September 24, 2013 marked the third anniversary of an FBI raid on the homes of Minneapolis peace activists whose only known "crime" was demonstrating for peace. Much of their property taken has been returned, but the threat of further grand jury action still hangs over the heads of the nine people targeted.
September 21, 2010 dawned as a sunny, quiet day in Minneapolis. The tranquility for nine people was shattered as 100 plus FBI agents and local police appeared at their homes with subpoenas in hand, and demanded entrance. All agents had battering rams, but they were used in only one home, Mick Kelly where they smashed the door, shattered an aquarium with fish and water cascading over the apartment, and terrorizing his wife with a machine gun. The invaders took computers, telephones, cameras and dozens of banker boxes filled with paper.
The targets were Sarah Martin, Mick Kelly, Meredith Aby, Tracy Molm, Jess Sundin, Steff Yorek, Thistle Parker-Hartage, Katrina Plotz and Anh Pham. The targets were members of the local Anti-War Committee and long-time peace activists so they had a lot of pamphlets, news releases and other piecers of papers. In one home the garbage can was emptied into a bankers box. Months later, January 2011, when much of the property was returned, envelopes in one the boxes were labeled by source, e.g. “Misc documents from trash can.”
In May, 2011, a copy of the the FBI SWAT team operational plan and the set of questions that was to be asked of the targets was found in one of the apartments that had been raided. There were questions listed for each of the nine targets of the September 24, 2010 raids. Attorney Bruce Nestor said that these were the kind of questions that would be asked by a grand jury. None of those targeted by the raids agreed to answer any questions. Question sequences include: "Do you have a “red” name? What is it? What’s the purpose of having a red name? Do you have a red name email account? What is it? What’s the purpose of having a red name email account? What did you do with the proceeds from the Revolutionary Lemonade Stand? (previously reported as about $150) What is your husband’s immigration status? Who is El Gordo? Did you ever meet with him in the United States?"
The teams were authorized to use deadly force if needed and there were two North Memorial Medics to deal with injured personnel.
There were similar raids the same day in Chicago and a later raid Los Angeles. This action was greeted with outrage by the extended peace community and there have been dozens of solidarity actions since.
These raids were conducted with a Chicago Grand Jury indictment created by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Later Assistant U.S Attorney Barry Jonas was involved. He is famous for attacks on civil and democratic rights. The basis for the Grand Jury action was that these nine people had given material aid to terrorists by providing humanitarian assistance, and promoting awareness of civil rights violations in Palestine and Colombia. Fund raising for the Anti-War Committee was cited as giving aid and comfort to terrorists. One item was the $150 raised by a lemonade stand.
The subpoenas ordered the targets to appear before the Chicago Grand Jury. All refused to appear even though that could have resulted in long prison sentences. A number of protestors are serving prison time for defying a Grand Jury order.
Clyde Bellecourt, one of the founders of AIM (American Indian Movement) told a solidarity rally on September 27, 2010, “ Now you know what it's like to be an Indian."
There have been negotiations back and forth but so far the position remains a stalemate, the targets refuse to appear before the Grand Jury and the prosecutor refuses to do anything to change the status. There has little communication, but the threat of imprisonment is the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, it can drop at any time.
The smashed aquarium and other damaged property led to a suit against the Minneapolis Police which was settled in favor of the plaintiff, Mick Kelly.
In January, 2011 it came to light that an FBI informant had infiltrated the Anti-War Committee and had access to all membership records and financial records. The agent, called Karen Sullivan, had approached the Committee in 2008 expressing sincere anti-war feelings and she volunteered for many tasks and thus got access to the computers and records of the Anti-War Committee. It is the type of operation scorned by the Dept.of Justice Inspector General in an October, 2010 report.
One of the most egregious by Sullivan was her volunteering for fund raising and planning for a trip for peace activists for a trip to a US listed NGO in Palestine. Sullivan even accompanied two people on the trip apparently warning Israeli authorities of the planned visit. Sullivan returned immediately to the US, the other two were detained overnight and interrogated about who they were going to see.