Chicago, IL – Over 150 people gathered here, Nov. 5, for the first national conference of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.
Conference organizer Tom Burke said, “The national conference was a grand success. We united movement leaders from Florida to San Jose, from New Jersey to L.A., in opposing political repression, Islamophobia and the criminalization of whole communities. We dedicated ourselves to a campaign in solidarity with the famous Chicano leader and anti-war activist Carlos Montes, demanding “Drop the charges!” We discussed how, with the upsurge around the Occupy Wall Street movement, we are joining in efforts to lead protests while also popularizing the Carlos Montes solidarity campaign. With local police, directed by the FBI, arresting thousands of Occupy Wall Street movement protesters, there is an opportunity to organize thousands against political repression and to support Carlos Montes. If we go out and organize, we can beat these attacks.”
Sarah Smith of the Chicago Committee Against Political Repression opened the conference. She was one of the 23 activists subpoenaed to a grand jury because of her solidarity with Palestine. Tom Burke of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, who was also subpoenaed, welcomed people to the conference.
This conference brought together supporters of the 23 activists, along with Carlos Montes, whose Los Angeles home was raided on orders from the FBI this past May as part of the same witch hunt, as well as family members of Arab and Muslim political prisoners in the U.S.
Carlos Montes, the Chicano movement leader, anti-war and immigrant rights activist whose home was raided and ransacked by the FBI and L.A. County Sheriffs, spoke in the morning about his activism and the repression he is facing. Montes, who faces six felony charges, is mounting a vigorous political and legal defense.
Speak Out Against Repression
The next panel was the most moving of the conference, featuring family members and friends of people imprisoned for their ideas and political activism. Alejandro Molina of the National Boricua Human Rights Network spoke about the ongoing imprisonment of Puerto Rican independence activists.
Ali Al-Arian spoke about the case of his father, Dr. Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian has been through a years-long ordeal of imprisonment, isolation and multiple grand juries which he refused to speak to. Sharmin Sadequee spoke movingly about the case of her brother Shifa Sadequee. Noor Elashi also spoke movingly on the case of her father Ghassan Elashi and the Holy Land 5. The Holy Land Foundation was the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. and sent humanitarian aid to Palestine as well as other places. In Palestine they sent money to the same community organizations that the USAID and other international agencies also sent money to; after 9/11, the Holy Land Foundation was shut down and the directors ultimately jailed for terms up to 65 years for ‘material support of terrorism.’ Mrs. Asmaa Ashqar spoke of the case of her husband Dr. Ashqar, who was one of the first people jailed under the 1996 anti-terrorism laws. Finally, Hatem Abudayyeh of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network spoke. He is one of the 23 solidarity activists raided last September and has been an outspoken advocate of Palestinian national unity and liberation.