Category Archives: #OccupySeattle

Grand Jury Resistance, Banned Books, and You

Listen up, kids, this is important!  Today we’re going to talk about grand juries.  With a side of intellectual freedom.

Look, we’ve got three people — Matt Duran, Kteeo (Katherine Olejnik), and Leah-Lynn Plante — locked up for contempt out in Seattle, WA.  They’ve all refused to testify before a grand jury.

Grand juries are one of the government’s shittiest tools for squishing dissent.  They were originally intended as a way for individual citizens to bring a matter before their peers to make the government do something about it.  Today, though, they are a way for the government to intimidate and punish people who make noise, without those people having any recourse.  Folks get hauled into court, without having been accused of anything, and are asked a bunch of questions.  They are not allowed to have an attorney with them, and the room is closed and what goes on is kept secret.  They must answer the questions — the 5th Amendment, which otherwise protects us from having to testify against ourselves, does not apply.  If they refuse to testify — a choice that is usually a good idea in cases of political repression — they may be jailed for up to six months for contempt, in order to coerce testimony.  If after six months a person has not spoken, they can be sent back for another six months, et cetera, et cetera, until someone gives up.  Remember, these folks have not even been accused, let alone convicted, of a crime in the first place.  The point of a grand jury is for the government to figure out if there’s anything floating around that they can prosecute someone for.

Back on July 25, if you’ll recall, Plante and Duran were a couple of the folks in Oregon and Washington states who woke up to the early morning sounds of their doors being smashed in by federal officers.  Their residences were searched by feds looking for, among other things, black clothes and anarchist literature.  Yesterday, before Plante went back before the grand jury and again refused to testify, she wrote:

On the morning of July 25th, 2012, my life was turned upside down in a matter of hours. 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…

As predicted, she was locked up after yesterday’s grand jury session.  Matt has been imprisoned since September 13, including time in solitary confinement, and Kteeo since September 28.  So, shit’s scary.  But, we’re all in this together, and the best way to handle this is for us all to create and maintain a loving community and to take care of each other.  Which is what grand jury resisters are doing, by they way — they are taking a hit for the rest of us.  We should all be supporting these three, in word and deed, as much as we can, since they’re going so hard to protect our asses.  Here’s some stuff you can do for Matt and Kteeo, and I’m sure there’ll be a similar round up for Leah shortly.

So, this is the Library blog, right?  Let’s bring it back home.  See up there where Leah writes about her house being searched?  What did the feds take?  Books, art.  As many folks around the internet have noted, if the FBI came gunning into any of our houses they’d find black clothing and subversive literature.

Yo, feds, Senator McCarthy called, he wants his game plan back.

Aside from the 5th Amendment mentioned above, we are also supposed to be guaranteed rights of speech and press under the 1st Amendment, and the rights to free speech and assembly include freedom of association, as clarified by Supreme Court rulings.  Now, I know some of us don’t truck with the idea of rights (Utah says, “The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.”), but it’s what we’ve got to work with right now.

And yet we have doors being busted down over books, and the printed word being taken away as evidence of…  …something.  That our three grand jury resisters hold certain political opinions, and know others with similar opinions, is enough to have gotten them into this spot in the first place.  Librarians, our professional association has a lot to say about the 1st Amendment.

We’ve just come off of Banned Books Week.  I hope you read something subversive!  I always hope that, actually.  I also hope that I don’t need to be too heavy-handed in drawing the lines between the FBI searching someone’s house for radical literature and the stuff we usually talk about when we talk about banned books.  It is a matter of degree, rather than kind.


Filed under #OccupyPortland, #OccupySeattle, Free Speech, Jaime, Solidarity

Cardboard Boxes

I came across this post in the Seattle Stranger, a publication I’m familiar with from years of living in Portland, Ore. and I was disturbed to read this line about the Occupy Seattle library: “Make The People’s Library into something worth our attention, rather than a couple of cardboard boxes in the middle of a much-contested thoroughfare.”

It isn’t that Occupy Seattle was using cardboard boxes for their library that disturbs me, it was the criticism of that fact by the author. Sure, the Stranger and their Portland weekly, the Mercury are better known for sarcasm than journalism. But the critique the author makes is that Occupy Seattle should be trying to “build the kind of utopian society you want” instead of “fuck[ing] shit up and piss[ing] off the police.”

First of all, every Occupy Library starts out as a few books, usually they’re lucky to have a cardboard box to keep them in. Here’s our library in the beginning of the occupation. We didn’t even have cardboard, just a plastic sheet they sat on.

And here’s our library after the eviction resistance this past Friday. This was all that was left, a corkboard. And after everything you’ve spent weeks building is taken apart – you go right back in and put it back together. And it’s not always pretty.

So, the second point I’d like to make to Mr. Constant of the Stranger is that keeping up a library in an occupation is a constant struggle. It’s a fight against the elements, against police who want to dismantle it, against people who steal from it, against occupiers and visitors who want to stand on it or spill coffee on it, from working groups who want to take that space for their own projects. And if your entire occupation is facing constant harassment and threats of displacement and eviction from the police, it’s not always number one on your list to make the library pretty – you feel lucky to have some books at all.

My final point, to Mr. Constant and all those who commented on his article saying things like “the occupiers should do this” and “the occupiers should do that” – this is not a sit-on-the-sidelines and complain, back-seat-driver movement. If you see something that you want to change, get your ass down there and do it. If you don’t hear something being said that you want to hear, get your ass down there and say it. Get involved, volunteer your time and resources. Don’t whine about it from the safety of your computer by posting snarky articles or comments about their cardboard boxes, don’t sit there and tell those brave folks that what they’re doing “flies in the face of what the Occupy Wall Street protesters have created” – get up! go down there! and bring the folks some plastic bins.


Filed under #OccupySeattle, Announcements, OccupyLibraries