Since the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, we’ve watched the agents of repression target progressive activists using the vast powers of surveillance and detention these laws granted to the police and the Justice Department. These agents, in conjunction with corporate America, have made a concerted effort to portray progressive activists as terrorists.
First the Justice Department and a daunting array of police and spy agencies concentrated on attacking Muslims through immigration sweeps and entrapment campaigns which terrified entire communities without uncovering any serious terrorist plots. By Bush’s second term in office the Justice Department and local police agencies were training their new post-9/11 “legal” weapons on people they called “violent anarchists” and “ecological terrorists.”
Those who participated in demonstrations at the presidential conventions in 2004 and 2008 were hit with everything from pre-emptive arrest, and detention without charge, to charges of engaging in terrorist activities. Grand juries remain in session to this day “investigating” supposed violent conspiracies at the conventions and subjecting activists who refuse to cooperate to jail sentences for contempt.
Environmental activists, targets of the “Green scare,” have faced lengthy prison sentences because the Justice Department has sought and judges have granted “terrorist enhancements” for those convicted of property damage crimes. Corporate America is intent on equating property damage with terrorism. For these entities, profits are more important than people: the exact opposite of one of the RFC’s four guiding principles.
I’d hoped that the shift in administration would at least slow down this descent into authoritarianism. But the persecution of Green scare defendants and the grand juries have continued unabated, and recent developments in the last few weeks point to an ominous future.
Just last week the FBI raided homes of long-time peace and justice activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. The activists in question have been particularly vocal in their opposition to our wars in the Middle East and Colombia. FBI agents kicked down doors, and seized computers, cell phones and papers, even children’s art work.
They made no arrests, but said the raids were part of an investigation into possible “material support” of terrorism. The post-9/11 “material support” statute is so broadly written that it can criminalize actions of international solidarity aimed at bringing about peace and justice. And, of course, a grand jury has been convened and a half-dozen activists from Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois have been subpoenaed to appear before it.
Focusing on our actions overseas the ACLU hit the nail on the head when it stated in its Establishing a New Normal report: “On a range of issues including accountability for torture, detention of terrorism suspects, and use of lethal force against civilians, there is a very real danger that the Obama Administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush Administration.” Unfortunately, the same can be said about the Administration’s domestic law enforcement policies, and that means the RFC is going to be very busy for the foreseeable future.
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