Welcome to Current TV
FBI Raids Peace Activists (and Boosts the Anti-War Movement)
Last week, FBI agents raided a half-dozen homes and offices of activists in Minneapolis -- all organizers of protests outside the 2008 Republican Convention -- and the homes of two others in Chicago, part of what the bureau claims is an investigation into whether members of the anti-war movement provided "material support" to designated terrorist organizations, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Hezbollah. Around a dozen others were also reportedly issued subpoenas to testify before a grand jury next month.
"It’s an attack on all of us," says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the group Code Pink, speaking to Change.org outside FBI headquarters in downtown Washington. Around 40 activists demonstrated outside the building on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with those raided.
Benjamin says those targeted by the FBI were only supporting peace processes in the Middle East and Colombia, and that the bureau is really engaged in more of a fishing expedition than real terrorism investigation. Indeed, despite last week's raids and salacious allegations, not a single arrest was made. "These were search warrants only," said FBI spokesman Steve Warfield.
But if the goal was to divide and silence the anti-war community, Benjamin says they sure haven't succeeded.
"They made a big mistake because they picked Minneapolis and Chicago," she says, "two places where there are huge progressive communities, very tight communities, and areas of the country where people are very proud of their First Amendment rights and their independent spirits."
In a sign of the strength of activist communities there, hundreds of activists on Monday rallied outside federal buildings in both cities to protest the FBI's raids. Solidarity rallies were also held across the country this week, from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia.
Yet despite the fact that all those targeted in the raids were members of explicitly anti-war organizations -- and avowed proponents of non-violence -- they could still face criminal prosecution thanks to the government's extremely broad definition of what it means to provide "material support" for terrorism, a definition that extends to counseling others to embrace peace.
While the law is ostensibly aimed at actual terrorists and their supporters, former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement released by the ACLU this past that the government's interpretation of "material support" -- upheld by the Supreme Court this past June -- threatens the humanitarian work not only of his own Carter Center, but "the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence." The "vague" wording of the law, he said, "leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom."
But at Tuesday's rally in Washington, protesters -- chanting "FBI, stop the raids, we won't back down, we're not afraid" -- said the government's investigation into activists' alleged support for terrorism would only spur them to redouble their efforts to oppose U.S. militarism.
One speaker, Rev. Graylan Hagler, a long-time progressive activist and senior minister at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in northeast Washington, said the raids were a sign not of the government's strength, but of its fear of dissent.
"I’ve got news for you: in the eyes of the FBI, each of you who are standing out here -- you’re terrorists," said Harlan. "Why? Because you bring terror to the status quo." While the government promotes injustice at home and abroad, "we choose to stand on the side of justice. And we choose to be in solidarity with people who are oppressed. They will come after us, but I’m going to tell you, we will not be silent."
Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, meanwhile, says the terrible irony is that while the FBI raids peace activists, "the real terrorists are walking freely right here in Washington, DC, and around this country -- the ones that took us into these disastrous wars. And it’s absolutely outrageous that those of us who believe that we shouldn’t be bombing other people around the world and we shouldn’t be supporting dictatorial regimes are the ones whose homes are raided."
But there may be a bright side, she says, as the FBI's raids have drawn attention to -- and appear to have awoken -- the previously moribund anti-war community. "I think it was a huge mistake and I think we can use it to our advantage to reenergize our movement."
more from Community:
from the community