Peace activists implore feds to call off "witch hunt" domestic terrorism investigations
Peace activists nationwide are speaking out Monday against what they see as FBI oppression against protesters. In downtown Tampa, ten people protested anti-terrorism tactics and legislation in front of the Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse. Jared Hamil heads the Tampa Committee to Stop FBI Oppression which is participating in a national call-in day to ask a U.S. attorney to call off investigations of 22 anti-war activists.
â€œHi, my name is Jared Hamil. Iâ€™m from Tampa Bay. Iâ€™m a fellow activist and Iâ€™m saying to end the investigation of anti-war and international solidarity activists now.â€
That was a voicemail to U.S. counter-terrorism attorney Barry Jonas. According to Hamil, Jonas refused to return personal items that were confiscated two years ago from Hatem Abudayyeh who is the executive director of the Arab American Action Network. Hamil said 23 activists had personal items confiscated because of a controversial court ruling.
â€œThe Supreme Court decision Holder versus Humanitarian Law allows for the government to construe freedom of speech with material support for terrorism. Now for all those who speak out just like the 23, you can be put in jail for terrorism.â€
So-called â€œmaterial supportâ€ is any item that could be used to assist possible terrorists in acts that could be harmful to Americans. A California activist Carlos Montez was one of the 23 people investigated. His personal items have since been returned. But peace activist Marisol Marquez said the Supreme Court ruling is too vague and can be interpreted to mean anything from pictures and books to public speaking.
â€œFor example, in Carlos Montezâ€™s home, there was a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. that was taken and said that that was material support against terrorism. Itâ€™s a picture that you could pick up anywhere â€“ at Barnes and Noble â€“ itâ€™s just a poster of Martin Luther King and itâ€™s like, little postcards that have things like pictures of flowers, things like that. Itâ€™s pretty ridiculous.â€
The Holder versus Humanitarian decision upholds the governmentâ€™s responsibility to differentiate between harmless acts of free speech and those that could contribute to acts of terror â€“ like offering legal advice. Hatem Abudeyyeh is still facing possible Grand Jury indictment as a result of his ongoing investigation. Marquez said people like him are being scrutinized for the wrong reasons.
â€œIn reality, Hatam is being targeted because of his role as an anti-war, peaceful activist and because of his nationality.â€
But race and culture arenâ€™t the only links to terrorism investigations peace activists have a problem with. The Committee to Stop FBI Oppressionâ€™s Hamil said anyone who exercises their First Amendment rights could be targeted.
â€œAnything that you can do that I do, anything that any activist does, can be construed as material support for terrorism.â€
â€œThe activists targeted have been involved in anti-war and international solidarity movements for decades. They also all organized against the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul Minnesota in a protest that saw tens of thousands of protesters.â€
Hamil is speaking out against the FBIâ€™s crack down on domestic terrorism because he said itâ€™s an invented threat.
â€œEspecially with regards to Arabs and Muslims who are prosecuted and said that theyâ€™re terrorists â€“ especially in FBI frame up jobs that weâ€™ve seen over and over again â€“ this is used here to justify the wars overseas and, in fact, itâ€™s all just a frame up. Itâ€™s all fake and, in general, just used to kill more people overseas.â€
Other activists held signs condemning the U.S. government for passing laws that criminalize free speech and calling their investigations witch hunts. Thai Huynh is also worried about the effects of the National Defense Authorization Act that allows for the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists. He said the new investigative practices judge people before any facts have been found.
â€œI think that this seems to be, the way that they operate, it seems that itâ€™s guilty until proven innocent.â€
The FBI did not respond to phone and email interview requests.
More information about the national day of action is on the Committee to Stop FBI Oppressionâ€™s website.
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