In July, I reported on a violent “thought crime” raid in Seattle, Washington, at the home of Occupy-affiliated activists. As I wrote then, “Most of America was not awake when a SWAT team burst in the front doors of an apartment in Seattle on the morning of July 10, 2012. Four local activists struggled to dress; but, they say, after the agents stormed in, they grabbed them physically. The activists reported that these agents tied their hands at the wrists, while holding automatic rifles poised against them.”
Vandalism had occurred in a protest in May; but the sight of several black-clad individuals engaging in vandalism against property hardly justified, many would say, the severe repression that followed.
Many scoffed at that time at the notion of a “thought crime” arrest in the US and insisted that the victims of the militarised SWAT team must have done something to deserve the response. But the early reports turn out to beno exaggeration. Those peaceful activists, including 24-year-old Leah-Lynn Plante, are now being held in Federal prison for refusing to testify about other protesters to a Federal Grand Jury.
The warrants issued for the original raid specifically targeted these activists for the colours they chose to wear - the original raid identified their black sweatshirts as one of the reasons for them to be subjected to arrest.
The raid also targeted the literature which they chose to read in their homes (anarchist literature). Their home and lives were invaded, in violation of First and Fourth Amendment protections; and they are now being judged by a government which has recently defined even peaceful anarchists, in a newly released FBI presentation, as “Criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities”.
After the raids, the activists received subpoenas to face a Federal Grand Jury. Because one cannot retain the right to remain silent - that is, the right not to be forced to incriminate others - a Grand Jury proceeding can be used as one of the most draconian and unconstitutional weapons in the Department of Justice’s arsenal against peaceful activists.
In other words, if you choose to remain silent in a Grand Jury, you may face 18 months in jail. As Natasha Lennard, a long-time Occupy reporter, notes in her excellent continuing coverage of the case:
“The closed-door procedures are rare instances in which an individual loses the right to remain silent. As was the case with the Northwest grand juries resisters, the grand jury can grant a subpoenaed individual personal immunity; Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are therefore protected, but silence is not. In these instances, refusal to speak can be considered civil contempt. Non-co-operators can be jailed for the 18-month length of the grand jury.”