What does it mean for federal prosecutors to drag young adults into court, blanketing them with accusations of terrorism and citing political literature and social circles as evidence? What does it mean for these young people to resist “with every fiber of [their] existence,” going to prison and suffering the psychological exile of solitary confinement?
On July 25th, 2012, Leah Plante’s home was raided by federal antiterrorist agents she, along with her comrades Matt Duran and Kteeo Olejnik, were detained in the backyard and later arrested, allegedly due to their involvement with May Day protests in Seattle. This was, of course, just an excuse:
we suspected that this was not really about broken windows. [...] nobody used rolled up copies of the Stumptown Wobbly to commit property damage.
What the federal agents did do, however, was confiscate anarchist literature, black clothes, cans of spray paint. They interrogated Leah about any other anarchists she had been associating with and, when she refused to answer any questions, they put her on trial before a federal grand jury. In various public statements, Leah avowed that she would “[u]nder no circumstances [...] talk about other people.” The thing is, Leah was put before a grand jury proceeding, a particularly malicious judicial predicament in which the individual subject automatically forfeits his or her Sixth Amendment right to have a legal counsel represent them, as well as his or her Fifth Amendment rights; the individual can be charged with holding the court in contempt for refusing to answer questions.
A protest against the questionable judicial proceedings faced by Leah, Kteeo, and Matt
The federal grand jury, once an “independent bulwark protecting individuals from unfounded accusations by the government,” has, in recent times, evolved into the quintessential kangaroo court, allowing the feds to “rubber stamp” prosecutions while avoiding judicial procedures meant to curb abuses. The entire mechanism just seems remarkably shifty: the accused individual is deprived of the right to have a judge mediate the trial, and, get this, the entire proceeding is cloaked in secrecy: the prosecutor, jurors, and stenographer are prohibited from revealing anything about the trial unless ordered to do so in a judicial proceeding.
This has provoked many protests against federal investigations culminating in federal grand jury hearings. In the past, a similar hearing was used to interrogate Bradley Manning in relation to Wikileaks. What all of these investigations have in common, besides the clear political motivations, is a deliberate manipulation of information intended to paint the accused individual as some sort of incredibly dangerous supervillian. Bradley manning is being questioned by federal grand jury and a prosecutor bent on a long sentence as some sort of Cold War agent provocateur ; the Seattle Three, on the other hand, are being tried on some trumped-up accusations or terrorism. One might also consider the fact that federal grand jurors really exist only as a canvas onto which the prosecutor can paint his damning conviction of the accused; they are neither instructed in judicial matter snow are they screened for biases which would make them ineligible to serve on a state or local jury.
If you see something, say something
This story ultimately indicates the continuation of a more general, and far more frightening trend: the implementation of judicial scare-tactics on the federal level to prosecute individuals for their political leanings. In a word, voicing opinions about overthrowing the government or using violent means to bring about change has become reason enough to be targeted by federal authorities. Neil Fox, president of the Seattle chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, had this to say about the investigations:
When I see a search warrant that targets political literature, I get nervous.
Indeed, this whole situation seems like it was taken right out of 1984: homes raided by armed forces for what is essentially a thought crime, fluffed-up abuses of the judicial system used to intimidate individuals for “not snitching” on their comrades, it’s some scary shit. However, when you consider the depth of the federal government’s involvement in this, it really seems more like a surreal conspiracy more akin to The Crying of Lot 49. Most recently, the FBI has been targeting “anarchist terrorists” in relation to OWS-related activities. The May Day anarchists arrested in Cleveland, it later turned out, were supplied with bomb-making materials and instructions by the FBI. Indeed, agents and law enforcement officers have been briefed about what is perceived as an anarchist threat to homeland security. The cringing irony, that these federal agents are decimating people’s feelings of security even as they attempt to preserve it, is clearly lost on yes-men who walk into homes, guns drawn, like horses wearing blinders. Here’s a page from the FBI’s briefing:
Doublethink logic abounds: the fact that anarchist activists are
- paranoid precisely because their political ideology appears on such agent briefs
- security conscious because they hear accounts of armed agents bursting into people’s homes at night
- distrustful of authority because they see political structures abuse themselves repeatedly and corrode public trust, and
- non-cooperative because they educate themselves on the psychological manipulation employed even in routing police encounters
seems to be lost on antiterrorist think tanks. The notion that this isn’t a deliberate act of political repression becomes harder and harder to believe.
They are scared. Now more than ever we must show solidarity
Before her October 10th trial, Leah Plante released an excellent video which explains her beliefs, convictions, and willingness to stand by them far better than any paraphrased article can:
If you’re afraid because you too possess all of the prerequisites necessary for becoming the subject of such a political investigation, you should be: I have black clothes, sticks, spray paint, and anarchist literature in my household, too. What we need to remember, however, is that the state would only be persecuting radical activists if they were actually scared of them. True anarchists, fighting for concrete change by any means necessary and refusing to be comfortably co-opted, are terrifying to the state and to the facade of a political system we are all constantly dulled and smothered with. Let’s take a step back though; let’s remember the media’s reaction to OWS activities when they started rising like a tide about a year ago, let’s remember the water-cooler cynicism and cholesterol-gurgling guffaws that made it seem as if this new, political awakening wasn’t a big deal.
Now it is a big deal; and now is the time for us to take our inspiration from infinitely brave activists like Leah Plante and to fight back, because they’re fucking scared of us, and we are a threat.Tweet