Conference on FBI repression

February 23, 2011

NEW YORK--Some 200 people gathered at Judson Memorial Church on February 19 for a conference called by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

In an inspiring show of solidarity, a large coalition of the political left met along with families of mostly Muslim victims of preemptive prosecutions, entrapment, inhumane incarceration or other abusive policies of the Justice Department.

Hatem Abudayyeh, Mick Kelly and Sarah Martin were in attendance. They, along with 20 other peace and Palestinian rights activists from the Midwest, have refused to testify before a federal grand jury, citing their Fifth Amendment rights. Along with attorneys, they spoke about the use of the grand jury by the government as part of a witch-hunt designed to intimidate and target social justice movements.

They were also joined by advocates and victims of past abuses by prosecutors, including Ana Lopez and Antonio Cruz Colon, a veteran of the Puerto Rican Independence movement.

Addressing another panel, the families of Siraj Matin, the Newburgh 4, the Fort Dix 5 and Fahad Hashmi, along with representatives of Project Salam and The National Lawyers Guild, shared experiences of government repression and abuse centering on the Muslim community.

Members of the National Lawyers Guild also spoke about the rights afforded to citizens and residents, and how people can protect themselves during house raids, searches and inquiries by the FBI or other officials. Additionally, speakers addressed past and ongoing attempts by the federal government to target labor unions, Black liberation, immigrant rights and Palestinian rights movements.

A call for protests of the upcoming congressional hearings on so-called "Islamic radicalization," reminiscent of the McCarthy "witch-hunt" of the 1950s, was issued. Almost $5,000 was raised for the activists' legal defense fund.

The assembly also stood in solidarity with the Wisconsin public-sector workers, now under attack by their governor and state legislature, and endorsed the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC) peace march on April 9 in New York City.

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