Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poster of the Week

Build A Wall Of Resistance
Fireworks Graphics
Silkscreen, circa 1980
San Francisco, California

CSPG’s Poster-of-the-Week has been reproduced a number of times over the past thirty years, always in response to FBI harassment of activists and Grand Jury subpoenas. It is currently being reissued after FBI SWAT teams broke down doors of anti-war leaders and activists in Minneapolis and Chicago on Friday, September 24, 2010. The activists were served with Federal Grand Jury subpoenas; personal papers, photographs, computers and cell phones were seized.

Friday’s raids came on the heels of a Justice Department probe that found the FBI improperly monitored activist groups and individuals from 2001 to 2006. Just two days earlier, the Boston Globe published an editorial about contemporary red-baiting, and how groups such as The Catholic Worker and The Thomas Merton Center—which had absolutely no connection with 9-11—were being investigated by the FBI. For more on the FBI’s ongoing post 9-11 war against dissent, targeting environmental, peace and social justice groups see:

Poster history—Build a Wall of Resistance: Don’t Talk to the FBI.

This poster, designed by Fireworks Graphics Collective in San Francisco in the late 1970s, was silk-screened on newsprint and posted on the street. Its purpose was, and is, to inform people that they do not have to talk to the FBI, and that refusing to talk to the FBI or testify to Grand Juries are ways of supporting the movement for social change. It was one in a series of posters supporting members of the Puerto Rican independence movement in Chicago, New York, and Puerto Rico, who were being harassed by the FBI and being subpoenaed to testify at Grand Juries. Several people went to jail for refusing to appear, but no one testified, and the Grand Jury was unable to break the solidarity of the movement.

It was reprinted several times in the 1980s, including in 1984 to support members of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee in SF (JBAKC), who had been subpoenaed to a Grand Jury in Chicago under the ruse that a threatening letter had been sent with the JBAKC mailbox in San Francisco as the return address. After a few months of refusal to testify, the Federal Attorney dropped what was one of their more blatant fishing expeditions.

In 2005, three new San Francisco Grand Juries occasioned another reprinting of the Build a Wall poster.

Several environmental and animal rights activists were subpoenaed to a Grand Jury fishing expedition about small explosive devices that went off outside at Chiron corporation, an Emeryville (SF Bay Area) biotechnology firm, and Shaklee corporation in Pleasanton. The government was unable to find the suspect, so tried to get friends and animal rights activists to testify against him and the movement. It is believed that everyone resisted testifying, and the Grand Jury eventually died.

Also in 2005, Josh Wolfe, a San Francisco activist and videographer, was subpoenaed to a Federal GJ for video he took at a demonstration at which a policeman was injured. The San Francisco prosecutor refused to bring charges, so the police lied and said that the policeman’s car had been burned, and got a federal Grand Jury to subpoena Wolf based on the spurious “evidence” that since the Federal Government gave money to the SF police, the Feds had an interest in the car, and a right to call a Grand Jury. (Not a joke. That was the story). Wolfe was held for several months in the Federal prison in Dublin, CA for refusing to hand over video. Eventually the judge saw the video in question, told the prosecutor there was no footage of the injuring of the policeman, or of the burning car, (which never happened) and Wolfe was released.

In a resurrected conspiracy case in 2005, a San Francisco Grand Jury subpoenaed five former members of the Black Panther Party. All of the men refused to testify, and were put in jail for several weeks until the Grand Jury ended. In 2006 the five men plus four others, were charged by the California Attorney General with the killing of a San Francisco policeman in 1971. (Another case where local authorities were not willing to bring charges; in this case Jerry Brown, then the state Attorney General, brought charges). After being charged in January of 2006, they became known as the San Francisco 8. Evidence against the 8 was based solely on statements made by three men who were tortured by New Orleans police in 1973. Because of the torture, the case had been thrown out of court in 1975. Courtrooms were packed with supporters for the next five years. By late 2010 one defendant had died, two had pled to substantially lowered charges in exchange for probation, and the prosecution was forced to drop all charges against four of the others. One former Panther, Francisco Torres, still had one charge that the prosecution had not dropped by February 2011.

Since September 11th, 2001, many Muslims and people from Middle Eastern countries have been questioned by the FBI, some being asked to be agents within their own community, and some being set up on terrorism charges. This has caused a great deal of fear in the community, and concern about civil rights.

In the fall of 2010, several political activists’ houses in the midwest were raided by the FBI and Homeland Security, supposedly investigating support for terrorist organizations. (Several of the activists did solidarity work with Palestine or Columbia, and most of them had helped organize demonstrations against the 2008 Republican National Convention). Twenty-three people were subpoenaed to a Chicago Grand Jury. All refused to testify. In response to the Grand Jury, several Know Your Rights workshops were held in the SF Bay Area, organized by the National Lawyers Guild, and co-sponsored by several civil rights groups, including the local Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR, which was already concerned about civil rights issues within the community). Some of the materials for the workshops included the “Build a Wall of Resistance” poster. The poster was used by Fox News and various right-wing groups to attack CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights group in the US. A racist and McCarthyite Federal Congressional hearing was organized by Congressman Peter King (R-NY) in March 2011, which also used the poster to attack CAIR and other Muslim organizations for not being “cooperative”. Among other things, Congressman King alleged that “There is a real threat to the country from the Muslim community and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to investigate what is happening.”

The poster has been used against many other instances of government oppression for over three decades.

A short political explanation of the dangers of speaking to the FBI is available at .

If you or a friend is visited by the FBI or subpoenaed to a Grand Jury, contact the National Lawyers Guild at In October of 2010 the Guild set up a hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL (888-654-3265).

Remember, whatever they tell you, whether you are a US citizen or not, you are not legally required to talk to the FBI or any other police, and you should not do so. It is illegal to lie to the FBI, Grand Juries, or other police, and everything you say will be bent to enable the prosecution of someone. Just say: ”I do not want to talk to you”, ask for a business card, and close the door. If you do not feel comfortable with that, add: “I will talk to my lawyer and he will get back to you”. Do not say anything more, and call the National Lawyers Guild immediately.

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