LISTEN TO MEREDITH ABY:
Meredith Aby is a peaceful anti-war activist. Despite this, or maybe because of it, the 38-year-old mother, who teaches at a Twin Cities high school, is the target of an FBI investigation and may face terrorism related charges.
Around 7 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 24, 2010, as her young daughter slept, eight FBI agents and one Minneapolis police officer knocked loudly on Aby’s front door, then “they came barging in and they shoved a warrant in my face,” she told TheFightBack at last weekend’s School of the Americas Watch protest in Columbus, Georgia.
Aby wasn’t the only activist targeted on that fateful morning. Sept. 24, 2010, the FBI launched a coordinated effort which saw seven homes in Chicago and Minneapolis raided and fourteen activists served with subpoenas which cited federal law which prohibits “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
Also raided on that same day was the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, “an organization that the Minneapolis City Council, in 2007, publicly recognized as an important voice of nonviolence and political dissent,” members of the Minneapolis City Council wrote in a recent letter to Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Keith Ellison. The Council members continued:
“[W]e are formally sharing our concerns about the expansion of government surveillance of social justice organizations and anti-war activists in Minnesota as evidenced by this event. We are deeply concerned about the chilling effects these activities might have on completely nonviolent and legal activism as well as the threat it poses to the freedoms of speech and association and health of our democracy in general.”
“They took boxes and boxes of political materials,” Aby said of the FBI raid of her home.
“Interestingly enough, [the FBI took] signup sheets from the School of the Americas. They took signup sheets from the Anti-War Committee. They took fliers. They took political pamphlets, political books. And they took my computer, my phone. Basically what they took from my house is evidence of my political opinions and the political opinions of other people that I work with, which I don’t think should be a crime.”
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Dennis Kucinich questioned the Justice Department’s investigation of “anti-war activists”:
“The focus of the investigation appears to be whether these small, local groups have somehow provided ‘material support or resources’ to foreign terrorist organizations. This suggestion defies credibility. What possible ‘material support or resources’ could these small, local groups provide to foreign terrorist organizations? And, what contacts could they have conducted that would justify an investigation in which seven houses were searched and 23 individuals were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury?”
None of the now-23 individuals subpoenaed to testify before a secret Grand Jury in Chicago have been indicted, and all of them have refused to cooperate. This puts them in a difficult legal position “where we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Aby.
But the activists aren’t just sitting around waiting to see if U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald indicts them. They regularly speak out and last year created the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. “Being quiet to me sends the message to people that I’m guilty,” said Aby. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve advocated for justice and for peace in places like Columbia and Iraq and Palestine and Afghanistan. That’s not a crime.”
“What you should do in the face of political repression is get back up and stand up for yourself and stand up for your message,” said Aby. “What you shouldn’t do is back down.”
Is the FBI Out of Control? Nov. 22, 2010