Leah Plante appeared before a federal grand jury for the third time yesterday, and for the third time she refused to talk about her politics and other anarchists. She was taken into custody on civil contempt, and is now imprisoned at SEA-TAC in Seattle, Washington.
Plante joins two other anarchists, Matt Duran and Katherine "KteeO" Olejnik, who have chosen to make the same principled stand.
The three were subpoenaed to this grand jury following FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force raids in multiple cities in the Northwest. The search warrants identified "anti-government or anarchist literature." At the time, because of statements from police and because the warrants listed that the items were connected to "conspiracy to destroy government property" and "interstate travel with intent to riot," it appeared that the raids and grand jury were connected to broken windows and other vandalism at a Seattle May Day protest.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Lauren Regan, an attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center, learned that the grand jury was empaneled March 2, 2012 — before the May Day protests even took place. It's possible that prosecutors spent months anticipating and investigating May Day protests, but a more likely explanation is that this grand jury is not about broken windows.
It's a fishing expedition targeting those who identify as anarchists or associate with anarchists. Grand juries have historically been used against radical social movements as a tool to intimidate and to gather information. When activists enter a grand jury proceeding, they check their rights at the door. They are asked about what they believe, what their friends believe, who they associate with, what kinds of activism they support. If they choose to assert their First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights by refusing to speak about their political beliefs and political associations, they can be imprisoned.
Jordan Halliday, an animal rights activist, was charged with both civil and criminal contempt for his non-cooperartion. Not long ago, Carrie Feldman was imprisoned for her refusal as well. The same tactics were recently used against antiwar and international solidarity activists in the midwest.
Here are 3 reasons you should support these grand jury resisters:
1) They have not committed any crime. Plante, Duran, and Olejnik were not subpoenaed to the grand jury because they are being tied to a crime, they were subpoenaed with the hopes that they could be intimidated into providing information on others. I've seen some people say things like, "if they didn't have information about a crime, they wouldn't have been subpoenaed." That's simply untrue. In the past, activists have been subpoenaed to grand juries because they are friends with a "target," or have dated someone under investigation, or just had their name appear in an address book or email list.
2) This is part of the on-going demonization of anarchists, and dissent. From the FBI entrapment plot targeting Occupy Cleveland to FBI training materials describing anarchists as "criminal seeking an ideology," this is a crackdown not on specific criminal activity but on an entire belief system.
3) Today's response will shape what happens tomorrow. I mean this in two ways. First, the resistance of these grand jurors, and the support of their communities, may affect how long they are imprisoned and whether others are subpoenaed. Grand jury resisters are technically only allowed to be imprisoned if the jail time will be an incentive for them to cooperate. If it's clear that they will not cooperate, under any circumstances, it puts their attorneys in a much better position to fight for their release. And it also sends a clear message to prosecutors that further attempts to intimidate activists will also fail.
Second, and more importantly, our response to what is happening today will have a direct impact on how these tactics are used tomorrow, against other social movements. For years I have been reporting about the backlash against animal rights and environmental activists as "terrorists." We are seeing the exact same rhetoric, and same tactics, being used against anarchists. They won't be the last. Whether it is animal rights activists, environmentalists, anarchists, Occupy Wall Street, or whatever new movement is rising in the distance, if these grand jury witch hunts are not resisted they will be used against others.
What can you do?
1. Donate to their legal defense.
2. Write them a letter. Here are their addresses:
Matthew Kyle Duran #42565-086
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198
Katherine Olejnik #42592-086
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198
Leah-Lynne Plante #42611-086
PO Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198
Talk to each other. The fact that yesterday's article was shared more than 12,000 times on Facebook alone, and has received more than 100,000 views in less than 24 hours, indicates to me that a wide range of people had no idea this was going on. And when they learned about it, they were shocked and outraged and shared it with other like-minded people. I see inspiration in that, and I see huge opportunities for outreach and community building.
Leah Plante said in her statement yesterday, "They want us to feel isolated, alone and scared." Confronting those feelings openly, honestly, and with one another is the best way to strip the power away from tactics based on fear.