On May Day (May 1st, 2012) a group of black-clad protesters marching through Seattle in an Occupy demonstration turned violent, smashing downtown store windows, vandalizing cars and running amok through the streets disrupting traffic.
No one was injured (except one nosy cameraman who got a scratch) and about 8 arrests were made that day. Damage (mostly broken windows) was reported at the Federal Courthouse, the NikeTown store, the Well Fargo Bank and along the streets where protesters marched to various parked cars.
The group dubbed the “Black Bloc” by the media changed into street clothes and dispersed, blending in with the crowd.
Months later, an FBI task force numbering 60-80 men raided several residential homes in Olympia, WA and Seattle, WA during the early hours of the morning. They battered down doors and threw in stun grenades before storming the various residences to detain the occupants. At least six homes have been raided in the two states since July 10.
Allegedly, the FBI search warrant was for black clothing, paint, sticks, computers and cell phones, and “anarchist materials or literature.” I own all of these items… Oops.
According to an FBI Domestic Terrorism guide, “anarchists are criminals seeking an ideology to justify their actions,” and are “not dedicated to a particular issue.” Common meeting places are “college campuses, underground clubs, coffee houses/ internet cafes.” The FBI document further states that anarchists are “educated persons of various backgrounds, often students.”
The persons in question are not being charged with crimes yet; they were indicted and put before a grand jury, which is a private hearing to determine whether or not they can charge them with anything.
The primary issue I am concerned with is a lack of transparency in the “private” hearings. Is it really necessary to have a closed doors hearing over a public protest turned sour? Is their something worth covering up?
The FBI has described the raids as part of an ongoing “violent crime investigation”, linked to the Occupy May Day protests. Beth Anne Steele (a spokeswoman for the FBI) stated:
“The warrants are sealed, and I anticipate they will remain sealed.”
Search warrants are signed based on evidence produced for one judge, which may be considered an abuse of authority (judges are human after all and favors are owed throughout the legal system), but that’s just the beginning of the process. Any attorney worth their salt can get the whole matter thrown out for his client if he can demonstrate the basis of the search warrant itself was unconstitutional and invalid.
Though I don’t necessarily approve of the seemingly excessive force (Stun grenades, really? Were they expecting to walk in on Tyler Durden?) some could argue that with little evidence to work with and a large number of unknown suspects, the FBI had few options left to them short of raiding all known affiliates.
The lack of cooperation will only encourage the FBI to detain their suspects longer, though again I think I would be less than enthused to cooperate with anyone who flash-banged me before I’ve had my morning coffee. I don’t think they’re approaching this in the most efficient manner and we may see this case drag on, potentially for years. They are a federal bureaucracy after all and there is a rigid process to be followed here.
The FBI appears to be targeting people on the basis of their political ideology. A special grand jury has been empaneled, meaning law enforcement is fishing for known anarchists, likely to have connections to the Occupy movement.
The Justice Department under President Barack Obama has time and again used the FBI to go after activists. There have been multiple FBI raids of the homes and offices of anti-war and solidarity activists in six cities across the country along with a multitude of arrests and reports of excessive police authority over the Occupy movement.
Why so much repression? There is deep dissatisfaction with the status quo in America:
- 72%% oppose the war in Afghanistan according to a CNN poll.1
- 68% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again according to a Rasmussen poll.2
- Nearly 1 in 7 Americans believe that capitalism is “fatally flawed and a different economic system is needed,” in an international BBC poll.3
- Only 16% of people in America now believe the official government explanation of the September 11th 2001 terror attacks according to a NY/Times CBS poll.4
Political literature is being banned and its owners selectively targeted by the US government. Essentially, owning “anarchist” literature is enough to indicate to the FBI that you are a criminal.
This is a government run witch hunt, trying to intimidate people into incriminating themselves or others by harassment, arrests, or adding them to “watch lists”. They are sending out their enforcers, shaking the branches and seeing what falls out to be fed to the insatiable media so the issue can be buried without too many questions about civil rights or free speech making the headlines.
1. CNN Poll, “Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?”
2. Rassmussen Reports Poll, ” Suppose you could vote in the next election on whether to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again. Would you vote to keep the entire Congress or get rid of the entire Congress?”
3. BBC World Service Poll, “Which of these three statements best reflects your view of free market capitalism?”
4. The New York Times/CBS News Poll, “When it comes to what they knew prior to September 11th, 2001, about possible terrorist attacks against the United States, do you think members of the Bush Administration are telling the truth, are mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or are they mostly lying?”