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February 7, 2004 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Feds win one in the war on anti-war activists A federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists. In addition to records about who attended the forum, the university has been ordered to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum. Subpoenas were also served on activists who attended the forum at the school.
posted by dejah420 (43 comments total)

 
This is astoundingly ugly.

Liberty weeps.
posted by troutfishing at 10:07 PM on February 7, 2004


The National Lawyers Guild.
posted by homunculus at 10:17 PM on February 7, 2004


Protester=Criminal?
posted by homunculus at 10:20 PM on February 7, 2004


Can anyone find the "other side" of this one? None of the articles on Google News so much as point us to the relevant Republican talking points for this one. Is the DOJ actually just being straight-up about political persecution?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:28 PM on February 7, 2004


You know, for a long time, dissidents could at least be confident that the law was on their side.

Not the not the government, certainly not the police, and sometimes not even the courts. But the old, dusty lawbooks at the back of the library. Even when abuses were happening, there was at least the idea that they weren't supposed to be happening.

Now, even that is gone.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:30 PM on February 7, 2004


Welcome to the evil empire.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:40 PM on February 7, 2004


Fuck. Couldn't someone at the University have burned the records? That would be the honorable thing to do.
posted by Hildago at 11:06 PM on February 7, 2004


Hey. It's a war on terrorism. You gotta scare the people who hate war into submission, so they'll quit trying to keep the warmongers from fighting terror. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. By the way, anybody wanna buy the Brooklyn bridge?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:11 PM on February 7, 2004


Hildago, no. No one at a University, private business, library, or otherwise any institution in America should find it honorable or necessary to burn records just to keep them from Ashcroft's goons.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:14 PM on February 7, 2004


It actually makes me happy to see articles like this. I have family members who support the Bush administration; when I talk about my concern over erosion of basic freedoms, I just don't think it's sinking in. This, however, is persuasive stuff:

"We have not seen such a crackdown on First Amendment activities since the Vietnam War," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
(from homunculus's link)
posted by Galvatron at 11:14 PM on February 7, 2004


I'd like to get the other side of the story too. So they were arrested after the meeting during a protest but the article is short on details about why they were arrested and what they were doing. If it was violent or actually dangerous, I could see a reason for the judge to approve the subpoenas, but that's still a big stretch.

What law did the anti-war meeting previous to the protest break? The law against free assembly? Oh right, that's not a law but guaranteed in our constitution. Someone might want to mail a copy to the judge, I think he forgot it exists.
posted by mathowie at 11:16 PM on February 7, 2004


Life imitates the Onion.
posted by homunculus at 11:22 PM on February 7, 2004


This is local news for me, and although I don't have any first hand knowledge, I suspect the subpoenas (and gag order) are related to the "violence" that happened as described in this section:
The forum, titled "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" came the day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston. Organizers say the forum included nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate.

The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.
I seem to remember that the incident at the National Guard headquarters was quite a bit more intense that indicated above, but that might be faulty memory or media bias talking.

Anyway, I think the reason that there hasn't been much from the "other side" is:
  1. The U.S. attorneys are trying (for whatever reason) to keep the investigation as secret as possible until the grand jury is complete, so they aren't going to come out and spill all of the details.
  2. Basically no one knows what is being investigated. And those that do can't talk about it at this time.
  3. It is just a grand jury investigation at this point - no one is being arrested or shipped off to Guantanamo.
posted by Schnauzer at 11:26 PM on February 7, 2004


So was it a massive multi-party conspiracy to punch a cop?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:33 PM on February 7, 2004


No. It was a conspiracy of midwest librarians - to go limp and so threaten US national security..

There's no type of assault quite like that of a limp female librarian : it chills the bones.
posted by troutfishing at 11:47 PM on February 7, 2004


I had a date with a limp female librarian once. Nobody got assaulted that night, to my disappointment.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:09 AM on February 8, 2004


Let's get their names and put them on the no-fly list. Damn, it sucks to be us.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:32 AM on February 8, 2004


And yet our president speaks of the troops in Iraq as defending and protecting America.

Someone explain to me how it might be beneficial to America to detain a priest. To stop a nun from traveling because she holds a different view. A 16 year old girl from Milwaukee for fucks sake. Someone explain how this is helping our country. Please.
posted by damnitkage at 6:23 AM on February 8, 2004


Here's a thought. Remember the antiwar protests at the Port of Oakland (and the brutal police response)?
I seem to recall that shortly afterwards there was a hardening in government policy about "protests interfering with the war effort."
Unfortunately the details escape me. I wonder if this is a test case, given the protestors were, I believe, outside of a National Guard unit about to deploy, and thus might be included as "interfering..."
posted by kablam at 7:06 AM on February 8, 2004


Of course, if it was a sports riot, the school would have to do the investigation itself.
posted by destro at 8:12 AM on February 8, 2004


blah-blah-blah.
you people really like to hear yourselves lament and brow beat. I think most of you wouldn't have the spine to protest in a fashion that might remotely piss off the authorities. Nothing fails to strengthen my resolve then to see people hand wringing oversomething they have no control or even full knowledge of.

You all like the what-if game....IF it fits your criteria.

look someone, somewhere did something to someone and we do not know all the facts. Having worked in a library, I am familiar with librarians code of info freedom which i share.

But something seems afoul here, I'll admit that. The person going to Iraq in 02' may have something to do with it. perhaps these protesters fingered some poor sap professor who stood up to them and they maybe decided to burn him with information contained in school records. maybe ashcroft is just singling out anyone who remotely has the ability to protest above holding a sign and the ability to speak ones mind at some meeting.

WHO KNOWS.
posted by clavdivs at 9:11 AM on February 8, 2004


Well, after all the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but it doesn't say anything about freedom of thought.

Any time you guys want to leave, over here in the UK we've got some vacancies for cockle-pickers.
posted by Hogshead at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2004


Christine Gaunt, the Grinnell part time librarian accused of assaulting a police officer (I am inclined to be very skeptical of this charge, for the material presented below) who is at the epicenter of the subpoena controversy, has three children, and her husband is an Iowan hog farmer.

She has been active in
religiously based nonviolent protests against the notorious "School of the Americas" since 1998 and later, in antiwar protests. She has been arrested at least two priors times, at a SOA protest, (from which she served several months in jail for trespassing) and at an antiwar protest in April, 2003 ( link ) :

"....An ordained Mennonite minister and her husband were among five co-defendants in a four-day civil disobedience trial in Des Moines (Feb. 3-6.) The five sought to hold the Iowa National Air Guard accountable to international law over their bombing patrols in Iraq. "This was a small action we were led to take as another opportunity to witness to Jesus’ way of peace," reflected Pastor Jennifer Davis Sensenig of Cedar Falls Mennonite Church. "We felt called to protect the spiritual and physical welfare of our soldiers as well as the people of Iraq, and work for a more secure world for everyone’s children. Our mutual security is gravely threatened by the irrespon-sible and illegal foreign policy the US is currently pursuing in the Mideast."

Jennifer, her husband Kent, Brian Terrell, Brian Turner, and Christine Gaunt all plead not guilty to misdemeanor trespassing charges for a nonviolent protest action on Oct. 26, 2002 at the 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa National Air Guard, based in Des Moines."


Here is an account of her prior arrest at the SOA protest, from the Grinnell school paper, "The Scarlet and the Black" (available in PDF only on the net) : "by David Archer
Staff Writer

In November, library assistant Chris
Gaunt was arrested for trespassing the Western
Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
(WHISC) in Georgia, and on
Wednesday she was sentenced to 90 days
in federal prison and fined 750 dollars for
her actions.
Unlike many of the 80 other protestors
on trial also arrested in November, Gaunt
pleaded not guilty to the trespassing charges.
She also refused to sign stipulations admitting
she had crossed the line, according to
the Ledger-Enquirer.
“I want the SOA/WHISC closed forever,”
said Gaunt in a prepared statement
before the trial. “I want reparations for the
people of Latin America.”
The sentence did not surprise the family,
but they will miss her help around the
family farm.
“It was her decision,” said her son, Jason
Gaunt, 16. “I have kind of mixed feelings
about it.”
Her husband expressed similar sentiments.
“I guess I’m supporting her,” said
Jay Gaunt. “She is trying to make her point.
I’m not feeling sorry for her, she’s been as
calm as can be on the phone.”
Gaunt’s son and her husband will share
her duties on the farm until she returns.
“She left us very well organized, she left us
a page and a half of phone numbers,” said
Mr. Gaunt.
When she returned to campus after her
arrest in November Gaunt said she expected
to be sentenced to three to six months in
Federal prison. “This must stop,” said
Gaunt, referring to the WHISC/SOA.
The trial judge, G. Mallon Faircloth,
has a history of strict sentencing in cases
involving WHISC/SOA protestors, according
to Washington-based School of Americas
Watch.
The WHISC, a military training program
focused on Latin America, was previously
called the School of Americas. The
institute offers military training to militants,
police officers and other officials from Latin
America. Human rights activists have long
accused the institute of propagating human
rights violations.
In 1996 the Pentagon released training
manuals used at the school that advocated
the use of torture, extortion and execution,
according to Indymedia.org.
“After sentencing, Gaunt slumped to
the floor in protest and had to be carried
from the courtroom as fellow protesters
among courtroom spectators applauded
and shouted exhortations,” according to the
Ledger-Enquirer.
Gaunt went directly to jail where she
will serve her term now so she can return
home in time for her daughter’s high school
graduation this spring. Now she will serve
her sentence in Georgia, but she might have
the opportunity to move to a prison closer
to Iowa before her sentence is over."

To call these "religiously based" protests is perhaps even an understatement. This is a diverse group of protestors, from many walks of life (including many active and retired catholic clergy, and religious clergy from other faiths as well) who share core beliefs that :

1) There exists some injustices which cannot be suffered and,

2) To this effect it is necessary for persons of faith to put their own bodies on the line, in nonviolent protest, to call attention to these injustices.

3) There can be no advancement in addressing these injustices without personal sacrifice. In this, they are not really too different from some members of the US military in Iraq who held strongly idealistic motives going into that conflict, of ending the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein - but for the fact that the peace activists do not carry weapons. They reject violent, militaristic solutions. But the underlying ethic - of necessary personal sacrifice - is similar.
posted by troutfishing at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2004


over here in the UK we've got some vacancies for cockle-pickers.

And surveillance camera operators, presumably.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2004


I think most of you wouldn't have the spine to protest in a fashion that might remotely piss off the authorities.

Bullshit. They used CS gas on us in New York. Is that good enough for you? Have you ever been gassed for your beliefs?
posted by Ptrin at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2004


gassed for my beliefs... you placed yourself in the gas and you suffered the consequences. but what was achieved? really, a short term (i assume) physical discomfort, nay a nasty irritant is not, IMO, a profound or lasting form of protest. also, it helps to bring some form of respiratory gear.
i was a boy scout, be prepared.

no, never been "tear gassed" but i was maced once. (big stupid middle michigan brouhaha involving some stupid people and as the case in most unrational confrontations, the ones trying to clear the mess get hurt.)

really, howard dean will tell you, from his Yale days studying modern revolutions, that the march is only the face of protest, it is a big start no doubt, but a just a face.
Now Chicago, 68'...thats a protest.
posted by clavdivs at 12:56 PM on February 8, 2004


clavdivs - you placed yourself in the gas and you suffered the consequences. - that's a false statement. The protestors show up first, then the gas. The police don't just gas an empty street and wait for the protestors to decide to march into the cloud.

(The closest I can think of is in Seattle in 1999; the police gassed a number of unrelated crowds, icluding a restaurant. This caused many previously uninvolved citizens to develop a more activist outlook.)

also, it helps to bring some form of respiratory gear. - Again in Seattle (the protest I'm most familiar with, what with living here and all), repiratory gear was declared illegal, not to mention the unAmerican practice of gathering in groups of 3 or more in the downtown business district.

You accuse others of being spineless, clavdivs, but you seem to have only a vague notion what having a spine would be.
posted by hattifattener at 1:30 PM on February 8, 2004


I think most of you wouldn't have the spine to protest in a fashion that might remotely piss off the authorities.

Begin pissing contest ... now!

it helps to bring some form of respiratory gear.

You're saying that it's a useless form of protest, but you still want to point out how they're doing it wrong. Sheesh!

i was a boy scout, be prepared.

Also, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
posted by milovoo at 1:31 PM on February 8, 2004


Now Chicago, 68'...thats a protest.

No, that was a police riot, just like Seattle.
posted by dglynn at 2:18 PM on February 8, 2004


Kos is keeping an eye on this.
posted by homunculus at 2:39 PM on February 8, 2004


I think most of you wouldn't have the spine to protest in a fashion that might remotely piss off the authorities.

I know I've spent my fair share of time zip-cuffed on the wrong side of a protest line... Maybe you're just projecting your own inability to stand up for your rights?
posted by kaibutsu at 6:18 PM on February 8, 2004


Sigh. I'm sorry, milovoo, this is one pissing contest that gets me every time. One friend with an arrest record, a tapped phone, or a broken rib from protesting peacefully is one too many, and I have more than one.

(The closest I can think of is in Seattle in 1999; the police gassed a number of unrelated crowds, icluding a restaurant. This caused many previously uninvolved citizens to develop a more activist outlook.)

This also happened last June, at the G-8 conference in Geneva. Police (many of them brought in from Germany) used gas in such amounts and with such disregard for local weather conditions that the clouds spread into commercial and residential areas, forcing the evacuation of one hotel. A journalist sustained severe injuries to his leg when a police officer threw a concussion grenade at him as the journalist retreated. After a couple days of this kind of behavior, local citizens began to join the protestors.

At November's anti-FTAA protests in Miami, there were massive arrests. Among the arrestees, two women and two transgender activists were raped or sexually assaulted by police officers and guards. Two male activists (one black, one Mexican-American) were stripped naked, held in kennels, beaten severely, and sprayed with cold water from pressure hoses. The police refused them medical treatment, using this as leverage to ensure the cooperation of other arrestees.

That goes pretty far beyond "short term physical discomfort," and if you're interested, clavdius, I can give you plenty of other accounts. You're right, of course, that going prepared with gas masks helps. But do you know how quickly protestors with gas masks get targeted? Police are conditioned to expect aggression from protestors, so they interpret "being prepared for trouble" as "looking for trouble."

Long answer short: I won't argue with you that mass street protests usually don't achieve the participants' goals, but please don’t underestimate the guts it takes to place your unarmored body in front of a line of riot cops.
posted by hippugeek at 7:38 PM on February 8, 2004


It takes "guts" to put yourself in harm's way in support of an effort you acknowledge in advance will result in failure? Give me a break. There are any number of ways to describe something as ridiculously juvenile as that, but "guts" wouldn't be one of them...
posted by JollyWanker at 8:00 PM on February 8, 2004


really, a short term (i assume) physical discomfort, nay a nasty irritant is not, IMO, a profound or lasting form of protest. also, it helps to bring some form of respiratory gear.
i was a boy scout, be prepared.


Well then, Claudius, what precisely would demonstrate spine, from your point of view?

I have lots of free time.
posted by Ptrin at 8:19 PM on February 8, 2004


JollyWanker - So...ummm, gathering in peaceful assembly in accord with constitutionally delineated rights is juvenile? You might as well declare that any objection to the status quo is juvenile - for the fact that international trade negotiations are not really informed, as they are currently being formulated, by the democratic process. So there currently are few ways to protest or challenge the legitimacy of these negotiations. By your own logic, an apathetic acceptance of such momunental political decisions should be considered "adult".

But perhaps I misunderstood the import of your comment.
posted by troutfishing at 8:44 PM on February 8, 2004


It takes "guts" to put yourself in harm's way in support of an effort you acknowledge in advance will result in failure?

I get the feeling it's not going to change your mind, but I'll try to clarify. clavdius said, referencing Dean, "the march is only the face of protest, it is a big start no doubt, but a just a face."

I agree wholeheartedly. My goals in attending street protests are different from the goals of many. There are people who believe Bush/Ashcroft/Rumsfeld are listening, and people who think we're going to catalyze class warfare and take over the city. These are things at which marches fail. What street protests can do is maintain the right to protest. Marching is a highly visible (directly visible to residents and visible in the media) way to create a culture of resistance--to affirm that dissent is normal, widespread, and still within our constitutional rights.

One can often--though not always--ensure one's safety at a march by following all police instructions. But these instructions include staying far away from presidential sight, not carrying certain kinds of signs and banners, not congregating on public sidewalks, and being confined to "free speech zones." Protestors who refuse these demands and, increasingly, cooperative protestors who get caught in the wrong place, subject themselves to pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, clubs, concussion grenades, and arrest.

I have no respect for people who intentionally start conflicts with police officers. They undermine the moral legitimacy of the movement and place other people in danger. But these days, marching peacefully with the simple goal of asserting one's first amendment rights is a physically dangerous endevour. Informed protestors know this and accept it. That takes not only guts, but maturity.
posted by hippugeek at 9:45 PM on February 8, 2004


'Guts' is a measure of a person's inclination to expose himself to possible negative consequence. A protestor almost invariably exposes his puckered ass to possible negative consequence. Ergo, 'guts'.

Running with the bulls takes 'guts' - regardless of any result the deed might broker within some broader context.

Axiomatic, I would've thought.

Note: Randites, pragmatists and cowards often sustitute the word 'stupidity' in the aforegarbled, unless the payoff is suitably commensurate with the risk.
posted by Opus Dark at 5:18 AM on February 9, 2004


Civil Liberties: The 2004 Forecast
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2004


If running with the bulls isn't fevered 'stupidity', then I don't want to be right. Send me your randbots, your pragmatists and your cowards, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming jackassery.

As for the protesting bit, well, we all know that politics are for assholes, right?
posted by stavrogin at 12:00 PM on February 9, 2004


if anyone was harmed by an Illegal act like the pre gassing someone said, then you are exempt from my vitriol. I do not discuss methods of protest to much, it seems futile and in the end the one whom gets hurt is yourself. NOW, that does not say I have not protested something by other legal methods (think Thoreau). No one is a coward nor stupid for marching. i applaud this, but don't make yourselves sound like your in West Virginia circa 1920.

wisdom of Opus says guts are present
true, me, kill the bull with tooth picks, let us remove the steel from the sport.
but what do we sacrifice for, a button, pamphlet and perhaps some phone numbers never to be dialed?

Politics is hell.

Ptrin, I'm the kinda guy who has pictures of Nixon leaving a motel room in Flint with two other men. You tempt me.

this is always, almost always an extremely bad idea
IMO
posted by clavdivs at 12:34 PM on February 9, 2004


thats a thread killer
posted by clavdivs at 7:40 AM on February 10, 2004


"I have no respect for people who intentionally start conflicts with police officers. They undermine the moral legitimacy of the movement "

I have no respect for police who intentionally start conflicts with protestors. They undermine the moral legitimacy of their authority.
posted by Goofyy at 8:34 AM on February 10, 2004


Word. I've seen both, but never when the (protesting) instigator was anything other than a total knob. The best way I've seen this handled by a cop was when, in Portland, the cop basically turned to the rest of the crowd, slowly described what the guy was doing wrong, and asked the crowd what should be done. We all sort of shrugged and looked down, and noone got in the way as they arrested him. I've been in environments when the cops make an effort to establish a connection with the crowd, and that works best.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:06 AM on February 10, 2004


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