Support Grand Jury Resistors

By Stefan Aune

On Tuesday, Nov. 17 Twin Cities residents Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth refused to testify in front of a federal grand jury in Davenport, Iowa. They were found to be in contempt of court and were immediately handcuffed and hauled away by U.S. marshals. According to District Judge John Jarvey, they will both remain incarcerated until they agree to testify. The state can keep them locked up for the duration of the grand jury-another 11 months. Neither Carrie nor Scott has been accused of a crime.Historically, the federal grand jury has been used to ascertain whether or not someone should be charged with a crime; they were created to serve as a safety measure to defend against overzealous prosecution. More recently they have served as a way to harass oppositional political movements, coerce information from activists and sow mistrust and fear amongst movement participants. Grand juries have been used to carry out “the green scare”-the government crackdown on environmental and animal rights activists, whom the FBI has labeled “the number one domestic terrorism threat.” A grand jury operates in total secrecy. There is no judge presiding, a prosecutor runs the show, and the individuals subpoenaed to a grand jury cannot have legal council during the proceedings. It is not a courtroom setting, and many of the rights we take for granted do not apply. Individuals can be compelled to offer information regarding lawful or unlawful activities, participation in movements, beliefs, ideologies, and values. None of the rules that prohibit irrelevant, unreliable or unlawfully obtained evidence apply. Witnesses who assert their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self incrimination, refusing to testify, are held in contempt of court and imprisoned. Because of the unjust and damaging use of grand juries and the harm they cause to individuals and groups working for liberation, many people refuse to cooperate.

The law does not require that the state reveal the subject of a grand jury, but based on prosecutor comments it is likely that the Davenport grand jury is in regard to an unsolved Animal Liberation Front action that took place at the University of Iowa in 2004, when Carrie and Scott were 15 and 17 respectively. Both have been active in supporting political prisoners, especially those incarcerated for environmental or animal rights issues. Their association with and support of these political prisoners is likely the reason for their subpoenas to this grand jury.

Carrie and Scott have bravely refused to provide information to the Davenport grand jury. They deny the legitimacy of a judicial institution that is used explicitly to attack and intimidate struggles in defense of the earth and all of its inhabitants. The grand jury cannot perform its function of coercion and harassment if people resist the way Carrie and Scott have. Those individuals who suffer the consequences of refusing to betray their values and their communities deserve our support and our help. If the government meets a wall of silence from communities of struggle, it will be unable to disrupt and destroy movements seeking an end to the exploitation of animals, people and the planet. Support Carrie, Scott and all grand jury resistors.

Check out http://davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com to find out more or offer support in any capacity, from letter writing, to applying pressure to the prosecutor, to donating money. Check out http://grandjuryresistance.org to learn more about what a federal grand jury is, and check out http://midwestgreenscare.wordpress.com/ and http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog to learn more about the Green Scare and State repression of animal rights and environmental activists.

Stefan Aune can be reached at [email protected]