Activist to Iowa Grand Jury: “We will not be intimidated. We will not cooperate.”

by Will Potter on October 19, 2009

in Activism & Activists' Response,Terrorism Court Cases

Carrie Feldman, a 20-year-old woman from Minneapolis, has been subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Iowa in what appears to be yet another attempt to harass and intimidate political activists. She faces up to a year in jail if held in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury.

As you can see in Feldman’s grand jury subpoena, the government provides few details about what is actually being investigated. That’s no accident: grand juries, by design, are secretive and conducted outside of public scrutiny in a legal void where basic Fifth and First Amendment rights do not apply. [Here is a handy booklet on grand juries with much more information.] If activists refuse to participate in the political witch-hunt, they can face serious jail time. Jordan Halliday has done exactly that with a Utah Grand Jury, and he is facing federal criminal contempt charges.

There’s a very good chance the grand jury is investigating a 2004 Animal Liberation Front raid at the University of Iowa (video of the raid is embedded here), for a few reasons. It was a very high profile crime at the time, and both the university and the FBI have indicated it is a top priority. Also, at the preliminary hearing by the grand jury, a witness asked a question that Feldman says related to that investigation.

After that raid, the University of Iowa announced that its new, $11.2 million animal experimentation facility would be underground. As an anonymous activist wrote on the TwinCities Indymedia page:

“Like the torture of animals, grand juries, too, are only at their most effective when done as intended, in secret.”

If the new underground lab at the University of Iowa is intended to deter both legal and illegal animal rights activity, that’s not going to happen. When I sent around a news article about that on Twitter a while back, an aboveground activist responded in a way that I think reflects the mentality of many people in the animal rights and environmental movements: “They’re building their labs underground now? I guess we’ll just have to get shovels.”

And if this new grand jury is intended to harass and intimidate political activists… well, I think they picked the wrong activist and the wrong community to target. Carrie Feldman is active with EWOK (Earth Warriors are OK), which has been active on local Green Scare issues. She also works with the Coldsnap Legal Collective and the RNC 8 support committee, experience that is clearly reflected in her statement to the grand jury:

First of all, I would like to state, unequivocally and most certainly for the record, that I have no intention of testifying before this grand jury. Based on information from the prosecutor indicating that I may be a target of this investigation, I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But beyond that, I am refusing to cooperate based on a sincere belief that to do so would run counter to my deeply held convictions and values.

Grand juries were originally created to prevent arbitrary indictments, but are now used as a tool of the prosecution to gather information. Grand juries undercut basic rights supposedly granted in the Constitution by denying access to counsel and coercing testimony. They are now, and have been for some time, used to investigate and intimidate those who would express dissent.

This is only effective when we are complicit, when we are frightened, when we are divided. Today my voice may waver, as I stand alone in this room. But I know I speak with the voice of every one of my friends, loved ones, and comrades when I say this: We will not be intimidated. We will not cooperate. I have nothing more to say to you.

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