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Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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When communication is terrorism

The U.S. government uses the term “terrorist” as a political weapon against anyone who opposes its policy. In reality, funding mass killings of trade unionists, activists and innocent civilians abroad makes the U.S. government the real terrorist organization, under any definition.

Last summer, a Supreme Court ruling in a case called Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project effectively criminalized international solidarity. The Humanitarian Law Project was prosecuted for seeking to provide training in human rights advocacy and peacemaking to the Kurdistan WorkersâÄô Party in Turkey, an organization the U.S. designates as terroristic. The decision held that the projectâÄôs “expert advice” was in fact material aid, thus redefining “material aid to terrorists” as communication.

The danger of this ruling is that it strips away at something Americans hold dear, something I thought was supposed to define our freedom in this country: our right to free speech.

On Sept. 24, I saw this fear realized when the FBI raided homes of anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, including my friend and fellow member of Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota, Tracy Molm. Subpoenas were issued and the FBI collected evidence; itâÄôs all part of an investigation of material support of terrorism.

If the investigation was not so serious, I might be amused; Activism is not a well-paying job, and the idea that Molm or others like her could materially support foreign political parties is ludicrous. We can barely materially support ourselves.

Evidence the FBI collected âÄî contact lists and political fliers âÄî is what a lawyer would call “associational.” Other evidence leaves us scratching our heads: Are they looking for secret messages in childrenâÄôs drawings? In MolmâÄôs scarf with the Palestinian flag?

From what they took, two things are clear: Who the activists associate with is being used as evidence, meaning our free speech rights are in danger, and that the state is repressing any ideas opposing the status quo.

This new definition of material support is being used to attack specifically the anti-war and international solidarity movement in the hopes of silencing opposition to U.S. foreign policy. By defining material support as the exchange of ideas and communication, you open up the possibility that any ideas the government disagrees with can be policed. Perhaps you arenâÄôt an activist, but think of the disastrous effect this might have on the exchange of ideas that happens within the university community. Suddenly professors cannot do in-depth research of popular peopleâÄôs movements abroad, students are limited in which political theories we are permitted to study, and we as a population cannot have agency over our own political ideology.

So before you dismiss this because you donâÄôt agree with my politics, think about what kind of a country you want to live in.

The 14 subpoenaed activists all invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to testify before the grand jury. But recently three of those activists were informed that their subpoenas are being reactivated. Those three activists are Sarah Martin of Women Against Military Madness; Anh Pham of the Minnesota Immigrants Rights Action Committee and member of the AFSCME 3800 clerical workersâÄô union at the University; and Molm, long-time student activist and organizer for AFSCME 3800.

Please support these members of the community by going to and signing the petition to stop this grand jury, calling our lawmakers and asking them to step up. Talk to anyone and everyone about the attacks that are ongoing against our civil liberties.

Before you assume this disastrous Supreme Court decision wonâÄôt affect you, please note that the FBI issued three more subpoenas Dec. 3 and two more Dec. 8. The net is widening. If you like your free speech to be protected, not repressed, and if you believe having an opinion isnâÄôt a crime, please join me in standing with Molm and the others in solidarity. Their struggle is ours.

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