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We have seen the round-up and secret detention of those from Muslim and South Asian countries. We have seen the President order the military to seize citizens and hold them incommunicado and without charges. We have seen free speech marginalized and protest banned from public spaces. We have seen the FBI questioning people planning protests at the political conventions. We have seen the Patriot Act give police agents vast new powers of secret search and surveillance. We have seen a campaign to impose fundamentalist religious social norms. And we have even heard government agencies talking about plans to postpone national elections. For many in this country, police state conditions are not new. And since 9/11 millions more are threatened. It won’t do to count on others to do something and hope that it will all go away. No! We see where things are heading. The time to resist is now.
All across the country, local governments are refusing to cooperate with the Patriot Act and people are beginning to organize. Hang-outs, house parties, book clubs, film series, discussion groups, open mics and other cultural scenes build communities of trust as well as the networks to read the alternative press, discuss current events, raise money, organize defense committees, and promote active resistance.
The government seeks to scapegoat whole sections of people and go after the leadership of any real resistance to their plans for empire. Yet all across the country people went to the aid of their Muslim neighbors and stood watch at local mosques after 9/11. The government’s plan is to pick us off one at a time. Our response must be to recognize that “It’s all one attack” and give aid and shelter all those under attack.
Never answer the questions of police or government agents beyond identifying yourself where required by law. You should then state that you do not consent to any search and that you wish to be represented by an attorney. Do not say anything else, even if agents threaten you with a grand jury subpoena or promise to leave you alone if you “cooperate.” Recently activists at Drake University were called before a Grand Jury to give testimony about an antiwar conference on campus. They refused and public outcry forced the government to withdraw the subpoenas.
At the same time that the government invades other countries in the name of democracy, there is a constant chipping away at every legal right in this country. Follow the example of those who have videotaped and exposed beatings by police. Every denial of a permit, every arrest, every police raid on dissenters, every wire-tap, and every grand jury subpoena must be fought both in court and in the court of public opinion. This is part of the battle. Don’t let the police and media decide what is “legitimate protest” and who are “legitimate protesters.”
Choosing to keep your personal information and that of your organization confidential does not mean you have something to hide. It means you know what kind of country we live in! Librarians in California now destroy the records of what books people read to protect their patrons from government snoops. Unnecessary records should be destroyed, the audience at meetings should not be videotaped, e-mail should be encrypted with PGP, and vital information should be duplicated and stored in a secure location.
It is the policies of the U.S. government that have put the American people in harm’s way. The leaders of the “new Rome” constantly seek to ensnare us in a “devil’s bargain”: a false promise to keep us safe if only we will give up all our rights to privacy and dissent, and hand over to them our allegiance for their war plans. In Madison, WI, the local school board refused a call from the federal government after 9/11 to compel school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in unison.
In Refuse & Resist! some of us strongly believe in the principles and values to which this country has historically aspired, while others of us find oppression and injustice to be rooted in those same principles. But we are united as one in our determination to build a culture, climate and community of resistance against the current Ashcroft police-state measures with its imposition of Christian fundamentalist social norms. Join Refuse & Resist!
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