Another Story You Weren't Supposed To Hear: FBI Raids
Another Story You Weren't Supposed To Hear: FBI Raids
Many activists and a growing number of social media enthusiasts have become skeptical and distrusting of mainstream media networks as they fail to, or outright refuse to report on news that draws attention to police and state repression. The recent events in the Northwest corner of the United States has received little attention, as raids led by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force target anarchists and members of Occupy Seattle. On July 25, three raids were conducted at homes in North and Northeast Portland in connection to what FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele described as “an ongoing investigation involving a violent crime.”
The details of this “violent crime” have yet to be elaborated on by FBI officials, but it is likely that this refers to destruction of property by black bloc anarchists during May Day. On July 10, two weeks earlier, a Seattle SWAT division and an FBI team raided a home in connection to the May Day Investigation. Heavily-armed men rushed into the Seattle home with automatic weapons after throwing a flash grenade inside. Kasama, a communist project dedicated to posting the struggles of radicals-- reported,
After the raid, the residents pored over the papers handed [to] them by a detective. One explained:“This warrant says that they were specifically looking for ‘anarchist materials’ — which lays out the political police state nature of this right there. In addition they were looking for specific pieces of clothing supposedly connected with a May First incident.”
The July 25 raids have received more attention than those two weeks earlier now that details are beginning to unfold and resistance to FBI repression builds. Two residents that were issued subpoenas after their home was raided, Dennison Williams, 33, and Leah Plante, 24, have stated that they will appear for their court date but will remain silent citing their constitutional rights. The role that Williams and Plante played in the May Day protests remains unclear. Because grand jury proceedings are secret, little information has traveled outside of the court to provide explanation of their involvement.
Over 200 activist and advocacy groups have signed a solidarity statement criticizing the event as “a series of coordinated raids” and a “scare tactic.” The Seattle Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild issued a press release calling for the subpoenas to be dropped and an end to raids on political activists. An excerpt from the statement reads, “While grand juries are part of our federal criminal justice system, the grand jury was intended to serve as a protector of people’s rights and should not be used as a mechanism for intimidating those who speak out against social and economic injustice in our society.”
Among those who condemned the raids is Will Potter, author of Green is The New Red. After communicating with an unidentified resident within the raid via Twitter, Potter posted a picture of the search warrant on July 30th on the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center's website.
The warrant gathered evidence for items “used as the means of committing federal criminal violations of Destruction of government property…Conspiracy to destroy government property…Interstate travel with intent to riot…and, Conspiracy to travel interstate with intent to riot.” The warrant goes on to list items that are not dangerous, but rather items that have become associated with the notorious black bloc anarchists who are often depicted as extremely violent. Black and red paint, flag-making material, black clothing, black backpacks, and “anti-government literature or anarchist material” are included on this list of items to be seized.
So what exactly are anarchist materials and why are they so dangerous? Before this question can be answered we must go further and ask, Who or what informs the American public about this sort of anarchist violence? For everyday Americans, the mainstream media is their only source of legitimate and factual current events (Although social media sites have become exciting tools for radically-minded groups, we should not forget that CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and other major news networks have a major presence on these sites as well.) These media networks are perceived as factual because they gain their knowledge from so-called credible sources. When it comes to reporting news on violence and crime, there are no other institutions more “credible” than those who enforce “law and order”— law enforcement and the judicial system. Who would question the credibility of the institutions that protect this great nation?
This is precisely the problem. The institutions of law and order that function to “serve and protect” are putting an extraordinary amount of energy into crushing political movements. The FBI has been doing so ever since its inception. The Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that was launched by the FBI, from 1956 to 1971, aggressively targeted members of the Black Panther Party, communist groups, and numerous organizations that were identified as subversive. During this era, the FBI also used media smear tactics to discredit the work that activists were doing. Decades later, even though these vicious and often illegal attacks have been revealed, the insidious nature of FBI repression has not waned.
The FBI would have you believe that its past actions do not reflect its current views, policies, and priorities. Yet, the current raids in the Northwest are certainly reminiscent of the secret operations carried out against political movements during the 50s and 60s.
So back to the question: what exactly are anarchist materials and why are anarchists so dangerous? The greatest connection between anarchists and violence has been made by the black bloc. The black bloc received prominent attention in the United States during the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle. It is often anticipated at world meetings, like the G20 and G99 summits.
More recently, the black bloc has garnered media notoriety during the NATO summit in Chicago and Occupy Oakland demonstrations. Arguably, mainstream media only shows this side of anarchism because it is highly sensational and an easy story. It is very easy for journalists to interview police officials for their credible source. It is very easy to find a business owner who has been wrongfully targeted by the black bloc. It is very easy to gather footage of black bloc demonstrations. All of this can be reduced to a three-minute news story.
On the other hand, understanding the political ideologies within anarchism poses a greater challenge to a journalist. Attempting to dismantle stereotypes and misconceptions is something we only see in documentaries and extensive articles. The misconception of anarchism has allowed the FBI to broadly target a large group of political activists that may have never even participated in black bloc or violent demonstrations.
Within this context and with testimonials from those who are directly involved, one comes to the realization that the July 10 and 25 raids were directly connected to an aggressive campaign to crush dissent. As Noam Chomsky has brilliantly highlighted, the public relations industry has done a spectacular job in manufacturing consent and constructing images of dissent that are characterized as unpatriotic and a threat to ‘our nation’s security.’ Instead of attempting to understand the complex whole of anarchism. Fortunately, the growth of independent media and citizen journalism has increasingly begun to expose the falsehoods of mainstream media, the PR industry at large, and militant agencies which seek to dismantle activism that shakes the foundation of the status quo. It has fallen to independent media and activist communities to not only report the truth from their perspective, but to resist FBI repression as they use media tactics to discredit our social movements.
Glenn Daniels Jr is a senior at Towson University majoring in Anthropology and Cultural Studies. His interests include audiovisual and multimedia production, visual anthropology, social movements, tackling issues of race, and "organizing and agitating." He can be reached at glenndanielsjr[at]gmail.com and on Twitter @lemonsandkiwi.