$3 if you wear all black and $6 if you don’t will get you admission to the benefit show for grand jury resistors at the Lorax on Alder Street on Nov. 9. Grand juries are used in federal court cases to determine whether there is “probable cause” to believe that an individual has committed a crime and should be put on trial. Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, and civil rights proponents such as Lauren Regan of Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) say grand jury secrecy is what makes them a disturbing and effective tactic against dissidents.
This summer, the FBI raided residences in Seattle, Olympia and Portland. Federal court records have indicated that the feds were looking for an “organized ‘black block’ of anarchists” linked to May Day protests, but Regan says the nature of grand juries means that the focus of the investigation could change at any time. She says a warrant served at a Seattle home listed black clothing, sign-making materials and anarchist literature as among the items to be seized. Regan points out owning such items is protected by the First Amendment.
After the raids, grand jury subpoenas went out to Portland residents Dennison Williams, Leah-Lynn Plante, Matt Duran and Katherine Olejnik. More recently Matthew “Maddy” Pfeiffer of Olympia was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Seattle Nov. 7. Regan says Pfeiffer has indicated a lack of intent to cooperate with the grand jury. Plante has since been released, but Olejnik and Duran remain in prison for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury.
Regan says the CLDC is part of the legal team involved with the grand jury issue, and the group has worked on grand jury resistance before and spoken out against grand jury secrecy. “Because of the secrecy and lack of public disclosure and public judicial process the government traditionally has been able to abuse that secrecy by engaging in actions intended to harass or hinder political movements,” Regan says. She says because there is no judge, just a prosecutor, the jurors and a court reporter, the presentation of evidence used to indict is “slanted in favor of the government.” Grand juries have been compared to witch hunts, she says.
At this time no one’s been indicted or charged with a crime, Regan says, but she said one of the things that the feds are investigating is conspiracy to commit interstate riot. She says this means that if someone has crossed the state line to protest he or she could be charged with a federal crime. In this day of global protest movements, Regan says, this is “a clear indication that they are intending to chill the right to protest and that is concerning to civil rights groups like ours.”
Benefit for grand jury resistors 9 pm Friday, Nov. 8, The Lorax, 1648 Alder St., with Low Tide Drifters, Alder St. All Stars, Dirty Commies, $3 wearing all black clothing, $6 without.