FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The FBI Raids in Context

by RON JACOBS

On September 24, 2010 the FBI raided several houses and a couple offices in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago and North Carolina  under the guise of looking for proof that the people living in those houses were involved with organizations that “lent material support to terrorists.”  Ironically (or perhaps presciently) the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) also released an 88-page document titled The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the U.S on that day.  Not content with criminalizing the representation provided by  attorneys to those accused of fomenting terrorism, as in the case of Lynne Stewart, with these raids the Obama administration has stepped up the repression that became quite commonplace under George Bush.

In short, the government is attempting to criminalize the organizing of antiwar protests.  Furthermore, it wants to make opposition to the the government’s assistance in repressing struggles for self-determination illegal.  Other repressive actions by law enforcement against US citizens, including the sentencing of a videographer to 300 days in jail for trespass after he tried to film an unauthorized talk in Chicago and the acknowledgement by the Pittsburgh FBI office that it had spied on peace activists and used a private agency to help out, makes it clear that the PATRIOT Act and its excesses are alive and well under the Obama administration.  Repression is a bipartisan activity, especially when it comes to the repression of the left.

These raids are a clear and vicious attempt to intimidate the antiwar movement.  The grand jury is a fishing expedition, as evidenced (for example) by the warrant asking for papers from no determined time.  This intimidation is a continuation of the harassment of the Twin Cities left/anarchist community that began before the 2008 Republican National Convention.  As I recall, several organizers had their homes and offices raided prior to the convention.  In addition, hundreds of protesters were arrested and many more were beaten by law enforcement thugs.  Eight organizers were eventually charged with a variety of charges including conspiracy.  As of September 25, 2010, three of those charged had all of their charges dropped and the rest face trial on October 25, 2010.

This is not just about the movement in the Twin Cities, however.  The September 24 raids also took place in Chicago and North Carolina.  There is a grand jury being convened in October 2010 with the intention of perhaps charging some of the people (and maybe others) subpoenaed on September 24.  These raids are an attempt by the federal government to criminalize antiwar organizing . They are also an attempt to make support for the Palestinians and other people fighting for self-determination illegal.

The PATRIOT Act was passed on October 26, 2001.  Since that passage, the level of law enforcement intimidation and outright repression  increased quite dramatically.  From little things like protesters being forced to protest in so-called free speech zones or face arrest to the recent approval of the assassination of US citizens by federal death squads, there has been a clear progression away from any concern for protecting civil liberties.  Indeed, the concern for civil liberties is usually dismissed by politicians, judges, and other people in power almost as if they were some worthless costume trinkets from  grandma’s jewelry box.  As mentioned earlier, this harassment and repression is not new to US history.  In addtion to multiple  murders of Black liberation activists, illegal surveillance, false imprisonment and other forms of harassment, the use of grand juries was essential to the repression of the  antiwar and antiracist movements of the 1960s and 1970s.  As the NLG document points out, “from 1970-1973, over 100 grand juries in 84 cities subpoenaed over 1,000 activists.”   However, nowadays there seems to be less resistance to it.  Some of this can be attributed to the lack of press coverage, which is quite possibly intentional.  Much of the lack of concern, however, can be attributed to the state of fear so many US residents live in.  This is a testimony to the power of the mainstream media and its willingness  to serve as the government’s propaganda wing.

To those who argue that the media don’t always support the government and then cite Fox News’ distaste for Obama or a liberal newspaper’s distaste for certain policies enacted under George Bush, let me point something out.  Like the two mainstream political parties (and the occasional right wing third party movement like the Tea Party), even when different media outlets seem to be opposing each other, the reality is that none opposes the underlying assumptions demanded by the State. In fact, the only argument seems to be how better to effect the underlying plan of the American empire.  The plan itself (or the rightness of the plan) is never seriously questioned.

The September 24, 2010 raids in the Twin Cities, Chicago and North Carolina may not seem like much, even to other antiwar organizers and leftists.  The setting up of “free speech zones” may also appear minor.   A grand jury fishing for supposed links to “terrorism” by antiwar activists may seem like no big deal.  Violations of human rights in cases involving foreign nationals like Aafia Siddiqui (who was sentenced to 86 years after a trial that barely recognized her defense) do not even register on most Americans’ radar.  Yet, it is the cumulative effect of all of these efforts at repression that we should be aware of.  As James Madison wrote:  “”I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

If these seemingly minor encroachments on liberties we assume we have go unchallenged, how long might it be before assassinations and torture by the US military and their mercenary cohorts are carried out on US citizens?  Oh wait, that’s already happening.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rivera Sun
Nonviolent History: South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Boycott
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail