Last September, federal agents conducted a search of the homes of 23 left-wing, anti-war activists, several of whom are union activists from Illinois and Minnesota. The searches were in execution of warrants “seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation,” stated Steve Warfield, a spokesman for the FBI in Minneapolis, at the time.
In Chicago, among those whose homes which were searched was Joe Isobaker and his wife Stephanie Weiner (a founder of AFSCME Local 3506). Isobaker was, at the time, a Chief Steward with the 24,000-member SEIU Local 73 and an activist, as well as a writer for Fight Back, a Marxist magazine.
According to the Star Tribune, the search was part of a “mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers, a number of them in Minnesota.”
The probe — involving subpoenas to 23 people and raids of seven homes last fall — has triggered a high-powered protest against the Justice Department and, in the process, could create some political discomfort for President Obama with his union supporters as he gears up for his re-election campaign. Investigators, according to search warrants, documents and interviews, are examining possible “material support” for Colombian and Palestinian groups designated by the U.S. government as terrorists.
All along, the activists have claimed they have no ties to terrorism, despite the appearance that the investigation is into possible ties to the communist Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), “a revolutionary socialist and Marxist-Leninist organization in the United States” that is seeking to end America’s free-enterprise system.
The Freedom Road Socialist Organization has links (literally) to both the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [background here] and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [background here], two groups on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
Another of those being investigated is Hatem Abudayyeh who, according to his bio, is the Executive Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of African, Arab, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois (CAAAELII), is a founding Advisory Board member of the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), and sits on the National Coordinating Committee of the United States Palestine Community Network (USPCN).
Now, with possible indictments looming, some of the individuals being investigated are attempting to strike back.
Several activists and their lawyers said they believe indictments could come anytime, so they have turned their organizing skills toward a counteroffensive, decrying the inquiry as a threat to their First Amendment rights. All 23 of the activists invoked their right not to testify before a grand jury, defying U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, whose office is spearheading the investigation. A spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment.
The activists have formed the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, organized phone banks to flood Attorney General Eric Holder’s office and the White House with protest calls, solicited letters from unions and faith-based groups and sent delegations to Capitol Hill.
“I am so disgusted when I see that so many union people have been targeted in this,” said Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME Local 3800, which represents clerical workers at the University of Minnesota, including four members who are possible targets.
On May 17th, according to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression’s website, another activist’s home was raided in Los Angeles and the activist, Carlos Montes, was detained and questioned about the Midwest activists, as well as the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
On June 16th, the Committee is planning a “Day of Action in Solidarity with Carlos Montes.”
On the actvists’ website, there is a timeline of events that includes actions the activists have taken to counter the investigation into their activities, as well as the list of Democrat politicians the group has enlisted to support them.
By the looks of it, with indictments possibly being issued soon, there will likely be much more coming out in the coming weeks and months ahead.