CU Challenges FBI Over Raids on Peace Activists

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On Monday, September 27, several anti-war protesters
and civil rights advocates from our community decided
to appear at the FBI quarters in west Champaign to register
their protest and dismay upon learning of the
actions of the FBI in raiding peace activists’ homes.
Raids were conducted throughout the nation, particularly
in Minneapolis-St. Paul and in Chicago during the
early morning of Friday September 24.
The FBI raids were ostensibly intended to ferret out
supporters of terrorism, especially those lending support
to Hamas and Hisbollah in the Middle East and to the
FARC—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia,
these groups having been labeled terrorist organizations
by the U.S. State Department. However, anti-war and progressive
communities suspected that the underlying purpose
of the FBI actions was to intimidate and harass antiwar/
peace activists and hinder their activism. Several of
those targeted in the raids and subpoenaed to appear
before a grand jury in Chicago had been active not only in
supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle against
Israeli oppression or in opposing a repressive Columbian
government, recognized for having committed human
rights abuses, but perhaps not coincidentally, had also
been active in demonstrating against Bush foreign policies
during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis
in 2008.
Many have pointed out that the raids, in addition to
their intimidation aspects—an attempt to criminalize dissent—
were fishing expeditions. After violently entering
the homes brandishing guns and crashing doors, extensive
searches of the premises were made, justified with search
warrants, and personal belongings of the occupants were
seized, including photos, cameras, computers, correspondence,
even clothes and other personal property. Yet, no
formal charges were filed against the occupants. That
would up to a grand jury to decide.
As for a local protest, there was little time to organize
after hearing of the raids, but during the weekend of Sept.
25, a national protest was called for on September 27 and
members of AWARE, the local Anti-War-Anti-Racism-
Effort, decided at their Sunday meeting to join. Emails
were therefore sent out on Monday, Sept. 27, requesting
and informing all those incensed at the FBI actions to
assemble at the local FBI offices at 4:30 that day.
Initially, few of those ready to participate knew just
where the FPI offices were located, their address not being
easily found in the local (AT&T) telephone directory, but
a search of Google does list the address as 2117 W Park
Court, Champaign. This
location is on a dead end
street on the far western
side of Champaign, near the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The FBI offices are on
the second floor of a nondescript
brick building whose
first floor seemed unoccupied.
The only possible hint
that the FBI offices were
here was the presence of
video cameras attached to
the building. It was otherwise
a tranquil location with
ample parking.
Our assembly was gradual.
The first person I saw
was AWARE activist Karen Medina, sitting on grass making
a protest sign not far from the FBI building. She indicated
to me where the building was. As I wandered in
that direction, a few others were seen ambling about,
clearly seeking our target. Eventually, perhaps seven or
eight protesters arrived. What to do? We had no bullhorn,
and the quiet court where we assembled had little
traffic for us to address. After several minutes, I took a
photo of our little group before the building [shown] and
then with our group increased by a few more stragglers,
we decided to enter the building. We squeezed into a
small elevator and ascended to the second floor. Confronting
us was a constricted hallway and a blank door
with a keyhole and a keypad panel. We knocked at the
door, hoping to address whatever personnel were inside.
After a delay of perhaps a minute, a man opened the
door. No uniform, no badge that I could discern. He
seemed annoyed: What were we doing there? Why had
we come?
We announced that we were there because we were
alarmed at what the FBI had done in raiding the homes of
anti-war people in Minneapolis-St- Paul, Chicago, and
elsewhere, and we had come to protest these actions and
ask for explanations. The agent seemed dumbfounded. He
said he knew nothing about the raids; it was not his business
at what might have occurred in Minnesota, Chicago,
or elsewhere. His business was with Champaign. Moreover,
it was close to five o’clock, and he was about to leave.
He was not about to discuss anything with us. He then
abruptly walked back into his
office, closing the door, and
that was the end of it. We
went back down the elevator,
astounded at the response we
received. Was it really true
this guy knew nothing about
what his FBI conferees elsewhere
had been up to?
By this time, a few more people
had come by, so we were
now a group of about a
dozen, a few of us having
signs. We then disassembled,
not quite knowing what else
we could effectively do.
A press conference was
announced subsequently,
but no C-U press people attended. There was very little
news of the FBI raids in the mass media—brief reports in
the NYT and the Chicago Tribune. The AP newswire carried
the story as did the Minneapolis-Star Tribune. It
struck many that the kind of repression of dissidence
under the recent G. W. Bush administration was now
being carried out the Obama administration, all in the
name of the “war on terror”. The news as of October 6
was that those subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury
in Chicago would refuse to answer questions, citing their
Fifth Amendment rights. Such a stance is understandable
in view of the prosecutorial and easily biased nature of
Grand Jury procedures.

FBI Raids and the Criminalization of Dissent
FBI Raids Homes of Antiwar and Pro-Palestinian Activists

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