[Pnews] North Carolina social worker defies grand jury subpoena

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 26 16:49:16 EDT 2017


  North Carolina social worker defies grand jury subpoena

Jordan Green - July 26, 2017
Katie Yow, a 31-year-old social worker and anarchist, has been called to 
testify before a federal grand jury in Greensboro on July 31.

She won’t be complying. Instead, supporters from across the state will 
hold a rally in front of the federal building at 9 a.m. to express 
encouragement for her act of resistance.

Grand juries are secret proceedings that empanel citizens to determine 
whether prosecutors have probable cause to issue criminal indictments. 
Yow has said that she doesn’t know the subject of the grand jury, and 
that her lawyer has been unable to obtain information from the US 
Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, despite 
multiple attempts. Phone calls and emails from /Triad City Beat /to the 
US Attorney’s Office likewise went unreturned.

Yow, who graduated from Guilford College and lived in Greensboro for 
several years before returning to the Triangle area, said in a public 
statement: “I am resisting this grand jury with the benefit of the 
example of decades of committed and courageous grand jury resistance by 
comrades across our movements. I am resisting this grand jury with the 
considerable support and wisdom of many people who work every day to 
combat state repression. I am resisting this grand jury in solidarity 
with all those resisting the unforgivable daily violence of the state.”

In her statement, Yow connected the subpoena she received to what she 
characterized as “a spike in FBI harassment across the state,” adding, 
“We also know that grand juries are used to intimidate communities of 
resistance.” Asked to elaborate on the bigger picture of federal 
harassment against activists, Yow responded by email, citing a post by 
an anonymous author (not her, she said) on the It’s Going Down! 
anarchist website. The post states that “in the past six months, over 
half a dozen people with personal or political ties to anarchists in 
central North Carolina have been approached for questioning by the FBI,” 
beginning “in early winter with an apparent arson of the Orange County 
GOP office.”

Yow said in an email interview with /TCB /that she sees an upswing in 
both state repression and popular resistance under the Trump 
administration, but clarified that she doesn’t view the previous 
administration under Barack Obama as better in any significant way.

“We are seeing an escalation in state violence right now, and we’re also 
seeing a beautiful swell of organizing and resistance,” she said. “What 
we know is that historically state repression does intensify when 
movements become larger and more powerful, and I expect that what we’re 
seeing right now across movements will continue to increase. However, 
when I think about what is different in terms of state repression under 
Trump, I think about how much of this is not new. I think about how long 
the legacy of white supremacy and state violence is, and how equally 
long the histories of resistance are.

“As times are getting tougher again it becomes imperative that we honor 
and uplift and resource the communities and movements that have been 
fighting this long fight, and it is also imperative that we stick 
together and build stronger networks to support folks who are being 
targeted by political repression on whatever level it comes,” she added.

Yow worked for several years as a teacher in the Guilford County Schools 
system. She also co-managed North Carolina Almighty Latin King & Queen 
Nation leader Jorge Cornell’s 2009 campaign for Greensboro City Council, 
along with Eric Ginsburg. [Disclosure: Ginsburg serves as the managing 
editor and food writer for /TCB/.] When Cornell was indicted on federal 
racketeering charges in 2011, Yow played an active role in mobilizing 
support for him, and testified as a character witness in his trial the 
following year. She has continued to support him as he serves a 28-year 
sentence at Petersburg Medium FCI in Virginia after several unsuccessful 
appeals to his 2012 conviction. Cornell and his supporters view his 
conviction — which hinged on the testimony of former Latin Kings who 
cooperated with the prosecution — as being wholly without merit. Yow 
said her friendship with Cornell has “been hugely influential on the 
kind of person I am and the kind of work I do,” describing him as “bold 
and resourceful and a fighter” with “a huge heart.”

“It is still difficult to talk about what it means to all of us that he 
is in prison instead of out here with his family and community,” she 
said. “Supporting him through the [racketeering] case taught me what it 
means to stick by your friends when the state comes down. We’ve also 
learned so much about what the long haul looks like in terms of 
supporting folks when they are in prison, and I hope that folks reading 
this will reach out and find ways they can support Jay and other folks 
who are inside. These experiences are part of why I’m so passionate 
about legal and prisoner support, and why I’ve chosen to do mental 
health work with young folks who are impacted by incarceration and court 
involvement. Resisting this grand jury is about showing my community the 
love and commitment I’ve learned from them, and Jay is someone who 
teaches me what it means to have a heart that strong.”

Jude Ortiz, a writer and editor based in Oakland, Calif., started 
strategizing with Yow to help her resist the grand jury shortly after 
she received the subpoena on July 10. He said Yow’s support committee 
has grown to about eight people spread across the country. Through his 
work as a writer and activist helping people navigate the criminal 
justice system over the past 10 years, Ortiz said he has previously 
supported two friends who resisted grand jury subpoenas. One was 
immediately indicted after refusing to testify, while another was jailed 
for four months before being released without explanation, he said.

“There’s always a lot of uncertainty with grand jury proceedings,” Ortiz 
said. “People don’t have to be told what the investigation is about or 
whether they’re the target of investigation. They can be asked anything 
at all. The resistance of grand juries has a very strong tradition in 
the history of the United States. That history of resistance is not 
really paralleled in any other countries. Other countries in the Western 
civilized world have abolished grand juries, except for the United 
States. Some of the most inspiring groundwork comes from the Puerto 
Rican independence struggle, and the grand jury subpoenas that were 
handed down in the 1970s and 1980s. There can always be a lot of 
consequences, as well as benefits to protecting the people we care about 
and the movements we’re a part of.”

Yow said she’s prepared to pay the consequences for her decision, but 
deflected attention from her own sacrifice.

“There are a lot of young folks in my life, and a lot of work that I do 
that has had to be put on hold or handed over to others,” she said. “The 
impact of having school and work disrupted is substantial, and this is 
hard for my family and loved ones. I am incredibly lucky to have a 
supportive family and community who have helped me plan.

“What feels more important to me to highlight as I go through this is 
how much more disruptive and traumatizing many people’s every-day 
experiences of the criminal justice system are. Every day people go to 
jail and prison and lose their jobs, their homes, are taken away from 
their families, have their futures changed, and they are given far less 
support because the wider society doesn’t view their cases as 
‘political,’ and because this kind of state violence against communities 
of color is so normalized,” she continued. “Anytime someone has to go 
away, it is enormously difficult for them and the people that love them.”

/To learn more about Katie Yow’s case, visit ncresiststhegrandjury.com 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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