[Ppnews] SF Grand Jury Article

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 24 08:42:43 EDT 2006

This reporter is hardly a pleasure to speak with, and the results...

Anarchist Grand Jury Cheerleaders
The Grand Jury Resistance Project encourages people to not cooperate
with federal authorities investigating a variety of ongoing cases and
By Chris Thompson
Article Published Aug 23, 2006


On the seventeenth floor of San Francisco's Philip Burton Federal
Building, a grand jury may or may not have been convened to track down
the whereabouts of Daniel Andreas San Diego, the animal-rights
activist and prime suspect in the 2003 bombings of Chiron Laboratories
and the Shaklee Corporation. As a matter of policy, the US Attorney's
office refuses to confirm or deny the existence of any grand jury. But
activist Nadia Winstead claims that the feds have subpoenaed her and
ordered her to testify about whatever she might know about San Diego.
On the morning of August 17, she and roughly sixty people showed up at
the courthouse to tell a federal prosecutor to go to hell.

The entrance to the federal building is a hodgepodge of bomb security
features masquerading as public art; concrete hillocks rise before the
doors, with steel posts driven into the ground before each possible
driveway. The tableau has been thoroughly knobbed to keep thrashers
from riding their skateboards up and down the paths. At 9 a.m.,
Winstead and her friends distributed posterboards denouncing the
federal government. Although there's little foot traffic around the
courthouse, they lined up before the entrance and waved signs reading
"Fight repression ? resist grand juries" and "Grand jury out of SF."

Winstead, a slight young woman with short brown hair, clogs, and black
slacks, doesn't just refuse to talk to the federal government. "I'm
not a media type of person," she mumbles. Digging through her
possessions, she produces a sheet of paper with sound bites for the
press: "The federal government is willing to use every trick in the
book to silence our dissent," reads one, "but we will not be
silenced." When asked about how long she's lived in the city, or what
kind of animal-rights activism she does, her associate Kris Hermes
intervened. "You're probably asking the same questions the grand jury
is going to," he scolded.

Hermes is one of the main organizers of the Grand Jury Resistance
Project, an ad hoc group of lawyers, law students, and self-described
"legal activists," including the National Lawyers Guild and Oakland's
Midnight Special Law Collective. In the past few years, the federal
government has convened grand juries to investigate allegations of
bombings and arson related to animal rights, environmentalism, and
anarchist demonstrations. In response, Hermes and his colleagues have
created a sort of "stop snitching" campaign, in which they not only
provide legal advice to subpoenaed activists, but encourage them not
to talk, and thus risk going to jail for up to eighteen months.

Grand juries have been on the minds of activists since May 2005, when
an FBI agent told a Senate subcommittee that animal-rights and
environmental extremists constituted "one of today's most serious
domestic terrorism threats." Last year, a federal grand jury was
convened to reopen the investigation into the 1971 killing of a San
Francisco police officer; several former Black Panthers were jailed
for refusing to testify. A grand jury in Eugene has been opened to
investigate a string of arson attacks in the Pacific Northwest, and
activist Jeff Hogg is sitting in jail for refusing to talk. A grand
jury in New Jersey indicted seven people for conspiracy to harass the
business affiliates of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a firm that uses
animals in pharmaceutical and cosmetic tests.

Earlier this year, Hermes and a few lawyers and fellow activists
decided that leftist movements needed a special service to advise
people on how a grand jury works, what their rights are, and what they
can do if they get a subpoena. The answer, of course, is not much. No
judge presides over the grand jury, evidence in defense of grand jury
targets cannot be presented, and the proceedings are secret. As a
result, Hermes claims, people who don't understand the process can be
easily intimidated into spilling their guts, even if the prosecutor is
going well beyond the scope of the investigation and looking for basic
intelligence about antiwar or animal-rights movements. "They are
fishing expeditions," he says of the most recent grand juries. "We
educate activists and the public on grand juries in general, and how
they are being misused to undermine political movements."

But Hermes and the Grand Jury Resistance Project do more than
"demystify" the legal system. They encourage activists to refuse to
cooperate altogether by providing emotional support, rallies, and
letter-writing campaigns. "People, when they get charged with unfair
crimes, they should fight their cases," says Paul Marini, a member of
the project. "And when they get called inappropriately before grand
juries, they should fight that."

It can't be easy to convince someone to go to jail for more than a
year. One of the project's main arguments, to put it rather crudely,
is that martyrs strengthen the movement. Just as the grand jury's
secrecy creates a climate of fear that their colleagues may have
ratted them out, Hermes claims that people who go to jail encourage
their colleagues to recommit themselves to the struggle. "Resisting
grand juries can also empower a movement not to be intimidated and
harassed by this tactic," he says.

Unfortunately, a grand jury's very secrecy makes it impossible to know
whether prosecutors are pursuing violent terrorists or intimidating
legitimate leftist dissenters. Take the case of Josh Wolf, a San
Francisco filmmaker with anarchist sympathies who recently was jailed
for refusing to turn over videotapes to a grand jury. The incident
being investigated doesn't seem to merit federal attention: During a
riot last year, someone set a fire that did minor damage to a cop car
that may or may not have been bought with federal money, thus making
the vandalism a federal crime. That this rationale has been used to
convene a federal grand jury adds to the suspicion that prosecutors
are really looking for broad surveillance of inconsequential anarchists.

Other cases are considerably more serious. Daniel Andreas San Diego is
wanted for allegedly bombing two laboratories and issuing a communiqué
posted on an animal-rights Web site that took credit for the bombings
and warned Chiron CEO Sean Lance, "You never know when your house,
your car even, might go boom. Who knows, that new car in the parking
lot may be packed with explosives."

Grand Jury Resistance Project members acknowledge that Nadia Winstead
has been subpoenaed as part of an effort to find San Diego and punish
the people who have helped hide him. But they claim this also is part
of a larger effort to conduct surveillance on the animal-rights
movement in general. When Winstead walked into the grand jury chambers
last week, the dozen people who waited in the lobby outside cheered
her on, knowing that she wouldn't say a word, and that this might well
be the last time they saw her for months. The clock ticked off the
minutes while they sat on the cold marble floor. One woman idly
bounced a yellow rubber ball over and over. A man in a gray suit
walked up and down the hallways, fruitlessly looking for the BALCO case.

Finally, Winstead emerged, looking sheepish and happy. She was free
while prosecutors schedule a hearing to determine her fate. Is she a
martyr, or a conspirator? Thanks to the secrecy of the grand jury
system, the only thing we'll know for sure is that sooner or later,
she'll probably be a prisoner.

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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