While everyone’s up in arms about the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive screening guidelines, prison abolitionist and writer Angela Davis is bringing people’s attention back to the ever-present specter of government surveillance in progressive political movements. Davis recently issued a response to the FBI raids of 14 U.S.-based activists engaged in international solidarity work with trade unionists in Colombia and the Middle East, calling the raids an "assault on democracy." The longtime activist and teacher infamously became a fugitive and was later tried, and acquitted, on murder and kidnapping charges in connection with her involvement with the Black Panther Party in 1972. She’s since spent the better part of four decades speaking out in favor of people’s right to challenge authority. Now she’s calling on President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to take action in this most recent case.
The statement originally appeared on the website for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression:
On September 24 the FBI raided homes of 14 activists in movements in solidarity with oppressed workers and peoples of Latin America and Israel/Palestine. I consider these raids to be an assault on democracy. While the immediate targets of the raids were activists in movements in solidarity with trade unionists and others facing violence in Colombia and the Middle East, their purpose is to disrupt the unity of progressive movements by sowing suspicion, distrust, and an aura of guilt by association. I am not too young to remember the dark days of McCarthyism in our country, and I know very well what the effect of such government reprisals can be.
The FBI seized computers, cell phones, boxes of papers and personal possessions from all 14. They served grand jury subpoenas on many of them. The FBI announced they were investigating possible "material support" to terrorist groups. But it appears that their real purpose is to disrupt the growing unity of the majority of Americans who are critical of the wars and occupations being carried out today in Iraq and Afghanistan, who oppose U. S. support for violence against trade unionists in Colombia and against Palestinians by the Israeli government in Israel, on the West Bank, and in Gaza. The only way the FBI’s actions make any sense at all is to see them as an attempt to isolate and intimidate any who would dissent from government policy or speak out against injustice. These raids violate the spirit and the letter of the Bill of Rights. They endanger the freedom of the entire U. S. population.
We learned bitter lessons from the FBI’s COINTELPRO repression in the 1960s, in which African American leaders, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and leaders of the Black Panther Party such as Fred Hampton, were targeted for assassination. Progressive movements were targeted for disruption.
I urge President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to
* Direct the FBI to return the belongings seized. * Dissolve the grand juries threatening an inquisition against peace and solidarity activists and movements. * Cancel all subpoenas to appear before the grand jury in Chicago.
I would like to work with my Congressman Barbara Lee to support initiatives in Congress for the repeal of provisions of law that define solidarity with human rights abroad as "material support" for terrorism. The rights of all Americans must be preserved to peaceably assemble and petition their government to end support for repressive and militarist governments abroad, and states that commit war crimes and terrorist acts against their own or other people struggling for basic human rights.