Friday, May 6, 2011

Poster of the Week

Build A Wall Of Resistance
Fireworks Graphics Collective

Last September, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics featured a 30 year old poster, Build a Wall of Resistance: Don’t Talk to the FBI , as our Poster-of-the-Week. We are re-posting it now as it is being used by the right wing in an orchestrated smear campaign against Muslims, political activists, and free speech. The poster started making the rounds last year on the right wing web sites and even Bill O’Reilly was ragging on it. The San Francisco Register wrote about the controversy, and mentions CSPG. Check out this web site:

History of Build a Wall of Resistance: Don’t Talk to the FBI.

CSPG originally featured this work as a Poster-of-the-Week last year because on September 24, 2010 the FBI raided seven Chicago and Minneapolis homes of well-known anti-war and international solidarity activists, serving 14 subpoenas. These anti-war leaders helped organize the huge protests against the Republican National Convention in 2008. This past December, the FBI served additional subpoenas to nine more Palestine solidarity and Arab-American activists in Chicago. All 23 have taken a principled stand to not answer questions at U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury in Chicago, a secret court where there is no judge and you cannot have a lawyer. The 23 could face months of imprisonment for their principled refusal to testify and may be charged with “material support for terrorism” for solidarity with Palestine and other liberation struggles.

In response to this Grand Jury, activists around the country organized solidarity rallies and workshops about Grand Juries. 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 in Islamic communities. Some of the materials for one of the workshops included the Build a Wall of Resistance graphic. 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 xenophobic and McCarthyite Federal Congressional hearing was organized by Congressman Peter King (R-NY), who is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. While pointing to the Build a Wall of Resistance poster, King has claimed that “80% of mosques are controlled by ‘radical Imams’, that Muslims are not cooperating with the FBI,” and 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.”

Build a Wall of Resistance was designed by Fireworks Graphics Collective, part of Prairie Fire Organizing Committee in San Francisco, in the spring of 1984. Its purpose was to inform people that they legally do not have to talk to the FBI, and that refusing to talk to the FBI or testify to Grand Juries are important ways of supporting movements for social justice. 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 attacked by the FBI and being subpoenaed to testify at Grand Juries. Several people went to jail for refusing to appear at Grand Juries, but no one testified, and the Grand Jury was unable to break the solidarity of the movement.

It was used several more times, including later in the 1980’s to support members of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC) in SF, who had been subpoenaed to a Grand Jury in Chicago under the ruse that a threatening letter to a Federal Attorney 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 2004 new Grand Juries occasioned more reprints of the Build a Wall of Resistance poster.

There were several environmental and animal rights Grand Juries in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, Colorado and California in what was called by activists, the “Green Scare”. Some activists were able to withstand draconian pressure by the government, and refused to testify. Others did not refuse, and several activists were sent to prison for many years by extremely dubious “evidence” in what the FBI called “Operation Backfire”.

In 2005, Josh Wolfe, a San Francisco activist and videographer, was subpoenaed to a Federal Grand Jury for video he took at a demonstration at which a policeman was injured. After the San Francisco prosecutor refused to bring charges based on vague evidence, 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 “fact” that since the Federal Government gave money to the SF police, the Feds had a part 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 a Federal judge viewed 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 State Grand Jury subpoenaed five former members or supporters of the Black Panther Party. All of the men refused to testify, and were jailed for several weeks until the Grand Jury ended. In January 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, who was then the state Attorney General, brought charges). After being charged, they became known as the San Francisco 8. Evidence against the 8 was based on statements made by two of the men, and one other man who were severely 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 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. The last member of the SF8, Francisco Torres, still had one charge that the prosecution has not dropped.

Build a Wall of Resistance is now in its third decade of use.

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, remember that 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. 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, say “I will talk to my lawyer and she will get back to you”. Do not say anything more, and call your nearest Grand Jury support organization and the National Lawyers Guild immediately. In most cases, the FBI will not return after they realize you will not talk to them.

National Lawyers Guild: In October of 2010 the Guild set up a hotline at 888-NLG-ECOL (888-654-3265).

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