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E-M:/ FBI Steps Up Repression of Activists With Formation of Grand Jury in Michigan



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Enviro-Mich message from Massasauga EF <massasaugaef@yahoo.com>
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For Immediate Release
Water Defense Committee
Contact: massasaugaef@yahoo.com or
stopperrier@yahoo.com 

FBI Steps Up Repression of Activists With Formation of
Grand Jury

Detroit, MI- Tuesday morning, the FBI and Coast Guard
issued subpoenas to  Marie Mason and Frank Ambrose of
the Sweetwater Alliance and Massasauga Earth First!.
The subpoenas ordered the two to submit fingerprints
and DNA samples to a federal grand jury being convened
in Grand Rapids. Ambrose and Mason plan to fight the
subpoenas. They believe that the grand jury demands
are illegal and are not  issued as part of a real
investigation, but rather a blatant attempt to harass
activists and gather information about dissident
movements.

Grand juries are antiquated legal bodies, a leftover
from early British law.  They conduct an investigation
in order to determine if there is sufficient evidence
to press charges against the individual. They have
been used extensively as a political tool throughout
the country, especially under this administration, to
intimidate and repress activist communities. When a
person is subpoenaed by a grand jury, they must comply
or risk imprisonment. In this way, an innocent person
can be jailed for noncompliance, whether or not
evidence exists to convict them of any crime. Those
subpoenaed to testify, lose their right to plead the
5th amendment  and the right to have legal counsel
present during any of the process. People are forced
to decide between talking to the FBI and lending
credibility to these questionable proceedings, or
going to jail. [for extensive information on grand
juries, see
http://www.protectcivilliberties.com/grandjuries.html]

Marie and Frank have been very vocal in the fight to
end the water shut offs in Detroit  and Highland Park,
as well as in the campaign to shut down the Ice
Mountain bottled water plant in Stanwood, MI. The
Detroit water board is violating thousands of people’s
human rights by shutting off their  water  for
non-payment. In Highland Park, the city manager (a
state appointed official) has shut off, or is
threatening to shut off  over half of the city’s
16,000 residents.  While our poorest citizens are
denied access to water, corporations get it for free. 
Despite a $2 billion dollar budget deficit for
Michigan, Gov. Granholm is giving Ice Mountain $10
million in tax abatements while they pump  our ground
water for free. Ice Mountain, a subsidiary of Nestle,
makes profits of over $1 million a day from the sale
of our water. 

The water campaign has made successful  links between
the urban and rural struggles for  water rights. “The
corporations and their stooges in the state government
want to  continue to use the divide and conquer
strategy to weaken this movement and facilitate their
bid to privatize control of  Michigan’s water. They
think they can split  us along racial and class lines.
They think they can frighten people with grand juries
and the FBI. They’re just plain wrong”, said Mason.

Water activists across the state have been harassed by
 FBI visits in recent weeks. It is believed that the
FBI is investigating the attempted sabotage at the Ice
Mountain bottling plant. 

“The FBI’s unwelcome visits are meant to serve as a
distraction and a deterrent to citizens’ ability to
express their discontent with government policies,”
said Ambrose. “ They want people to be afraid to get
involved, for fear of being harassed by the FBI. They
make people feel like they are common criminals for
caring about protecting water. It is inappropriate for
the government to hire out its henchmen to the
corporations who want to despoil this planet.”

The FBI has its own checkered past. Just recently, the
FBI was found to have violated two Earth First!
activists’ civil rights 11 years ago in California,
after someone attempted to assassinate them with a car
bomb in 1991. Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were
awarded $4.4 million by a jury to compensate for their
losses due to the FBI’s campaign to silence and
marginalize them. At the time of the bombing, the two
were organizing for Redwood Summer, a summer of
actions to protect the ancient redwoods in California.

The two subpoenaed local activists, Marie Mason and
Frank Ambrose, have hosted events in the past to
educate the public about FBI abuses of power and how
the agency uses their power to divide and disrupt
political movements. There is a great need for the
public to be aware of past government abuses.

“In order to prevent any more harassment, we need to
stand together and denounce the FBI and the
corporations they are protecting. The FBI is no friend
of the people or of the earth,” said Dana Gross,
Sweetwater Alliance. 

Several years ago, the FBI engaged in a campaign of
harassment against the two environmental activists
under similar circumstances in Indiana.  There,
several groups were working in coalition to end
logging on public lands. In an attempt to divide a
successful activist community, the FBI raided Mason
and Ambrose’s home and brought false charges against
Ambrose. The government later dropped the charges,
after 9 months of attempting to brand him a terrorist
in the media, due to a total lack of evidence. 

--
The Water Defense Committee is asking people to call
the office of the Attorney General and demand that he
un-convene the Grand Jury. 
Assistant US Attorney
Lloyd K. Meyer
Grand Rapids, MI
616-456-2404

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