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Supressing Dissent at Drake
W hen students, faculty, and concerned community members gathered at an anti-war conference sponsored by the Drake Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines on November 15, little did they expect that some would later become subject to a government investigation and recipients of Grand Jury subpoenas more than two months later.
The forum, titled “Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!” held workshops on U.S. foreign policy and the economic roots of terrorism. The next day a small group of protesters gathered outside the Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnson. About a dozen demonstrators were arrested, including one woman charged with assault. The woman, a librarian at nearby Grinnell College, says she merely went limp and resisted arrest.
According to the Washington Post , in early February, a federal judge ordered officials at the uiversity to turn over records about the forum, which may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades. The subpoenas were served on four of the activists who attended the forum by a local sheriff’s deputy who works on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The four activists were: Wendy Vasquez, a member of the American Friends Service Committee, who visited Iraq in 2002; Elton Davis and Patti McKee, who were arrested at the November 16 demonstration; and Brian Terrell, who lives and works with his family and friends at Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa.
Records were also subpoenaed from the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild—an organization whose national office experienced government red-baiting during the McCarthy period. “The subpoena [which sought records identifying the officers of the Drake chapter in November 2003, the current location of any local offices, as well as agendas] has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with intimidating lawful protestors and suppressing First Amendment freedom of expression and association,” Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the Guild, responded in a Guild press release issued February 6.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Des Moines also convinced U.S. District Judge Ronald Longstaff to issue an order prohibiting Drake employees from talking about a subpoena the university received, Randy Gould reported on February 9, in his always informative online newsletter, the Oread Daily .
Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association of University Professors, told the Associated Press that he was not familiar with any other similar situation where a U.S. university’s records were subpoenaed. The case, he pointed out, has echoes of the “red squads” of the 1950s and campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters.
After several days of refusing to comment, on Monday, February 9, U.S. Attorney Stephen O’Meara finally offered the “first official details of what the investigation is about,” TheIowaChannel.com reported. “O’Meara said reports that the case is being investigated as an ‘antiterrorism’ matter that involves the U.S. PATRIOT Act are ‘not accurate’.”
“The narrow purpose and scope of that inquiry is to determine whether there were any violations of federal law or prior agreements to violate federal law, regarding unlawful entry into military property—and specifically to include whether there were any violations as a result of an attempt to enter within the fenced, secure perimeter at Camp Dodge,” O’Meara said in a statement.
The four anti-war activists were set to appear before a Grand Jury when they received word that the subpoenas had been withdrawn by the Justice Department. Brian Terrell told a crowd of about 100 cheering people outside the federal courthouse: “We made them want to stop and we have to make sure they never want to do this again.”
“If it was just a trespassing investigation, why seek the membership records of the National Lawyers Guild,” asked Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa ACLU. “If this was an attempt to chill protests through the aggressive policing of a run-of-the-mill crime, we’ve got a serious problem in America.”
Al Overbaugh, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office, told the AP that the investigation was not over, but he didn’t issue any further comment. Bruce Nestor, a Minneapolis attorney and past president of NLG who worked on the case, said that the subpoenas were withdrawn because of the “tremendous response from across the political spectrum condemning the use of the grand jury.”
I t’s really hard to tell what this means in a broader or policy sense for the Department of Justice,” Bruce Nestor said. “Clearly the FBI memo reported by the New York Times in October directed the joint terrorism task forces to compile information about political protesters. The actions of the U.S. attorney’s office in Iowa appear to be consistent with the directive in that memo. Whether that means that the Department of Justice intends to expand the use of the grand jury to investigate political protest movements is unclear. In this instance they clearly used the grand jury for that purpose.”
Whether or not the convening of the grand jury was a DOJ trial balloon or the actions of an overzealous U.S. attorney in Iowa, Nestor believes it is part of “a pattern of events taking place across the country.” During the past year, police agencies across the country have not only been gathering information, but also have used strong- armed tactics against peaceful political demonstrators. In early April 2003, acting on warnings from the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC), the Oakland, California police department indiscriminately fired wooden slugs at and injured several non-violent anti-war protesters—and several non-protesting Port workers as well—who were demonstrating at the Port of Oakland.
In Atlanta, the city’s police department “routinely places under surveillance anti-war protesters and others exercising their free-speech rights to demonstrate,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. In Los Angeles, the police department maintains files on anti-war protesters it deems capable of “a significant disruption of the public order.” In Miami, the sight of the recent police riot during the November demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, “police routinely videotape demonstrators and infiltrate rallies with plainclothes officers,” Detective Joey Giordano of the Miami-Dade Police Department, told the Journal-Constitution .
During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Paul Weyrich, recognized as one of the “founding fathers” of the Christian Right, suggested that either Tom Ridge, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, or Congress, launch a full-scale investigation behind the funding sources of what he termed “neo-Communist” groups organizing the anti-war movement. While no full-blown congressional ly-sanctioned investigation of the peace movement has been initiated, local police departments, in cooperation with regional FBI offices, have established anti-war investi- gative units.
“This Administration is using all sorts of tactics to marginalize dissenters,” NLG’s Avery pointed out. “They’ve used pre-emptive strikes, police violence, and have resorted to penning off demonstrators in so-called free speech zones, so that when the president travels around the country people can’t get within several blocks of him.” At this time, Avery said he wasn’t aware of other cases involving the convening of grand juries to go after dissenters.
The ACLU wrote in a February 10 press release, “The Justice Department’s decision to quash the [Iowa] subpoenas comes on the heels of reports…that U.S. Army Intelligence contacted organizers of a seminar at the University of Texas Law School at Austin on sexism and Islam.”
Local NLG members were asked by law enforcement officials to provide a list of conference attendees because persons under investigation had been present. The NLG is concerned that the University of Texas could be next in line for a Justice Department fishing expedition.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.