On Grand Jury Resistance by Press Officer Nicoal Sheen

With the recent arrest, grand jury indictment and imprisonment of Jordan Halliday in Utah, as well as Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth in Minnesota, our right to silence has become the best defense in shutting down any effort to divide and conquer. Continued resistance on principle and in praxis is vital for community survival against any government repression.

Increasingly, grand jury resistance has become a crucial part of activist vocabulary and action – especially in the animal rights community. According to many references in law, grand juries are said to “protect the innocent” against “unfair publicity” and serious accusations where one may or may not be guilty. Political activists have clearly experienced the opposite of such protection. Rather, grand juries are strategically used by the government and judicial prosecution to oppress. In several cases against activists, grand juries are used as a tool to “extract information” they believe the accused can access. Grand juries are no more than a witch hunt where authorities target activists who are effective and outspoken in order to stifle free speech.

However, resisting grand juries by pleading the Fifth – the right to silence – comes with a long activist history; animal rights activists are not the first social group to face persecution. During the Red Scare and the era of McCarthyism in the 1950s, people accused of communist ties were forced before a grand jury by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Committee demanded the accused to “name names” and give any information concerning their alleged relationship with the Communist Party. Those condemned for supposed communist associations called upon the Fifth to protect themselves and evaded any possibility of self-incrimination. In response, the government blacklisted the accused for knowing and applying their rights.

Along with this pattern of repression comes the obligation to actively resist. Nothing just will ever come from grand juries and providing “harmless” knowledge will never help the situation. Grand juries are developed for the purpose of avoiding attorneys or other extensive legalities in order to gather “unrestricted” information. Therefore, resisting the urge to talk is necessary to preserve the fight for animals and the right to free speech. Subpoenas are issued in the hopes of creating desperation and hysteria among people which in turn divides activist circles and results in a fractured movement. Instead, a movement built on principles of trust, common sense and devout anti-authoritarianism is impermeable.

Silence inhibits the state’s success and sends a clear message that such repression will be met with opposition. Total rejection of their fear mongering strengthens the movement and can avoid long-term imprisonment. Even when the state threatens an activist with “civil contempt of court” – as Halliday faced – talking will make the situation worse and is never acceptable. Supporting Jordan Halliday and other grand jury resistors is crucial in demonstrating that the community and activist circles act in solidarity and will not be subject to loose lips.

In the case that you are subpoenaed and are required to stand before a grand jury, always call your attorney or seek some form of legal counsel. Also tell other activists and friends. Do not hide that you have been called to appear before the jury.If you need help finding an experienced attorney, contact us here at the North American Animal Liberation Press Office.

Following are several examples in which activists have continued to resist grand juries and kept our communities safe from state intervention. Some activists have refused to show up. Many others refuse to answer any questions when called before a jury. The state will hold activists as long as a grand jury is in session, but refusing to cooperate will save yourself and other activists in the end. In addition, activists have participated in protests outside the courthouse rather than comply.

For more information on Jordan, Carrie and Scott please visit the following sites:

Support Carrie: http://supportcarrie.wordpress.com/

Support Scott: http://davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com/

Support Jordan: http://supportjordan.com/