Monday: On Jerry Koch, some stories of Political Repression, and Resistance

Monday — 07.01.13 — On Jerry Koch, some stories of Political Repression, and Resistance

Contents:

0. On Jerry Koch, some stories of Political Repression, and Resistance
1. About this Monday
2. Two statements by Jerry Koch on grand juries
3. Bob Lederer on grand juries (1985)
4. Our guests: Tarik “Gunnie” Haskins, Bob Lederer, Dequi Kioni-Sadiki
5. On Resistance
6. Rally and March for Lynne Stewart
7. New York Year Zero
8. Some links

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1. About this Monday

What: Discussion & Dinner
When: Monday July 1st, 7pm
Where: 16 Beaver Street, 4th Floor
Who: Free and open to all

Jerry Koch, who has been a friend of the space, has been incarcerated since May 21st, and is now at Manhattan’s federal prison, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is less than a mile from us. He is being held in contempt of court for refusing to cooperate with a federal grand jury, the second time he’s done so in the last four years.

Since Jerry has been locked up, some of us have been trying to engage with the history of political repression here in New York City, and to learn from the support committees and networks of some current and former political prisoners. For tonight’s discussion, we’re lucky to be joined by three comrades with a wealth of experiences on these subjects: Tarik “Gunnie” Haskins, Bob Lederer, and Dequi Kioni-Sadiki.

We will cook a simple vegan dinner as part of tonight’s event. Feel free to bring some food and drink to share, fruits, vegetables, breads and cheeses, wines and juices, chocolates, sweets, whatever.

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2. Two statements by Jerry Koch on grand juries

My name is Gerald Koch and I have been subpoenaed to a federal grand jury based in the Southern District of New York regarding the 2008 Times Square Military Recruitment Center bombing. This is my second subpoena concerning this matter; I was also subpoenaed in June of 2009. I refused to testify at that time based on the assertion of my First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights, as I will be doing again for the duration of this grand jury. During the first grand jury, the government informed my lawyers that it was believed that I was at a bar in 2008 or 2009 where a patron indicated knowledge of who had committed the bombing. When I was first subpoenaed to the grand jury in 2009 I had no recollection of any such incident – a fact that I expressed publically. Now, almost 4 years later, I still do not recall the alleged situation.

Given that I publically made clear that I had no knowledge of this alleged event in 2009, the fact that I am being subpoenaed once again suggests that the FBI does not actually believe that I possess any information about the 2008 bombing, but rather that they are engaged in a ‘fishing expedition’ to gain information concerning my personal beliefs and political associations.

Over the past few decades, the FBI has demonstrated a consistent pattern of harassment and illegal surveillance of anarchists and other radicals not only here in New York, but also across the country. Throughout this time, federal grand juries (incredibly secretive proceedings that do not permit one’s lawyers to be present) have played a significant role; a federal grand jury is authorized to ask questions about anything and anyone, and often the declared intention is simply a mask to disguise the actual goal of acquiring information for use in other politically motivated cases. It is my belief that these two federal grand juries—despite the pretense of investigation into the 2008 bombing—are actually being used to gain information about my friends, loved ones, and activists for whom I have done legal support. By declining to testify, I refuse to be coerced into participating in a political witch-hunt that eerily recalls those of the McCarthy era Red Scare.

I again assert that I have no knowledge of who is responsible for the 2008 Times Square Military Recruitment Center bombing, and I will once again refuse to testify to the federal grand jury in ethical resistance to participation in a fruitless exercise of fear-mongering and government intimidation. My decision to stay silent in defense of individual agency will most likely result in incarceration for a period up to 18 months. I accept this recompense, understanding that in doing so I will reinforce a tradition of defending individual rights in the face of state repression.

April 2012

By the time you read this, I will be in the custody of the United States government for continuing my refusal to cooperate with a federal grand jury. This is the right thing to do.

I continue to believe that the government is using this federal grand jury in an abusive manner to force me to divulge information about my political associations and social networks.

If we mean what we say when we talk about radical politics, then we do not participate in witch hunts, inquisitions, or the assembly of black lists. As an individual, I will not lend legitimacy to government brutality and intimidation; I will not be used. As an anarchist, I will summon the courage to be stronger than the forces of the State’s all-too-real repression; I will not break.

Your show of truly powerful support has done nothing but strengthen my resolve in refusing to cooperate. We must not let ourselves be isolated by the government’s heavy-handed tactics. We must not give the state that last inch it tries to break in every one of us.

With Love, with Dignity, in Solidarity

Jerry Koch
21 May 2012

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3. Bob Lederer on grand juries (1985)

Quoted in a 1985 piece in the New York Native, Lederer said, “Grand juries are a tool that’s completely under the control of the prosecutor. There’s no right to have a lawyer there. When it’s a political grand jury investigating a political movement, I believe it’s an absolutely essential thing for any person who has any kind of awareness of what this country does, what it stands for, how the FBI has been used over the years, can never give any information no matter how innocuous they think it is, no matter how much they quote unquote don’t know anything. Because in political case, when the FBI says its investigating an activity by an underground movement, anything they can get from you, even if it’s saying you don’t know, that you know certain people but not other people, that helps them to complete a very sophisticated computer profile that they’ve been building about every person in the movement… The theory behind [civil contempt] is that you are being held not as punishment but as a coercive measure with the hope that the time that you are in jail they will put so much pressure on you from how unpleasant it is that you’ll change your mind and agree to testify. And then you’re immediately released if you agree to answer all of the questions. If you then balk and say ‘I’ll answer some but not others,’ then you’ll be right back in jail. Criminal contempt is an acknowledgment by the government that this person has made it clear from their political stance that they will never, ever testify. You can put them in jail for 10 years and they wouldn’t testify. So instead of the idea of ‘We’re trying to put pressure on them,’ it’s openly saying ‘We’re punishing them for not testifying.’ You get charged with a felony called criminal contempt. You have a trial which is a farce because the only issue in the trial is: Did you or did you not follow the judge’s order to testify?”

from: http://urbanbookmaven.blogspot.com/2013/02/hed-tk_3488.html

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4. Our guests: Tarik “Gunnie” Haskins, Bob Lederer, Dequi Kioni-Sadiki

Tarik “Gunnie” Haskins is a former member of the Black Panther Party here in New York City, and was later a member of the Black Liberation Army. He was captured in Connecticut in May 1974 for an attempted bank robbery and subsequent shootout with the police. The so-called New Haven Three included Ashanti Alston (1954-) and Harold Simmons, both of whom were wanted for attempts to free their comrades from the Tombs in Manhattan. Haskins was released from prison in 1991, after 17 years of being locked up. Alston was released in 1985.

Bob Lederer is a longtime anti-racist, anti-imperialist, and LGBT liberation activist, and is also a radio producer (of health and LGBT programming) and board member of WBAI/Pacifica Radio. From 1977 to 1992, he was a member of the Free Puerto Rico Committee, a North American solidarity organization. In 1985, he served three months in federal prison for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating North American anti-imperialist organizations. In 1992, Bob became a cofounder, and remains a member today, of the anti-imperialist collective Resistance in Brooklyn. From 1988 to 2000, he was an active member of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, and participated in several acts of civil disobedience. From 2000 to 2002, he was an organizer with the successful campaign to reclaim the Pacifica Radio Network from Democratic Party/neoliberal forces. Bob is one of several cofounders of the WBAI Justice & Unity Campaign, which seeks to elect anti-racist, progressive candidates to the WBAI Radio board. He continues to be active in communications and media work in support of U.S. political prisoners, as well as advocacy of integrative/holistic health strategies and community health empowerment.

Dequi Kioni-Sadiki is a former member of the Black Panther Collective and the NYC Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, and is now co-chair of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, and co-coordinator of the Sekou Odinga Defense Committee. The Black Panther collective was formed in 1994 in New York City along with former members of the Black Panther Party.

The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee (MXCC) was formed in 1992 by a small group of former members of the two organizations Malcolm X founded after his 1964 expulsion from the Nation of Islam: the Organization of Afro-American Unity and Muslim Mosque, Inc. The impetus for forming MXCC was fueled by the commercialization and trivialization of Malcolm’s life, his strong revolutionary principles and his clear Pan-Africanist commitment that was sweeping through legions of Black communities across the united states of america. MXCC believes that Malcolm’s life and legacy continues to be deliberately suppressed, and so we are committed to passing on the “Living Legacy of Malcolm X” — El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. Malcolm X (1925-1965) was primarily active in Harlem, where he was assassinated in February 1965. His Autobiography, published by Grove Press that October, went on to sell millions of copies.

Sekou Odinga (1944-) is another revolutionary from New York City, himself a former member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity, and later section leader of the Black Panther Party in the Bronx, which shared an office with the Harlem branch. He was wanted as one of the New York Panther 21, many of which were raided in April 1969, but he successfully fled the country in 1970 to join Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998) in exile in Algeria, as part of the International Section of the Black Panther Party. He would later return to the United States, underground, and join the Black Liberation Army. He was arrested in October 1981, and charged with helping Assata Shakur escape from prison in November 1979. He is currently held at New York’s Clinton Correctional Facility.

Mumia Abu-Jamal (1954-), a former member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, is held in Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution, Mahony for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

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5. On Resistance

As recently as March, we hosted a workshop of sorts, “Organizing Strategies Against State Repression”, featuring some friends who themselves had previously been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury; or who had their homes and workplaces raided, and many of their possessions confiscated, by the state.

This public event came out of some support work we were trying to do for the grand jury resisters in the Pacific Northwest, which included Matt Duran, KteeO Olejnik, and Maddy Pfeiffer. Duran and Olejnik were imprisoned from September 2012 to February 28th, 2013, and Pfeiffer was locked up from December 26th, 2012 to April 11th, 2013, all for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury. Much of this time they were held in solitary confinement.

We also had in mind our comrades Joel Bitar and Dane Rossman, two of the G20 Five who are facing extradition to Canada for their alleged participation in riots during the 2010 G20 in Toronto. Rossman was arrested February 21st, and was held without bail at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence, Arizona until his extradition to Canada on June 14th. He is currently locked up at the Toronto West Detention Centre in Ontario, Canada. Bitar is out on bail here in New York, but both he and Rossman are still facing charges, fines, and further imprisonment.

At the event we distributed a small political prisoner letter writing kit listing some information and addresses for about 18 anarchist political prisoners, a number of which had only recently been locked-up. These included Jeremy Hammond (who has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since March 2012), the Cleveland 4, comrades arrested at the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012, environmental and animal rights activists, and others. Since Jerry’s been locked-up, part of our solidarity has been to connect his imprisonment with that of some other current and former political prisoners, many of whom were active militants here in New York City. Some of those we’ve written about recently include: Sundiata Acoli (1937-), Ruchell Cinque Magee (1939-), George Jackson (1941-1971), Albert ‘Nuh’ Washington (1941-2000), Hugo Pinell (1945-), Dhoruba bin Wahad (1945-), Marilyn Buck (1947-2010), Assata Shakur (1947-), Silvia Baraldini (1947-), Herman Bell (1948-), Safiya Bukhari (1950-2003), Mutulu Shakur (1950-), Guillermo Morales (1950-), Jalil Muntaqim (1951-), Kamau Sadiki (1952-), and Mumia Abu-Jamal (1954-).

For the March discussion, we wanted to lay a framework for the types of repression we thought we might soon see here in New York, but we never expected to be quite so prophetic, as Jerry himself would be subpoenaed again just weeks following our event.

When we speak of Jerry Koch as a “political” prisoner, we mean that the reasons he is incarcerated are political and not criminal. In fact, Jerry is neither suspected nor charged with any crime, something our government itself acknowledges. Yet he is in prison, has been so since May 21st, and will remain so indefinitely. When we speak of Jerry’s imprisonment as “political” we also mean that it is not about Jerry himself, or his ideas, or his actions, alone. Jerry is not in prison for himself, as some self-sacrifice, or civil disobedience, or some self-righteous demonstration of individual integrity. Certainly Jerry, as anyone else, would prefer to be outside, at home, with his loved ones and friends, continuing his legal activism, continuing his life. And if it were only so simple, he would have, with little hesitation, answered the questions asked to him, said whatever he thought the government wanted to hear, perhaps thinking, that wasn’t so hard, that wasn’t so bad, they didn’t learn so much, I didn’t reveal anything so damaging. But he didn’t, he wouldn’t, he couldn’t, and nor should anyone else. Indeed, Jerry has accepted his incarceration for us. And not just the us he knows, or the us that live in New York City, or the us that live in the United States, or even the us that are still alive today. But the us, NOSOTROS, LOS LOBOS, that take revolution seriously, that recognize our federal government and its logic to be the leading cause of suffering in the world, and therefore deserving of no one’s cooperation, participation, or assistance as they perpetuate misery.

Resistance is not a matter of critique or opposition to this or that, but rather the construction of a force, of a life, against this world. For Jerry to accept his incarceration is to take seriously this force, this life, and for us, we who are in solidarity, is not just to be in solidarity with Jerry, but in solidarity with the us that will build this life together. Thus, this event is not just about the transmission of ideas or the acquisition of some knowledge, from which so individual might form an opinion or develop an analysis. Rather, this event, and all of this solidarity work, is about the construction of this force, collectively, together.

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6. Rally and March for Lynne Stewart

Lynne Stewart (1939-), a radical lawyer from here in New York, has been in prison since November 2009 for charges of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists, as part of her legal defense for Omar Abdel-Rahman. She was recently denied compassionate release from her sentence so she could receive cancer treatment. She is currently held at Texas’ Federal Medical Center, Carswell. A protest rally and march has been called for Lynne Stewart at Foley Square at 4pm on Monday July 1st. There will be a march to the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, and then to Metropolitan Correctional Center, and back to Foley Square. Among those Stewart has represented include Sekou Odinga, as well as:

David Gilbert (1944-), a radical from New York that was a former member of Students for a Democratic Society, during which he participated in the April 1968 occupation of Columbia University, before later joining the Weather Underground and May 19th Communist Organization. He was arrested in October 1981, following an attempted robbery of a Brinks armored car, along with his partner Kathy Boudin (1943-), Samuel Brown, and Judith Alice Clark (1949-). He is currently held at New York’s Auburn Correctional Facility. Brown turned government informant, and Clark, who disavowed her status as a political prisoner, remains at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Boudin was released from Bedford Hills in September 2003.

Raymond Luc Levasseur (1946-), part of the United Freedom Front, who served 20 years in prison, before his release in November 2004. Levasseur was one of the Ohio 7, along with six other members of the United Freedom Front arrested 1984/1985, of which Tom Manning (1946-) and Jaan Laaman (1948-) remain in prison. Manning at North Carolina’s Federal Medical Center, Butner, and Laaman at Arizona’s United States Penitentiary, Tuscon.

Willie Holder, a former member of the Black Panther Party, hijacked a plane to Algeria in June 1972, demanding the release of Angela Davis (1944-). While in Algeria Holder would become head of the International Section of the Black Panther Party.

Bilal Sunni-Ali (1948-), a radical musician from New York City, part of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, was arrested in November 1982 in Belize along with his wife Fulani Sunni-Ali in relation to the October 1981 Brinks robbery. They were later acquitted of all charges in September 1983.

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7. New York Year Zero

AFFECT is a front group. Some recent published texts include:
“The G20 Five and an Interview with Guelph Anarchist Black Cross”: https://year0.org/2013/06/29/the-g20-five-and-an-interview-with-guelph-anarchist-black-cross/
“Pacifism and the Coma of Occupy”: https://year0.org/2013/06/27/pacifism-and-the-coma-of-occupy-an-informed-polemic-from-an-ows-veteran/
“Some Questions on Left Programmatism”: https://year0.org/2013/06/20/some-questions-on-left-programmatism/

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8. Some Links

Jerry Resists: http://jerryresists.net
AFFECT: https://year0.org/
Malcolm X Commemoration Committee: http://www.mxcc519.org/
Free Sekou Odinga: http://www.sekouodinga.com/
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal: http://www.freemumia.com/
Support Joel Bitar: http://supportjoel.com/
Support Dane Rossman: http://supportdanerossman.blogspot.com/
NYC Anarchist Black Cross: http://nycabc.wordpress.com/
Committee Against Political Repression: https://nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com/
Pacific Northwest Grand Jury Defiance: http://saynothing.noblogs.org/
Justice for Lynne Stewart: http://www.lynnestewart.org/
Free Jaan Laaman: http://freejaan.blogspot.com/

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16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th fl.
New York, NY 10004

for directions/subscriptions/info visit: http://www.16beavergroup.org

TRAINS:
4,5 — Bowling Green
2,3 — Wall Street
J,Z — Broad Street
R — Whitehall
1 — South Ferry

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