne AdrianUniversity of AlabamaChair, Department of American StudiesTuscaloosa AL
8David CrumpCalvin CollegeProfessor, Religion Dept.Grand Rapids MI
9DARNELLA WADEst. paul collegeST.PAUL, MN
10Michael S GoodmanUW-MadisonMadison WI
11Deanna JewellPrefer Not to SayInstructorSaint Louis MO
12Alexis Maestre-SaboritHodges UniversityStudentsFort Myers FL
13paul rimelspachportland communty collegeportland OR
14Emily BohallEarlham CollegeUnder-graduateWestport IN
15Jon CorlettCannot Afford.Lakeland FL
16Alexis Maestre-SaboritHodges UniversityStudentFort Myers FL
17Estella RogersThe Evergreen State CollegeTacoma WA
18kirk ownbyuclalos angeles CA
19Brian SmithUniversity of Central MissouriWarrenton MO
20Robert ThorneJohns Hopkins Medical Schoolin 1987-1988 I worked at Johns Hopkins Medical School as an Instructor in the Rehabilitation Medicine DepartmentWEST NEW YORK NJ
21Nico RobuccioFitchburg State UniversityStudentFitchburg MA
22geral sosbee Texasnabrownsville TX
23William G Gonzaleznot enrolled in collegeSuffern NY
24Frank WalterAmerican River Collegeprofessor emeritusPortland OR
25Ila EndersUniversity of WisconsinHager City WI
26Alan W. MooreCity University of New York, Graduate Centeralumnus, Art History PhD programMadrid ME
27Al AgueroBinghamton University Waverly NY
28geral sosbeeTexas Tech University Law SchoolMcAllen TX