Archive for September, 2010

Protesting FBI Raids of Anti War Activists

September 29, 2010

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With the World Can’t Wait and other anti war organizations in front of the Federal Building on lower Broadway.

FBI raids of the houses and offices of anti war protesters in Minneapolis and Chicago last Friday led to protests of FBI offices in twenty cities this week.  One of those activists also edits Fight Back newspaper which covers union activities and student protests across the country, so I was not surprised to find a group of labor activists already assembled in front of the Federal Building which houses the New York office of the FBI on lower Broadway when I arrived at about 4:25.  Shortly, Debra Sweet, head of World Can’t Wait, showed up bringing a large banner.  It was my job to hold one end of this banner for the rest of the time I was there.  A number of anti war groups were participating across the country including the International Action Center, United for Peace and Justice and World Can’t Wait.

I soon noticed with gratitude the green cap of the Legal Observers from the National Lawyers Guild.  A woman Legal Observer whom I had seen at the demonstration in support of Bradley Manning was one of them.  I thanked her, as I always do, because I feel safer when they are observing, less likely to be victimized by illegal police actions.  As she did before and as every one of these volunteers who help insure the rights of dissent in this country do, she thanked me for being there.   I suppose they cannot help protect rights that none of us are willing to exercise.

Legal observers are an important part of this story because the activists who were raided last week were also arrested in conjunction with the Republican National Convention in 2008 in a vast show of unconstitutional abridgment of the rights to dissent; and it was the National Lawyers Guild which worked then and is working now to protect those rights.  Here and here are links to previous posts on this blog and news articles about those incidents.

Not surprisingly, as the group circled the large federal building and plaza, some of the chants mentioned Gestapo and Nazi as well as police state and demanded the end of such raids and the right to dissent and protest government policies as guaranteed in the US Constitution.

No less than Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the treasury in the Reagan administration, hardly a leftist, said in response to last Friday’s FBI raids in an article titled It Is Official: The US Is A Police State:

“‘Violent extremism’ is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning’s FBI’s foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience, it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with ‘the material support of terrorism,’ just as conservatives equated Vietnam era anti-war protesters with giving material support to communism.

“Anti-war activist Mick Kelly whose home was raided, sees the FBI raids as harassment to intimidate those who organize war protests. I wonder if Kelly is under-estimating the threat. The FBI’s own words clearly indicate that the federal police agency and the judges who signed the warrants do not regard antiwar protesters as Americans exercising their Constitutional rights, but as unpatriotic elements offering material support to terrorism.

“‘Material support’ is another of those undefined police state terms. In this context the term means that Americans who fail to believe their government’s lies and instead protest its policies, are supporting their government’s declared enemies and, thus, are not exercising their civil liberties but committing treason.”

Later in the article, Roberts concludes:

“The US media, highly concentrated in violation of the American principle of a diverse and independent media, will lend its support to the witch hunts that will close down all protests and independent thought in the US over the next few years. As the Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels said, ‘think of the press as a great keyboard on which the Government can play.’

“An American Police State was inevitable once Americans let ‘their’ government get away with 9/11. Americans are too gullible, too uneducated, and too jingoistic to remain a free people. As another Nazi leader Herman Goering said, ‘ The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace-makers for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger.’

“This is precisely what the Bush and Obama regimes have done. America, as people of my generation knew it, no longer exists.”

It appears that Dr. Roberts as well as many others sees repression in these events.

Certainly, the appearance of highly armed and armored military police clearly arrayed against citizens as at the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2008 and on other occasions here in New York, some of which are complete mysteries to me, always cause a visceral “storm troopers” reaction on my part.  I am not ready to find it normal to exit the subway at Grand Central for instance and walk into a phalanx of these troops with the huge automatic assault weapons, which I have reported about in this blog

These displays along with the raids and arrests of persons of conscience are not only not abating but increasing under the Obama regime, though today they were not present.  There were only, thank goodness, normal NYPD types in evidence.  I did however notice a pair of men in a white van with antennae on it, clearly an unmarked “law enforcement” van of some sort, stopped on Broadway and scrutinizing us closely.  All we did was march and chant and hold banners, but our photographs are no doubt in their files and our identities known.

For part of the event,  we held the World Can’t Wait banner facing Broadway so passersby could see it as others moved back and forth chanting behind us.  I thought then, as so often I do when protesting, what it would have been like to have a million of us there, even a hundred thousand of us.  I am not good with estimates like this, but would a hundred thousand people have stretched all the way back to 42nd Street?  Even to 14th Street, that number of people at evening rush hour would have made it clear to the city and the world that people in this country are willing to stand up and speak out against police intimidation and for the right to dissent.  Why do we not show up in such numbers?  Is it because not enough people knew about this?  Is it because those who know don’t act?

Several of us were interviewed by a representative from Democracy Now.  Amy Goodman and others from that valiant news organization were brutally assaulted by the repressive police as they worked to tell the story unfolding at the RNC in 2008.  You can review those posts here and here.  It was thus not surprising that they were gathering information, but I doubt that corporate news organization will cover this protest and some of the twenty others which have taken place in other cities yesterday and today.  There were no other news media represented.  No wonder people don’t know about things in this country; the corporate media, owned by the corporatists who run the state, take care that people don’t know.

Amy Goodman said that journalists were targeted during the RNC and that such attacks are a threat to democracy.  Paul Craig Roberts two years later says that the US is now officially a police state.

Will US citizens stand up against this?  Do we not see how urgent the situation is?  Has all the repression cowed and immobilized us?

Debra published on the World Can’t Wait website a link to the Center for Constitutional Rights publication titled “If An Agent Knocks” .  Its introduction says:

“… it is of critical importance that you resist any paranoia of government surveillance or fear of infiltration, which will only serve to paralyze you or your organization in your quest for social change. If fear of government repression prevents you from organizing, the agents of repression will have won without even trying.”

Well, these are times when paranoia is easy to have.  The “laws” passed during the Bush regime and enforced even more vigorously under the Obama regime allow the executive branch to declare anyone an enemy and deprive them of all rights.   I downloaded the booklet and read it.  I will review it often as I go forward.

I was inspired this week, as often I am by him, that Jack wrote:

“… the FBI is closing in on anti-war activists. I have been known to act up against war.  If this sounds a bit like Nazi Germany, let me assure you that I will not stay quiet.”

and

“Silence is the enemy just as it was in Nazi Germany.”

and

“And few German people had the courage to speak up in Nazi Germany. I may stand alone but I will stand as long as I am able.”

Let us all stand with Jack, not just talk about what a great thing it is, but actually get out and stand with others as well as work in all the ways we can to stop the wars and the repression.