Young Persons Called to Private Grand Jury for Owning Books

The Sound and Noise

Just a few weeks ago, an FBI task force raided a home* in Portland, Oregon very early in the morning. They broke down the front door with a battering ram and threw in a stun grenade, which is non-lethal but produces a very loud and disorienting noise and a blinding bright light. The team locked down the building and secured the sleepy, compliant occupants. The operation was one of several which also occurred in Olympia, WA and Seattle, WA, involving some 60-80 officers.

Just who were these dangerous criminals, these domestic terrorists whose threat level is so high that an FBI team with stun grenades, battering rams, and assault rifles needed to burst into their homes in the wee hours of the morning?  Why, it’s two young folks, Leah-Lynn Plante and Matt Duran.

Reportedly, the FBI search warrant was for black clothing, paint, sticks, computers and cell phones, and ‘anarchist materials or literature.’ According to an FBI Domestic Terrorism guide published bygreenisthenewred.com, “anarchists are criminals seeking an ideology to justify their actions,” and are “not dedicated to a particular issue.” Common meeting places are “college campuses, underground clubs, coffee houses/ internet cafes.” The implication is that owning “anarchist” literature is enough to indicate to the FBI that one is a criminal – even if that person happens to be a student studying political thought. Or maybeparticularly if you are a student – the FBI document states that anarchists are “educated persons of various backgrounds, often students.”

What even counts as anarchist material? Given the vitriolic US political rhetoric of anti-socialism, you might think a book by Karl Marx or about Tommy Douglas would count. What about someone like Shulamith Firestone? Hell, what about Walt Whitman?

Leah-Lynn and Matt have since been subpoenaed and ordered before a Grand Jury hearing, which is a private hearing used to determine if there is sufficient evidence to indict someone with a federal crime. During the proceedings of a Grand Jury, the defendant is not allowed an attorney to represent her or him. This means that a Grand Jury is essentially a group of twenty or so judges, a prosecutor looking to indict someone with a felony, and Leah-Lynn Plante, vegan. A Grand Jury is also secret, so we do not know and are not allowed to know what is going on in the courtroom.

Leah was first called before a Grand Jury back on August 2. She refused to co-operate with the jury proceedings, giving them only her name and date of birth. She refused to answer any other questions and explicitly stated she would not talk about any other people. Historically, the Grand Jury process was intended to protect citizens from slanderous or malicious prosecution. However,  Grand Juries have been used toisolate members of political activist groups and use the fear of imprisonment to gain information about other groups and persons. Leah was re-subpoenaed, and returned to court yesterday, where she again refused to co-operate. She has been re-re-subpoenaed without yet receiving a date for her next hearing.

All this is because someone vandalized a Seattle courthouse on May Day. Leah has publicly stated that she does not condone what happened on May Day, and that she was not in Seattle during that time. She has made it clear that her refusal to co-operate is not a strategy to protect criminals, but is rather a protest against a legal system which is unconcerned with the civil rights of citizens. Considering that she could be held in contempt of court and sentenced to jail time, we should take what she says seriously. Matt Duran, also subpoenaed and brought before a Grand Jury, has already been held in contempt of court and is currently in U.S. Federal custody. His contempt hearing was made private by the presiding Judge, a move unprecedented since the McCarthy era.

You know, they arrested Emma Goldman a couple times. I learned that from reading about her. In a book I own.

click here for an audio interview on the history of dissent, political repression, and punk in the Pacific Northwest!

You can read Leah-Lynn’s statement here,
and you can read Matt Duran’s statement here.

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