photo: National Lawyers Guild
If anyone has any doubt as to whether or not the United States has earned the designation of “police state,” one need only look at the case of 24-year-old Leah-Lynn Plante, a Portland woman whose home was recently raided by paramilitary police in search of ordinary household items including “anarchist literature.”
Plante is currently enduring an affair with a special grand jury which risks seeing her imprisoned for civil contempt if she refuses to comply and possibly indicted for other, less-defined crimes.
In Plante’s case, the entire grand jury theatre is based on the stated attempt of the FBI and federal prosecutors to trace the root of several acts of vandalism in downtown Seattle on May Day of last year targeting several different banks and stores, particularly those of Niketown and Wells Fargo and a door of a federal court house. The vandalism is largely considered to be politically motivated and anarchists are the number one suspect. At least, that is the position of law enforcement.
But, while legitimate anarchists may very well have committed the criminal acts, the fact is also that police have been caught disguising themselves as activists, particularly of the anarchist variety, and committing violent acts for some time – all this for the purpose of placing the blame on activists and subsequently cracking down on protestors using the very acts committed by the police as justification for brute force and violation of rights. Interestingly enough, it was in Seattle where police were first widely exposed for such despicable behavior.
Not only that, but considering the history of the FBI in encouraging and facilitating outright acts of terror, one is clearly justified in second guessing the ability of the FBI or any other law enforcement agency to tell the truth in regards to an act of violence that precipitates the wholesale investigation of philosophically related activists.
The subsequent investigation of “anarchists” in the Seattle area following the vandalism thus makes us view the entire incident with skepticism, particularly in light of the fact that the FBI has conducted several militarized raids in both Seattle and Portland in recent months which are openly targeting political activity and Constitutionally protected paraphernalia.
As a result, Plante was served a federal summons to appear in front of a grand jury in Seattle. Yet, instead of a typical arrest warrant delivery style, Plante was awakened in the early hours of July 25 by an FBI raid. The agents, she claimed, smashed in her front door with a battering ram, rushed in, complete with drawn assault rifles and, according to Plante, “looking paramilitary.”
Plante’s claims are backed up by witnesses to other raids conducted by the FBI in Seattle and Portland which also state that both federal and local police burst into private homes while the occupants were sleeping, held them at gunpoint, and searched through their belongings, particularly their bookshelves, looking for evidence of political affiliation as opposed to evidence of a crime.
According to Brendan Kiley of The Stranger, a copy of the search warrant shows that the paramilitary intruders were in search of “black clothing, paint, flags, computers and cell phones, and ‘anti-government or anarchist literature.’”
Kiley points out the absurdity of issuing a warrant for such items by writing, “For the record, I executed a quick search of my home early this morning and found black clothing, cans of paint, sticks, cloth, electronics, and ‘anarchist literature.’”
This is an important point because none of these objects were alleged to be the same objects that were used in the commission of a crime nor are they illegal to possess on their own. However, the raids and the subsequent possible indictments that will be based upon them continue to set a dangerous precedent that the government can and will target anyone who not only actively or tacitly opposes its conduct, but also those who simply do not conform to the “new normals” provided to the general public by the culture creators in Hollywood and tax-free foundations.
Interestingly enough, Plante said that some of the agents involved in the raid, while initially very aggressive, eventually started to appear confused at not finding a cache of guns and violent anarchists hiding in their lair. She said, “It seemed like what they expected was some armed stronghold. But it’s just a normal house, with normal stuff in the pantry, lots of cute animals, and everyone here was docile and polite.”
As President of the Seattle chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Neil Fox, stated, “When I see a search warrant that targets political literature, I get nervous.”
Fox also stated that raids like those made on Plante’s home may have a chilling effect on free speech and an even longer lasting “negative effect on the country – you want to have robust discussions about political issues without fear.”
He went on to say “’Anti-government literature’ is so broad. What does that include? Does that include the writings of Karl Marx? Will that subject me to having my door kicked in and being dragged in front of a grand jury?”
If Plante’s case is anything to go by, then the answer to Fox’s question might very well be “yes.”
While grand juries have the potential to be used for good, the fact is that, in 2012, all they have is potential. As Riley writes,
Nowadays, Fox said, grand juries are often used by prosecutors and investigators who have run out of leads. But grand juries are secret, so it’s difficult to know what the prosecutor is really doing. And the effects of raids and subpoenas like the ones in Seattle and Portland may be more about putting on the dramatic public spectacle of dragging people through the mud than investigating a crime.
Will Potter of GreenIsTheNewRed has documented numerous accounts of abuse of power and the violation of activists’ rights since the 1990s to the present. In cases like Plante’s, Potter suggests that law enforcement is actually trying to silence free speech.
In an interview with Brendan Kiley of The Stranger, Potter stated, “Sometimes, law enforcement believes this knocking-down-the-door, boot-on-the-throat intimidation is part of a crime-prevention strategy.” Meaning, simply frightening off potential “offenders.” However, Potter also suggests that one goal may be “social mapping,” or the gleaning of information, contacts, and connections between activists via obtaining “address books, cell phones, and hard drives.”
Yet Potter also points out the distinct differences between what law enforcement is told they are being trained to combat and what they are really being trained to combat. “There’s a huge disconnect between what the FBI and local police are being told and trained for, and what the reality is,” he says. “There are presentations about ominous, nihilistic, black-clad, bomb-throwing, turn-of-the-century caricatures – the reality is that many anarchists are just organizing gathering spaces, free libraries, free neighborhood kitchens.”
Indeed, Potter is largely correct. Much like how law enforcement was once trained to violate the Constitution based upon the fear of Muslim al-Qaeda terrorists, law enforcement is now trained to take on “white al-qaeda,” Christians, and Constitutionalists as well as animal rights advocates and environmentalists.
Yet, when law enforcement confronts these individuals, with few exception, the reality is much different from the perception held by the agents of the state who rush in with reckless abandon to deal death and destruction upon their unsuspecting victims.
Plante’s case, in this context, is not surprising. After all, police have been trained for some time that literature which questions the legitimacy of the state or even the mere manifestation of that legitimacy is grounds for search, seizure, or even arrest. For instance, one need only take a look at the now famous video of police conducting a post-arrest car search where, upon discovering “anarchist” literature in the back seat, they ponder as to whether or not the book is legal.
Nevertheless, in the face of potential loss of her liberty, Leah-Lynn Plante is taking a very courageous stand in regards to the federal grand jury proceedings. Beyond providing her name and birth date, Plante is refusing to testify to the grand jury for reasons of personal conviction. In short, Plante says she is refusing to cooperate with an FBI that has repeatedly violated the rights of innocent people.
Prior to her second appearance in front of the federal grand jury, Plante issued a statement explaining her position and her refusal to cooperate. She said:
This will be the second time I have appeared before the grand jury, and the second time I have refused to testify. The first time was on August 2nd. I appeared as ordered and identified myself. I was asked if I would be willing to answer any questions. I said, ‘No’ and was dismissed after being served a second subpoena. Over a month later, my answer is still the same. No, I will not answer their questions. I believe that these hearings are politically motivated. The government wants to use them to collect information that it can use in a campaign of repression. I refuse to have any part of it. I will never answer their questions, I will never speak.
I know that if I am taken away, I will not be alone. We have friends and comrades all around the world standing behind us, and even though this has been one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life, I have never felt so supported or loved. I can only speak for myself, but I have every faith that the others subpoenaed to these hearings will likewise refuse. And I know that hundreds of people have called the US Attorney demanding that they end this tribunal. Hundreds of organizations, representing thousands of people, signed onto a statement expressing solidarity with those of us under attack and demanding an end to this sort of repression. I know that those people will continue to support me, the others subpoenaed, and the targets of the investigation. That spirit of solidarity is exactly what the state fears. It is the source of our strength, yours and mine. And that strength shows itself in every act of resistance.
Unfortunately, if Plante is found guilty of civil contempt for refusing to answer the jury’s questions, she faces a possible lengthy prison sentence — theoretically life behind bars. Considering the paranoia and iron-fisted nature of the judicial system ever since 9/11, Plante undoubtedly faces more than a weekend in jail.
In the end, Plante’s case is emblematic of the now standard operating procedure of law enforcement agencies like the FBI. That is to say, heavy-handed, aggressive tactics which target political activity and thoughtcrime justified by an increasingly questionable sequence of events. Whatever one thinks of the political tenants of anarchy, the fact is that Plante appears to be just another victim of an increasingly free speech-resistant police state. We should certainly be watching her case closely.
Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.
Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Mullins, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident. Turbeville has published over one hundred articles dealing with a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville is available for podcast, radio, and TV interviews. Please contact us at activistpost (at) gmail.com.