Animal Rights Activist Subpoenaed to New Federal Grand Jury in San Francisco
Thursday protest at the federal building to show solidarity against government use of grand juries to silence dissent
San Francisco, CA -- Activists will demonstrate Thursday at 9am in front of the federal building at 450 Golden Gate, in support of Ariana Huemer, an animal liberation activist subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury at 9:30am that day. Huemer along with at least ten other animal liberation activists were subpoenaed last year to appear before a similar grand jury. Huemer appeared before that grand jury in January, but asserted her constitutional rights and refused to testify, and was later excused. Huemer and three other activists refused to cooperate with the grand jury at that time.
Huemer and fellow activist Nadia Winstead were subpoenaed again in June to appear before a new grand jury. As with the 2005 grand jury, the government is allegedly investigating the "possible concealment" of a suspect in a series of actions from 2003 aimed at local pharmaceutical companies with ties to Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal-testing lab that is the target of an international animal rights campaign. Winstead has already appeared before the new grand jury on August 17, and, once again, refused to testify. Winstead has stated publicly that she will refuse to participate in "unconstitutional grand jury proceedings that have been used time and time again by this government to harass movements fighting for social change."
On Friday, Winstead's attorney, Mark Goldrosen, argued a motion to compel the government to explain how it obtained information for Winstead's subpoena and to disclose whether National Security Administration (NSA) wiretaps were used. Seemingly unconvinced by the government's response, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to formally brief the court on the matter. A similar request for disclosure is being made in the so-called "Green Scare" case in Oregon, with attorneys there seeking information on whether NSA wiretaps were used in the investigation that ultimately indicted thirteen people, some of whom are currently in jail.
"Committed activists are being harassed, intimidated, and jailed at an alarming rate under the Bush Administration," said Kris Hermes of the Grand Jury Resistance Project, a coalition opposed to the use of grand juries to suppress dissent. "It is important to stand up to the widespread use of this tactic that is creating a new line of political prisoners in this country."
Independent journalist Josh Wolf was ordered back to prison on September 22 for civil contempt after losing his appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court. Wolf had earlier refused to turn over unpublished video footage of a July 2005 anti-G8 protest to a federal grand jury in San Francisco. Wolf could be jailed until July 2007, but he will file for En Banc review before the Ninth Circuit Court on Monday in order to overturn his contempt charge.
In May, Jeff Hogg, a full-time nursing student who works with developmentally disabled adults in Eugene, Oregon, was jailed for declining to testify before a federal grand jury investigating environmental and animal rights activists. In August, Hogg was denied a motion that argued his incarceration was punitive and not coercive, and, therefore, in conflict with the rules of the federal grand jury. Hogg remains in jail after being denied an appeal for release by the Ninth Circuit. The Eugene grand jury was expected to expire on September 30, at which point Hogg would be released. However, despite a scheduled trial in the Eugene "Green Scare" case and no new indictments, the government was successful in gaining a 6-month extension to continue the grand jury investigation. Hogg stands to spend that entire time in jail.
Information compiled by the Grand Jury Resistance Project (GJRP), a coalition that provides education on politically motivated attacks by government and support to people targeted by these attacks, shows that grand juries are currently being used against environmental and animal rights activists, as well as groups that have historically struggled for self-determination. The GJRP reports that in the past year, at least 66 individuals have been subpoenaed or indicted in Atlanta, Denver, Eugene, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Tampa and Trenton. At least fourteen people have refused to testify before recent grand juries, and some were jailed for contempt. The GJRP believes that these grand juries are part of the same broad and unconstitutional federal investigation into various political movements that oppose U.S. policies.