Revolution #213, September 30, 2010

Snapshot of rally in support of anti-war/Solidarity activists in Chicago

Four hundred people gathered in front of Chicago FBI headquarters on Monday, September 27, to protest last Friday’s outrageous raids and attacks by FBI agents against anti-war and Solidarity movement supporters in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities. Starting at 4:30 and not ending until after 6 p.m., people gathered to picket and rally, filing onto the narrow strip of sidewalk and grass between the FBI’s iron fence and engraved marble marker on one side and busy rush hour traffic on the other.

The news media was out in force as well, with reporters from FOX TV, CBS, ABC, the Chicago Tribune and Univisión, as well as from college and progressive media reporters.

The protest was multi-national, and many different groups and movements were represented: people from the anti-war and Solidarity movements as well as Latinos from the movement for immigrant rights, Black activists from the struggle against torture in Chicago, and young Muslim women in their hijabs, students from Roosevelt University, Columbia College, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and more. A large section of the crowd were people from the ’60s who recalled the struggle against COINTELPRO and attacks against the civil rights movement.

There was a significant section of progressive religious activists—Christian, Muslim and Jewish—in attendance. The Wellington Church UCC carried a big banner declaring their presence. It was announced that in over 30 cities demonstrations had been held in response to the raids.

Broad and passionate opposition to the outrageous raids was expressed in the hand-drawn signs carried at the protest: “Evict Big Brother,” “American Freedom Under Attack,” “Stop Government Attacks,” “Obama=Bush=Repression,” “The U.S. Government is the Terrorist,” “We support the resisters,” “Blame Obama for these raids,” “First they came for the Jews, then they came for the gays, now they are coming for the peace activists.” A group of students from Wright College stretched out on the grass, making up more signs on the spot.

A big part of the protest was devoted to statements and speeches:

Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), who is the attorney representing Hatem Abudayyeh, an American of Palestinian descent, executive director of the Arab American Action Network and one of the victims of the raids, said that lawyers from the NLG will represent those who are being investigated. He called for a Church Committee-type hearing to investigate FBI crimes and harassment against groups or individuals who are opposed to the war and to fight this before it spreads.

Stephanie Weiner and her partner of many years, Joe Iosbaker, whose home in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood was the subject of subpoenas, search warrant and raid, spoke about how it was an honor to be standing with all the people at the rally and those fighting the U.S. around the world, opposing U.S. aid to Israel, participating in the anti-war movement. They identified organizing protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention as the common thread tying together people who were victims of these raids across the country. They spoke about how they had grown up in the anti-war movement of the ’60s and had marched in the civil rights movement with their parents, and they introduced their kids who are speaking up in their behalf now.

They described the raid—how the FBI came in 10 deep at 7 in the morning with the warrants and didn’t leave for the next 12 hours. They told of the FBI pawing through their son’s room, going through all his school books and poetry, looking through all the drawers. They described FBI agents filing out of their house with numerous boxes of their political material, pictures from Palestine and Colombia, and how they even searched through their storage in the attic and dug through their music collection. They called for peace and justice. Chants went up to “Stop the Grand Jury.”

Stan Willis of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and Black People Against Police Torture spoke. He opened his speech acknowledging the many participants at the protest—including enemies, pointing out how the enemies are right here at the rally taking their notes and reporting back to the FBI. He spoke to the resistance of the ’60s and how that affected the war in Vietnam and that people should not be afraid and that we will be here until victory.

Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said "Hatem is a longtime, respected leader in the community. It is unthinkable that he would have any connections to terrorism. This is a new low…. This is an example of FBI overreach when it comes to activism or commentary on the [Middle East] conflict."

Other speakers included: a Chicago activist who was on vacation, visiting at one of the homes in Minneapolis when it was raided; Jorge Mujica, a leading activist in the struggle for immigration rights; the Chicago spokesperson for American Muslims for Palestine; the leader of the Chicago chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, who is a student at Harold Washington College. Other anti-war and Solidarity activists also spoke.

Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network and a leading Chicago anti-war activist, closed the rally, stating that people had to look beyond Attorney General Eric Holder to the president. Andy called on people to hold Barack Obama accountable for the disaster of civil liberties under his administration. Andy reminded people how the government had shut down Global Relief, seizing their files and computers and closing their offices—totally destroying that organization and other Muslim charities when people had done nothing. He went on to say that under Obama it was worse than Bush—from Abu Ghraib, to not prosecuting war criminals—and that we needed an independent movement for peace and justice.

Throughout the statements people called on those present to remember not to speak to the FBI. Another consistent theme was that this attack had only made people stronger and that people would carry on with their mission of opposing the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and against Iran, and would oppose Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the attack by the Colombian government, backed by the U.S., against the Colombian people. The crowd broke into chants after each speaker.

Those participating in this protest were called to continue to resist this attack, to participate in the upcoming rallies in Chicago on October 7, which is a National Day of Action on education, and October 16, a major regional rally against U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also mentioned that Barack Obama would be in town October 7 and that there should be a demonstration.

The next court date is a Grand Jury hearing on October 5.

The rally broke up with people signing up to be called back into action and for further meetings.

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