Detroit forum exposes FBI repression
Detroit, MI – 60 people met at an African-American community center on July 16 to discuss the growing movement for the right to free speech, to organize and for civil liberties for all. The National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) organized the event titled, “Resisting Profiling, Preemptive Prosecution, and Prisoners Abuse – a hearing to confront repression of human rights and civil liberties by the criminal justice system.”
Debbie Johnson, of Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice, framed the event by describing the reign of terror brought by the U.S. government upon peoples in other countries from the end of World War II through the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Central America, up to Iraq and Afghanistan. She explained how the U.S. wars for empire overseas lead to the repression of African-Americans, Arabs and Muslims, immigrants, anti-war activists and others here at home who oppose those wars.
Families Expose U.S. Government Repression
The first panel featured families directly affected by the U.S. government spying, infiltrating and staging crimes in attempts to rip friends, groups and communities apart. The U.S. government hopes to weaken opposition to U.S. wars and occupations. Tamer Mehanna spoke about his brother Dr. Tarek Mehanna’s devotion to educating children and building community. Tarek Mehanna is unjustly imprisoned in solitary confinement for two years now after refusing to be an FBI informant against his friends and community.
In the same situation, Sharmin Sadequee spoke about Shifa Sadequee, her younger brother. The family was terribly worried to find out that just days after his wedding, Shifa was beaten and disappeared by Bangladeshi intelligence police. After four miserable days, the family was informed Shifa was flown back home – blindfolded, stripped naked and chained – to be delivered into the hands of the FBI under the Bush administration. Shifa is in solitary confinement for many years now, a form of torture according to international law.
Tom Burke, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (The CSFR) spoke about FBI raids targeting anti-war and international solidarity activists’ homes and how the armed raids terrify children and shock whole communities. Burke received a subpoena to appear at U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury in Chicago. A round of applause filled the room when Burke said, “Each of the 23 activists is refusing to testify at the Grand Jury!” Burke described, “The overwhelming solidarity from hundreds of peace and international solidarity groups, faith based organizations, labor unions, community and immigrants’ rights groups. Now, following the Arab Spring uprisings, there is growing support from groups and political parties overseas too!”
Burke then made an appeal to the audience to support longtime Chicano anti-war and immigrant rights activist Carlos Montes. The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is organizing a National Call-in Day to Attorney General Holder and President Obama on Aug. 12, the day Carlos Montes is due in a Los Angeles court. Tom described how on May 17, heavily armed FBI agents busted down the door of Carlos Montes’ home and invaded it. Montes was arrested on bogus charges of illegally possessing weapons, but then the FBI attempted to question him about his political affiliations. The CSFR is sure the FBI is looking for any way to disrupt and criminalize leaders like Carlos Montes, whose name appeared on the subpoena for the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis along with many of the 23 Midwest anti-war activists raided last September.
Seeking Justice, Ending the Repression
The second panel of the conference focused on civil liberties, the right to free speech and to organize, the abuse of U.S. law, and the history of repression by the rich and powerful. Abayomi Azikiwe, with MECAWI, an expert on Africa and people’s struggles, spoke about the long history of repression by the U.S. government, especially against African-Americans. Dawud Walid of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) described the ongoing singling out of American-Muslims by the FBI as a form of religious persecution that goes against the ideas of our country. Attorney Steve Downs with the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms detailed some of the more extreme and inhumane punishments used against prisoners. He called for ending solitary confinements over 60 days and the end of Control Management Units and Supermax prisons. Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee energized the audience with a rhyme and explained how we can take particular cases and organize around them to make broader changes to U.S. law. We can also force politicians and U.S. Attorney General Holder to end the repression of activists who oppose U.S. wars and occupation – whether they are Muslims, socialists, or whoever.
Before the event ended, U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke of Detroit arrived and gave a fiery speech from the podium expressing his support and that as a member of the Committee on Homeland Security he was with us in our fight for justice. Representative Clarke committed to writing a letter along the lines of the one Representative John Conyers of Detroit sent to U.S. Attorney General and President Obama concerning the FBI raids and Grand Jury repression of the anti-war and international solidarity activists.
Summing up the event, Sharmin Sadequee, sister of Shifa Sadequee, said, “I think we opened up avenues for many groups to build relationships with each other. We broadened and connected our movements to resist and combat preemptive prosecution and the persecution of our communities by the FBI and U.S. government. I think the panel discussions shed light on how the U.S. government is manufacturing these so-called ‘home grown terrorism’ cases and targeting Muslims for their beliefs and free speech. The U.S. ‘war on terrorism’ is racist!”
Asked, “Why is the U.S. government orchestrating this repression?” Sadequee stated, “Our judicial system, now under Attorney General Eric Holder, is part of this racist program, and is perpetuating racism by handing down verdicts and sentences on these cases. The U.S. government is persecuting Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and immigrant communities at home to justify its wars and violence across the world. Now the U.S. government is going after anti-war activists because these people want peace in the world. Perhaps, those Muslims that our government has put behind bars also wanted peace in the world, that’s why they are being punished? We must connect the dots of what is going on!”