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Government Manipulation of the Legal System to Suppress Dissent

From racist attacks targeting Lodi, California’s Muslim community, to attempts to silence and imprison political activists in San Francisco and San Diego, dissent and freedom of speech are under attack. As government repression in general increases, so does the use of the federal grand jury to intimidate, incarcerate and render impotent activists across social movements. In recent years, pressure on the animal rights, environmental justice, anti-war and anarchist movements has increased exponentially. Government officials seem anxious to pin the label “terrorist? on anyone that is effectively campaigning against injustice. At a recent hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, John E. Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI, testified that, “Investigating and preventing animal rights extremism and eco-terrorism is one of the FBI’s highest domestic terrorism priorities.?

Activists and people of color are not the only people being persecuted, lawyers are feeling the heat as well. On Febuary 10, 2005, New York civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists and defrauding the US government. Yet, Stewart never provided any financial support, weaponry or any other concrete aid for any act of terrorism. No act of terrorism is alleged to have resulted from her actions. Lynne and her supporters argue that all she did was represent her client effectively as a good attorney should.

audio: New York Human Rights attorney Lynne Stewart interview

San Diego: Judge to Hear First Amendment Objections
San Francisco: Reprieve for Activists

resources: || Just Cause Law Collective || National Lawyers Guild || No Compromise
photo from portland indymedia
Grand Jury 101

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.

For more information, check out:

Just Cause Law Collective on Grand Juries

Federal Grand Jury: good information on the make-up and procedure of grand juries

Walking Through a Grand Jury: Attorney Larry Weiss walks activists through a typical grand jury proceeding

How to Crush a Grand Jury: How to combat repression by grand jury

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

Grand Jury Reform Group: Various articles and information on grand juries


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Re: Government Manipulation of the Legal System to Suppress Dissent

What the Santa Cruz area need is its own terrorist attack. Only will Santa Cruz understand how important the work is that the FBI and Homeland security are doing.

At some point in time, the rights of a few are not more preciolus than the lives of the community.

The problem with santa cruz is that the activist don't like the government until they are victims themselves. Then the big question is, "why isn't the govenment protecting me?"

Re: Government Manipulation of the Legal System to Suppress Dissent

look back over history, the government protects none but the rich and corporations. we poor are naught but cannon fodder for the wars the corporate thinks will bring them a larger profit margin!

It is the FBI who are the terrorists

Chalie Desilva wrote, "What the Santa Cruz area need is its own terrorist attack. Only will Santa Cruz understand how important the work is that the FBI and Homeland security are doing."

It is the FBI who are the terrorists, committing murder, false arrests, burglary, and slander to smash political dissent in America. Victims of FBI crimes include Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panther Party, Earth First!, Judy Barri, the anti-war movement, John F Kennedy, Malcolm X, the American Indian Movement, Leonard Peltier, and the now the entire Arab American community and being a defense attorney for anyone the FBI terrorists claims is a terrorist.

The fact that the CIA's murderers and drug traffickers in Afghanistan murdered some Americans on September 11th does not justify the violence and repression of the FBI.

Abolish the FBI and the CIA!


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