Police state in Portlandia?
Between 60 to 80 FBI officers, working in conjunction with agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, armed to the teeth and wearing paramilitary uniforms, stormed the homes of several suspected “anarchists” in Portland in late July.
The house where Dennison Williams and Leah-Lynn Plante live was one of them. When Williams heard loud noises and saw a flash grenade go off, he began yelling that he was upstairs and unarmed. He told Sarah Mirk from The Portland Mercury:
“I was scared,” he said. “The police in this town have a history of shooting people, I was worried they would accidentally shoot me.”
According to Williams, FBI officers entered his room with assault rifles and kept them aimed at him while they handcuffed him. They put him in a chair for about 30 minutes while they searched his house. Williams says there were about 15 FBI officers in the house, plus one Portland police officer on the street outside. According to the property receipt Williams received from the officers, the feds seized several items, including his computer, phone, hard-drive, two thumb drives, and various clothes (including black jeans, black t-shirt, and a black bandana). They then served him a subpoena to appear at a grand jury in Seattle next Thursday, August 2nd.
Williams is not sure exactly what the grand jury is meeting about, but that likely they want to ask him about other people. The FBI has said only that the raids are part of an ongoing “violent crime” investigation.
“It’s related to political opposition, it’s related to political dissent,” says Williams. “They’re trying to create a wedge within people who are resistors… They’re specifically pursuing anarchists.”
The FBI search warrant states that they are looking to seize items which may be evidence regarding the crimes of conspiracy to destroy government property, interstate travel with intent to riot, and conspiracy to travel interstate with intent to riot. Those items include: Clothing and related items work during commission of offenses; paint; sticks and flags similar to those used or carried during the commission of the offenses, and material for making flags; anti-government or anarchist literature, documentation or communications related to the offenses, flares, computers or electronic storage media of any kind.
On July 10th, Seattle police officers staged a similar raid on the house of some Occupy Mayday protesters in Seattle. On the day Williams’ house and two other houses in Portland were searched, the FBI served grand jury subpoenas to people in Olympia and Seattle, as well. Williams was not sure how many people were served subpoenas, but thinks it is somewhere around seven people, and says he “will not cooperate” with the grand jury. Anyone who refuses to testify when subpoenaed can potentially face jail time. (Emphasis added)
Read that last sentence again. Grand jury subpoenas have also been served to activists in Olympia and Seattle. Apparently, these subpoenas involve the investigation of May Day vandalism, according to the Seattle Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who urged in a statement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office drop the subpoenas because they feared they were being used “as a pretext for harassing political activists.”
The Seattle lawyers guild spokesman Neil Fox said it was the seizure of political literature from those subpoenaed that most concerned his organization:
“It concerns us any time there are law-enforcement raids that target political literature, first amendment-protected materials,” Fox said. “There’s a chilling effect these things have on people.”
With these coordinated raids and grand jury subpoenas, the Feds are announcing that they’re going to tighten the screws on leftist activists by threatening them with prison time if they won’t rat people out. Rat them out for what is still unknown as the subpoenas are sealed and expected to stay that way, according to the FBI.
It smells like a “fishing expedition” to me, but maybe they aren’t expecting to get any information. Perhaps all they really want to do is to send the earsplitting LOUD AND CLEAR message to would-be far-left activists: “This could happen to you, too!”
Matt Duran, one of the individuals caught up in the Feds’ snare, was thrown into prison on the 16th for civil contempt for his refusal to testify before the Grand Jury Committee against his community. Leah-Lynn Plante also refused to testify, and was released after being re-subpoenaed.
No, I will not answer their questions. I believe that these hearings are politically motivated. The government wants to use them to collect information that it can use in a campaign of repression. I refuse to have any part of it, I will never answer their questions, I will never speak.
It is likely that the government will put me in jail for that refusal.
While I hate the very idea of prison, I am ready to face it in order to stay true to my personal beliefs. I know that they want to kidnap me and isolate me from my friends and my loved ones in an effort to coerce me to speak. It will not work. I know that if I am taken away, I will not be alone. We have friends and comrades all around the world standing behind us, and even though this has been one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life, I have never felt so supported or loved. I can only speak for myself, but I have every faith that the others subpoenaed to these hearings will likewise refuse. And I know that hundreds of people have called the US Attorney demanding that they end this tribunal. Hundreds of organizations, representing thousands of people, signed onto a statement expressing solidarity with those of us under attack and demanding an end to this sort of repression.
From Matt Duran:
My name is Matt Duran and I will do everything I can to resist this Grand Jury. I’m releasing this as it’s come to my attention that the strategy my lawyer and I have been working under will more than likely not work; the prosecution wants to grant me immunity before I even have a chance to testify. I want to make it clear that I am in no way ever cooperating with the state now or ever. Anyone who knows me well enough to be a close friend knows that I will fight with my political allies and for them with every fiber of my being. If I ever did cooperate, it would bring an immeasurable amount of shame upon myself, my community, and my family as they have risked more in resistance than I have in my life so far.
The Committee Against Political Repression has set up a website to post information about the case as it unfolds and take donations for the defendants’ legal defense fund. They declared in a statement of solidarity with those who have been subpoenaed:
…Though the FBI has said that the raids are part of a violent crime investigation, the truth is that the federal authorities are conducting a political witch-hunt against anarchists and others working toward a more just, free, and equal society. The warrants served specifically listed anarchist literature as evidence to be seized pointing to the fact that the FBI and police are targeting this group of people because of their political ideas. Pure and simple, these raids and the grand jury hearings are being used to intimidate people whose politics oppose the state’s agenda. During a time of growing economic and ecological crises that are broadly affecting people across the world, it is an attempt to push back any movement towards creating a world that is humane, one that meets every person’s needs rather than serving only the interests of the rich…
Thank you, Juan Monasterio!