Back in the summer of 2012, federal agents began handing out subpoenas to activists and anarchists—sometimes kicking down doors in the small hours of the morning to do so—ordering them to testify before a grand jury.
The grand jury was ostensibly trying to find out who vandalized a federal courthouse during a demonstration on May Day, 2012. But some who appeared before the grand jury—such as Katherine Olejnik and Matthew Duran—weren't in Seattle when the vandalism happened and report they were asked dozens of McCarthyesque questions about other people's political views and social affiliations. When they refused to answer such questions, they were thrown into prison (and eventually solitary confinement) for several months.
But not everybody agreed to stand before the grand jury—a few fled, including an activist named Steven Jablonski, who went to Montreal. He's come back and posted an open letter about his experience at pugetsoundanarchists.org:
I arrived in Canada on August 4th, 2012. By November I had started living in Montreal, Quebec. Throughout my time spent in Montreal I was fucked with by both CSIS(Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the SPVM (Montreal City Police). Over the course of my time in Canada I was routinely followed and approached by name on the street and outside of my house. During these interactions I was told to go back to my home country and that they were just waiting to deport me. I was placed in a SPVM car multiples times including been picked up by cop car a block away from my house at 2 in the morning and driven to the outskirts of the city where they took my phone, cash, shoes and jacket. A couple months later I was suspiciously jumped by two unknown people 2 blocks from my house that made no effort to take any of my belongings, but kept calling me an “American Faggot”. In each of these interactions it has been clear that these people knew of my legal situation.
Despite all of the harassment I was also able to have the love and friendship of great people in Montreal. I essentially showed up in Montreal not knowing anybody and people made sure that I had everything that I needed.
In other May Day-related news, Dan already linked to this Princeton study arguing that the US is no longer an official democracy but an oligarchy. (That's going to screw up campaign rhetoric: "We're a shining beacon of oligarchy! And we've got to keep the world safe for oligarchy! Or the terrorists will have won!")
But here are a few of the money paragraphs (so to speak). The basic question: Who's in charge around here? The basic answer, according to their data analysis: The people with the money.
The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism...
Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
Happy May Day, everyone!