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First Grand Jury Hearing in SF on June 22nd

Call for Solidarity with Animal Advocates and Others Subpoenaed

Ten Bay Area residents, who include animal advocates, alternative media members, prisoner rights activists, and members of the greater Bay Area progressive community, have been subpoenaed to a Federal Grand Jury in San Francisco. The first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 22nd. Supporters of the Bay Area residents, as well as all those who seek to defend and keep free speech rights, have been invited to attend on a show of solidarity with those subpoenaed. The hearing will take place at 9am in the Federal Courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco. The date is subject to change, so people who plan to attend are encouraged to check for updates. Animal Liberation supporters believe that the grand jury is an effort to intimidate them. Read More

In addition, as of 6/20, at least eight activists in San Diego have received grand jury subpoenas, and the Activist San Diego house in City Heights was visited by three federal agents. Read More

Listen to Grand Jury Teach-in Audio | Fault Lines story

Read More on Indybay's Animal Liberation News Page

Within the last 2-3 weeks, federal grand juries in San Francisco have subpoenaed several former black activists and their supporters (focusing on 30 year old cases) and ten eco & animal liberation activists. This recent wave of repression against the progressive movement is part of a stepped up offensive that includes renewed and escalating publicity to capture Assata Shakur, refusal to extradite CIA operative Luis Posada Carilles and refusal to release former Black Panther Veronza Bowers (now a year past his mandatory release date) from federal prison. These examples are just part of the evidence of a continued and escalating war on dissent and dissenters.

The Grand Jury system, long since abolished in most democratic nations, denies targeted individuals their most fundamental of civil rights and poses a grave threat to the constitutional rights of every American.

Legally, a Grand Jury is a type of common law jury responsible for investigating alleged crimes, examining evidence, and issuing indictments. When targeted against social movements however, Grand juries are a tool of political repression used to frighten activists, create mistrust, drive people out of the movement, and cause others to inform on friends out of fear. Grand Juries are often used as "fishing expeditions" to gather any and all information on a particular social movement.

A Grand Jury, which operates in complete secrecy, is distinguished from a petit jury, which is used during trial. Grand Juries consist of 16 to 23 jurors who are not screened for bias. They convene for periods of 18 months, with possible 6-month extensions thereafter. Normal rules of evidence do not apply to a Grand Jury investigation, and no judge is present in the Grand Jury room to ensure the rule of law is upheld.

Federal Grand Juries allow the U.S. Attorney's office to compel activists to testify without demonstrating any probable cause or reason to believe they have any relevant information about a case. Often activists are subpoenaed simply because of their political beliefs.

Subpoenaed individuals are not allowed the presence of legal counsel and are often denied the right to invoke Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. If an individual refuses to answer questions about such things as who her friends are and what activist groups she is involved with, she can be jailed for months and even years.

Grand Jury proceedings completely revolve around the prosecution (US attorney). Defense attorneys are not allowed to present evidence, question witnesses or even enter the grand jury room. The US attorney, however, is allowed to present any witnesses and evidence she desires, including hearsay testimony.

Double jeopardy does not apply to the grand jury. If an individual appears before the Grand Jury, refuses to testify and spends two years in jail for contempt, legally she can still be re-subpoenaed and the whole process can start over again.

Grand Juries are little more than modern day inquisitions. Instead of scapegoating innocent people as "witches" and "heretics," they target innocent activists as "terrorists." We are only now beginning to realize the full extent to which Grand Juries were abused by the government throughout the 1960s in their efforts to disrupt social justice organizations of the era.

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