Until late February, three courageous anarchist grand jury resisters, Matt Duran, Katherine “KteeO” Olejnik, and Maddie Pfeiffer, were held in solitary confinement in a federal detention center in Seattle. [See Winter 2013 Fifth Estate.]
The three are refusing to cooperate with a government investigation into the Northwest anarchist movement. It was initially believed the hearings were focused on vandalism that occurred on May Day 2012 in Seattle. However, based on the vast majority of questions asked at the grand jury hearings, it is obvious that federal and local law enforcement agencies are interested in much more.
On February 27, a federal judge ruled that Duran and Olejnik had proven their resolve to refuse to testify, and were released from the prison where they had spent five months. Pfeiffer was let out of solitary at the end of February and released from prison for the same reason as Duran and Olejnik on April 11, after having been almost four months inside.
The government is intent on mapping and suppressing anarchist groups and their connections using broad surveillance, the same way they did with radical movements of the past.
FBI documents reveal that government agencies were surveiling anarchists in the Northwest well before a May Day action where demonstrators, some wearing black clothing, attacked plate glass windows and doors at the William Kenzo Nakamura Federal Courthouse, at banks, and at retail outlets, in downtown and adjacent areas.
Another Northwest activist, Leah Lynn Plante, was also subpoenaed, and initially imprisoned for refusing to testify, but was released from prison after a week’s detention. Whether or not the release involved testimony about anarchist associates is unclear.
In July 2012, the federal district court issued subpoenas and search warrants which were used in violent raids of homes in Seattle and Olympia, Washington, and Portland, Oregon by federal agents who seized electronics, clothing, and political literature.
While the government generally keeps the intent and contents of grand jury proceedings secret, federal prosecutors say the current hearings are part of an “ongoing violent crime” investigation.
Solidarity with the grand jury resisters is widespread including courthouse support demonstrations, leafleting, benefits and fund raising to help with legal fees and prison commissary expenses, writing protest letters to federal prosecutors, and writing to the prisoners. It also includes activities involving more challenges to legality, such as banner drops, graffiti, disabling security cameras, and even calls for online attacks on government web sites by the hacker group, Anonymous.
Several people who anticipated being summoned before the grand jury seem to have simply gone traveling. One of them, Portland activist Kerry Cunneen, who received a subpoena, refused to cooperate or to willingly submit to prison.
Cuneen released a statement stating in part: “I will not cooperate with this grand jury nor will I in any way aid the state in its efforts to imprison people. I stand firmly in solidarity with the actions taken…during the May Day demonstration and all action taken against the state and capital towards the goal of a more liberated society.”
In a January radio interview, Cunneen said: “I refuse to appear because I despise the state…I refuse to help them on the principle that prisons should be abolished…I refuse them with a visceral hatred for the law and all of the lives they ruin. I am glad for the little bit of resistance I can provide in denying them information. I respect and admire Matt, Kteeo, and Maddy for making the sacrifice that is involved in sitting for an undetermined jail sentence. I just am not personally willing to take a step in the direction of my own jail cell.”
More subpoenas as well as criminal charges could very well be generated by this grand jury before its scheduled term ends in March 2014, and its term could also be extended.
For more information: Committee Against Political Repression at nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com