On Sept. 24, 2010 the FBI launched a series of coordinated raids against anti-war and international solidarity activists in the Midwest. More than 70 agents of the FBI, ATF and Joint Terrorism Task Force were involved. Also raided that day was the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee. In concert with the raids, the FBI made attempts to intimidate activists in California, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
That day, the authorities started the process of serving subpoenas for activists to appear in front of a Chicago-based Grand Jury. Subpoenas mounted in the days and months following – until a total of 23 activists were ordered to appear in front of the grand jury witch hunt headed by U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Simultaneously, more FBI ‘visits’ took place in the Midwest and Southwest.
In November and December 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Illinois made threats against three anti-war activists from the Twin Cities, telling them in no uncertain terms: Cooperate with the prosecution – or else.
Then on May 17, 2011 the attack was extended to veteran Chicano leader Carlos Montes, whose home was raided by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The raid was an initiative of the FBI, who tried to question Montes about Freedom Road Socialist Organization. He is now facing up to 18 years in jail on a false pretext of firearm charges.
All of the above is well known to those who have followed this case, and much of it has been covered, at times extensively, in the national and international press. That said, it is important to recall just how large this assault has been to date, if we are to understand the gravity of the situation in the future.
Get ready for more storms ahead
While the future is unwritten, every progressive person should understand there is a real danger of more attacks in the coming period. The U.S. Attorney Office in Chicago has told lawyers for the activists to expect multiple indictments of multiple people. A number of the activists have had their passports seized. Very little of the property that was taken away on Sept. 24 has been returned.
For two years before the raids, an undercover law enforcement officer going by the name “Karen Sullivan” invested thousands of hours into spying on, and lying about, those targeted in this investigation.
The violent attack on the home of Carlos Montes and the ongoing attempt to put him in prison underscore the need to take the government’s threats seriously.
A powerful resistance
The repression is one side of the coin. The other is the powerful response.
Even while the Sept. 24 raids were taking place, a strong, broad and multifaceted pushback was underway. Activists whose homes were still full of FBI agents gave interviews to the media. Within hours, press conferences and demonstrations were underway to demand, “Hands off anti-war and international solidarity activists.” In the days following the raids more than 60 demonstrations took place around the county. In past year, there were waves of protests, nationally and internationally, at every important juncture in the case – of special importance are the actions responding to the attempt to jail Carlos Montes.
The foundation of this response resides in this fact: In the face of immense pressure and real danger, not one of the activists who was called to grand jury agreed to go. And no one cooperated with the FBI. The lesson is simple; those who stand up and do the right thing will find support.
Likewise the approach of uniting all who can be united was and is vital in building a broad defense. As it is, thousands of people in the anti-war, Palestine and Latin America solidarity, and other progressive movements have spoken out against this repression. So have trade unions, civil rights organizations and some members of congress. More than 50 communist and workers parties from Cuba to Democratic Korea have condemned these attacks.
Anyone who holds that people have the right to organize, speak out and to from political associations has a place in this movement to defend everyone’s democratic rights.
A clear agenda
It’s clear that that the FBI, the misnamed U.S. ‘Justice Department’ and the forces that pull their strings have an agenda.
Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, a wave of repression has been unleashed on Arab and Muslim people in this country. This is an attempt to extend that attack. It is aimed at people who stand in solidarity with Palestine, including some who are Palestinian Americans.
It is an attempt to criminalize international solidarity. From Palestine to Colombia, people want to be free of oppression. It is a great thing that there are people in the United States who support these struggles. The U.S. government is treating solidarity as if it were a crime, while supporting death squad governments like Colombia. The U.S. military kills on a daily basis in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and many other countries. Yet our rulers have the nerve to turn around and say those who fight for freedom and independence are ‘terrorists.’ They are incapable of telling the truth; they make a practice of confounding right and wrong.
Another element is the anti-communist character of this attack, which takes aim at Freedom Road Socialist Organization. FBI documents discovered in a raided home in May 2011 read like something written by Joe McCarthy; “Who do you know? What do you talk about? Where do you hold meetings? Tell us about steps taken to overthrow the government.” It is like the calendar has been turned back 60 years.
We in the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) have long worked to build the anti-war and international solidarity movements. We are proud of the work we have done to stand with the people of Colombia, Palestine, the Philippines and other countries who are fighting to free themselves from U.S. domination. It is no surprise that among the activists who were raided, subpoenaed and questioned, there were members of the FRSO who are longtime anti-war and international solidarity activists, as well as others who are active in the labor movement and the oppressed nationality communities.
Seize the time
The time is now to defeat those who want to jail activists, organizers and leaders of the people’s struggle who are standing up for what is just.
A sense of urgency is needed. All of those targeted have made real contributions to making this world a better place to live. They have done nothing wrong.
Carlos Montes is facing a very long time in prison. He is 64 years old and has devoted the whole of his life to the liberation of the Chicano people and working and oppressed people everywhere. Every effort must be made to keep him free.
The months ahead are critical. The enemies of freedom are strong. We need to be stronger. Let’s lift our voices to demand an end to the repression. The time has come to fight back!