On September 24 the FBI raided homes of 14 activists in movements in solidarity with oppressed workers and peoples of Latin America and Israel/Palestine. I consider these raids to be an assault on democracy. While the immediate targets of the raids were activists in movements in solidarity with trade unionists and others facing violence in Colombia and the Middle East, their purpose is to disrupt the unity of progressive movements by sowing suspicion, distrust, and an aura of guilt by association. I am not too young to remember the dark days of McCarthyism in our country, and I know very well what the effect of such government reprisals can be.
The FBI seized computers, cell phones, boxes of papers and personal possessions from all 14. They served grand jury subpoenas on many of them. The FBI announced they were investigating possible “material support” to terrorist groups. But it appears that their real purpose is to disrupt the growing unity of the majority of Americans who are critical of the wars and occupations being carried out today in Iraq and Afghanistan, who oppose U. S. support for violence against trade unionists in Colombia and against Palestinians by the Israeli government in Israel, on the West Bank, and in Gaza. The only way the FBI’s actions make any sense at all is to see them as an attempt to isolate and intimidate any who would dissent from government policy or speak out against injustice. These raids violate the spirit and the letter of the Bill of Rights. They endanger the freedom of the entire U. S. population.
We learned bitter lessons from the FBI’s COINTELPRO repression in the 1960s, in which African American leaders, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and leaders of the Black Panther Party such as Fred Hampton, were targeted for assassination. Progressive movements were targeted for disruption.
I urge President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to
· Direct the FBI to return the belongings seized.
· Dissolve the grand juries threatening an inquisition against peace and solidarity activists and movements.
· Cancel all subpoenas to appear before the grand jury in Chicago.
I would like to work with my Congressman Barbara Lee to support initiatives in Congress for the repeal of provisions of law that define solidarity with human rights abroad as “material support” for terrorism. The rights of all Americans must be preserved to peaceably assemble and petition their government to end support for repressive and militarist governments abroad, and states that commit war crimes and terrorist acts against their own or other people struggling for basic human rights.
Angela Y. Davis is the author of many books, her most recent are: Abolition Democracy, Are Prisons Obsolete? and a new critical edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.