Since late July, three activists have had their lives torn apart by the police and the legal system, simply because they refused to answer any questions in a grand jury case, regarding crimes that they have absolutely no connection to. As of right now, all three are behind bars, with no clue when they will be able to get out.
The most recent to be sent away was Leah-Lynn Plante, this week she repeated the same process that she just watched her roommates go through. After being summoned to speak twice and refusing to speak both times, the prosecutors in the case enacted a legal loophole which waived her 5th amendment right to remain silent. This decision was made for her by the court against her will.
The sneaky legal trick that the prosecutors pulled was granting her immunity, which meant that anything she said to them would not incriminate her. This may sound OK at face value, but when you are granted immunity you lose your right to remain silent and can be thrown into prison for what is called “civil contempt”. This actually happens a lot; video journalist Josh Wolf, for example,served seven-and-a-half months in 2006 and 2007 for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury and turn over his footage of a protest in San Francisco. Grand jury trials are very shady ordeals, which have totally different rules than the typical court case. Defense attorneys are not even allowed to be present, and the proceedings of the case are completely secret.
Since their inception, both in England and in the United States, grand juries have been used against political dissidents, the jurors often being hand-picked to ensure indictment. A modern variation on this abuse of power relies on political activists’ reluctance to turn informant. Activists are subpoenaed with the expectation that they will refuse to testify, and thus end up in jail for lengthy periods. The person who was subpoenaed is thereby immobilized, while other activists are deterred from further participation.
At the end of the day, beneath all of the rhetoric, she is being persecuted for refusing to obey and refusing to spy on fellow activists. She was targeted in the first place because of her activist work and a collection of what the feds call “Anarchist Literature”. Her roommates Katherine “Kteeo” Olejnik and Matthew Kyle Duran have been faced with the same situation and both were nailed with the same tricky legal loophole.
It all started on the morning of July 25th when their house was raided on the apparent grounds of their connection to a May Day protest, where unidentified members of a crowd carried out random acts of vandalism. These acts of vandalism were isolated and there has been no proof that these three activists were involved in any way.
FBI agents from around Washington and Oregon and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents from Washington busted down the front door of my house with a battering ram, handcuffed my house mates and me at gunpoint, and held us hostage in our backyard while they read us a search warrant and ransacked our home. They said it was in connection to May Day vandalism that occurred in Seattle, Washington earlier this year.
However, we suspected that this was not really about broken windows. As if they had taken pointers from Orwell’s 1984, they took books, artwork and other various literature as ‘evidence’ as well as many other personal belongings even though they seemed to know that nobody there was even in Seattle on May Day. While we know that knowledge is powerful, we suspected that nobody used rolled up copies of the Stumptown Wobbly to commit property damage.
We saw this for what it was. They are trying to investigate anarchists and persecute them for their beliefs. This is a fishing expedition. This is a witch hunt. Since then, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, we have learned that this Grand jury was convened on March 2nd, 2012, two months before the May Day vandalism even took place.
Her fourth and final court date in front of the grand jury was this week, October 10th, where again, she refused to speak, only this time she was jailed as a result. Although there were supporters outside of the courthouse in protest, there has been minimal mainstream coverage of this legal battle. Most of the coverage that has come has been through online blogs and activist websites. Due to the censorship and secrecy that has surrounded this case, what exactly took place inside the court room is still a mystery. So far, the only message about Leah’s condition has come from a post that a supporter has made to her tumblr page. The message reads as follows:
Today, October 10th, 2012, Leah-Lynn Plante was thrown into prison for civil contempt.
This blog will now only be maintained by members of her support team, she will resume posting when she is free.
Please keep following so you can get updates about her and how to help.
Thank you on behalf of Leah and all the PNW Grand Jury Resisters.
Since these proceedings are completely secret there has been no word on her sentence, but it has been speculated that her roommate Matthew could be held in solitary confinement until March of 2014, and it appears that the same goes for Katherine and Leah as well.
When the Haymarket massacre took place all those years ago and the martyrs were hung for their desire for a better life, the State attempted to crush all radicals. Clearly, this did not work then and it won’t work now. If this was their desire, they have failed in every aspect of it as I have not seen anything other than flagrant disregard for them across the globe. Keep the struggle in your hearts and minds and do not bend to their will. They will never be able to destroy us no matter how hard they try.
As in their case, every single person who was taken in an executed after the Haymarket protests were in fact innocent, many of them also not even being in town at the time. This was an important but rarely talked about part of history, which I cover in detail in my hardback book Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance. In chapter 45 of the book I discuss how:
Two days into the strike on May 3rd, 4 workers outside the McCormick Harvester company were indiscriminately killed by police during protests, and dozens of others were injured. The following day the protests grew as a result of the murders and prominent activists of the time began to call national attention to what was going on in Chicago.
The next day on May 4th a bomb was set off in the midst of the protests and although there was no indication of who was responsible for the bombing, the blame was placed on the demonstrators and a witch hunt ensued. 8 of the most prominent antiestablishment speakers and writers of the time were rounded up for ‘inciting a murder’ and executed. Their only crime was exercising their right to free speech and speaking out against the establishment. 3 of the 8 activists that were executed were speaking and were nowhere near the explosion, the other 5 weren’t even in town at the time. The evidence that has surfaced since the Haymarket incident show that the blast was most likely set by an agent provocateur, in order to give the establishment an excuse to silence this growing political movement.
Now over a hundred years later history is repeating itself, and these non-violent people have been taken from their homes, their lives and their loved ones to be placed in a cage under constant supervision, with absolutely no clue when they will see the light of day again.
Websites have been established for Leah and her friends, but their futures are still uncertain. A massive public uproar could help spring them free sooner or later, so it is important for the alternative press and the activist community to stay up on this story and gather public support for their cause.