Why did the FBI raid Long Haul Infoshop?

September 2, 2008

On August 27, the FBI, Alameda Country sheriff's department and University of California (UC) police raided the Long Haul Infoshop, a community center and anarchist meeting place in south Berkeley. With guns drawn, the officers broke doors, cut locks, searched the lending library logs and seized a dozen computers and other equipment. The FBI and police claim they were looking for evidence of threatening e-mails sent to animal researchers at UC-Berkeley.

Siddharth Patel spoke to Paul B., a member of the Long Haul, about the significance of the raid.

DID YOU have any indication this was going to happen? Have the police harassed Long Haul recently?

NO, WE didn't expect it at all. Three or four months ago, police officers came here and requested that we contact them to provide some information, but we didn't imagine anything like this happening.

HOW HAS the raid impacted the Long Haul's ability to organize and help others organize?

ONE OF the groups that operates out of here is the East Bay Prisoners' Support Group. They lost their computer. Long Haul also provides services for people, like free Internet stations for people who don't have their own computer to take to a café. Those computers were all taken away. Slingshot, a quarterly publication and organizing calendar, got a computer taken away, and the next issue is not getting published on time.

It's really disruptive if you don't know when police are going to show up, if you don't know when you might get arrested. It's scary.

WE'VE SEEN stories recently and over the last few years about the consequences of the Patriot Act, the FISA bill, warrantless wiretapping, police infiltration of antiwar groups and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in Maryland. How do you think the raid at the Long Haul fits in with all of this?

FBI agents and local police raided the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley
FBI agents and local police raided the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley (Indybay.org)

IT SEEMS related. They came up with some excuse about suspicious e-mails, but really, they want to see what we're up to. As someone who staffs here, the Long Haul seems relatively benign. We've never been raided for the 25 years we've been around.

You hear about things happening to other organizations, but then you think, "Why would the government care about the Long Haul?" The government may think they need to spy on benign groups like us.

It seems like the government doesn't want open community spaces like the Long Haul. If there's even that potential for open, grassroots organizing, your group might get raided. I mean, people use the computers at the San Francisco Public Library to send all kinds of crazy e-mails, and no one's raiding the public library.

WHAT MESSAGE do you want to send to grassroots activists across the country?

I NEVER thought the FBI would raid a place like the Long Haul. I see it as a place where people come to get information, to gather. We don't harbor terrorists.

What you can do

Come to a demonstration to protest the raid on the Long Haul Infoshop on September 4, at 11 a.m., in Sproul Plaza on the campus of UC-Berkeley.

Check out the Long Haul Infoshop Web site for updates and more information about what you can do to help, or to send messages of solidarity. Long Haul is requesting donations to help with legal expenses. Send checks, payable to "Long Haul," to: Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

I've always heard about the FBI having informants and conducting raids, but when it happens at a place that you care about, where you spend time and that you think is helping out the community, it's weird. It hits you that stuff likes this does happen. It's a motivation to do something about it and challenge police surveillance.

The Long Haul is really a place for different groups to gather, and we provide a lot of things for people who can't have these things otherwise.

Cycles of Change works out of here--they work with kids in Oakland to promote sustainable living and bike culture. The East Bay Prisoners' Support Group organizes correspondence with and provides literature for prisoners, and that's important because prison libraries are filled with John Grisham novels, and prisoners need contact with the outside world. The Needle Exchange works out of here, and that's a very practical concern; it's important to get people clean needles. Food Not Bombs provides food and services to the homeless community.

The events we have vary, because the Long Haul is a free and easy space to set up events, unlike the nearby "public" community center, where you have to put down $300. There's an anarchist study group that holds meetings here, there are political movie nights, benefits, acupuncture, pilates. All kinds of things--that's what's really nice.

We also have a library with 'zines that aren't widely available, and other radical literature that lots of public libraries just don't carry.

HOW CAN readers of SocialistWorker.org and the general public help?

WE REALLY need legal help right now. Any legal services or assistance would be very much appreciated. Also, while the Long Haul is demanding that the FBI return the computers immediately, we also could use any computers that people could offer us.

If people can come out to the September 4 demonstration, that would be a big help. Other than that, get involved with us, invest time and participate at the Long Haul, use the services here. That will be fruitful in the long term as well.

Further Reading

From the archives