Today, Minneapolis-based activists Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth refused to testify in front of a grand jury in Davenport, Iowa, and were found to be in contempt of court. They were immediately handcuffed and hauled off by U.S. Marshalls. According to District Judge John Jarvey, who presided over the contempt hearings, both will remain incarcerated until they agree to testify. The state can lock them up for the duration of the grand jury–another 11 months.
For reasons all too familiar and valid to anyone who has followed the escalation of Green Scare repression, both Carrie and Scott refused to cooperate with the grand jury by providing information about themselves and their comrades. We stand in solidarity with them for refusing to be complicit in their own persecution. We will stand with them every day until they are free.
While the law does not compel the U.S. Attorney’s Office to disclose the subject of the grand jury investigation, supporters believe that it is likely related to an unsolved Animal Liberation Front action in 2004 at the University of Iowa. At the time, Carrie was only 15 years old and Scott was only 17 years old; both were residents of the Twin Cities.
However, both have more recently been involved in supporting political prisoners, specifically those incarcerated as a result of the government’s targeting of animal-rights and environmental activists. Carrie, Scott, and their communities feel that this support work has now made them targets as well.
Prior to their grand jury appearances today and the contempt hearings that followed, between 30 and 40 supporters rallied outside the Federal Courthouse in Davenport. The support rally was characterized by a disproportionate law enforcement presence, and the proceedings themselves by a sense in the courtroom that the state’s actions were perfunctory at best. District Judge Jarvey dismissed out of hand arguments offered by both Carrie and Scott’s counsel regarding the need for them to remain free. For instance, Carrie is her ailing grandmother’s caretaker and Scott is currently a graduate student whose intellectual and professional integrity would be irreparably damaged by participating in a sealed investigation. In response, the judge simply read verbatim the legal language about contempt charges and then ordered the two taken into custody immediately.
For his part, U.S. Attorney Cliff Cronk not only ignored the calls that flooded his office on Monday demanding that the subpoenas be quashed, allowing Carrie and Scott to continue on with their lives, but went substantially further down the rabbit hole. In Carrie’s case, in particular, his arguments and implications were egregiously over-the-top. Cross-examining Carrie’s father, for instance, Cronk cynically implied that the elderly grandmother she cares for was a sort of pawn in an elaborate ruse to avoid incarceration. He suggested that a shirt Carrie had been photographed wearing, in which the letters “L” and “F” were visible, was evidence of “membership” in either the ALF or ELF. And he even cited the fact that she has a white rat companion animal as evidence of … something or other. It would all be a rather inspired piece of satire if he were kidding.
With both Carrie and Scott currently incarcerated, it’s unfortunately clear he’s not.
But the community members who attended the morning’s rally – as well as those who publicly gathered in support from Minneapolis to Dallas, TX – aren’t laughing, either. They have vowed to mount pressure on Cronk’s office, demanding Carrie and Scott’s immediate release. Since the grand jury process gleans much of its power from its secrecy, they intend to increase the attention currently being cast on these Orwellian proceedings.
Prior to appearing before the grand jury, Carrie and Scott prepared statements regarding the repression they are facing:
Today I have my second appearance before a federal grand jury that is investigating animal rights actions that occurred at the University of Iowa in 2004. Last month, after being subpoenaed in Minneapolis with one day’s notice, I appeared before this grand jury and plead my Fifth
Amendment right to remain silent. Today, that right will be sidestepped with technical legal “protections” that have little or no substantive value. I will once again be put in front of a grand jury with no lawyer present in the room, and once again they will attempt to coerce me to testify.
The prosecutor has filed to grant me immunity. I do not need immunity from prosecution for a crime that I was not involved in and have no relation to. This will not change my decision to refuse to cooperate with the grand jury. I stand here today in solidarity with everyone who has stood up to resist the exploitation of the environment and animals, the repression of the state, and the abuses of the justice system.
In anticipation of my refusal to cooperate, the court has scheduled a contempt hearing for today at ten o’clock. And they’re right. I do feel contempt for a justice system that prosecutes people for property damage that is done in defense of life, while real violence is committed at the hands of vivisectors, the police, and the military on a daily basis. I feel contempt for the federal agents that would use these prosecutions as a pretext to investigate above ground movements and activists like me, with no apparent grounds other than my political beliefs and legal activities. I will not help them to do this, and I will not let them violate my rights and privacy.
Today, I may be taken to jail for up to eleven months, solely for taking a moral stand against an institution that I believe to be corrupt and obsolete. I have not been accused of any crime. So let me ask you this, Clifford Cronk. Is it worth it to you? Is it worth it to you when my friend’s eight year old sobs, wondering if her mother could be going to jail next? Is it worth it, Tom Reinwart? Is it worth it to you when my elderly grandma is without a caretaker? Is this what you work for, Melissa Hendrickson? Is it worth it to tear an innocent 20-year-old woman away from everyone that she loves and cares for? Is this justice?
Thank you for your support.
Hau Mitakuyapi. Cante wasteya nape ciyuzapi do. Iyuskinyan waciyankapi do. Dakota ia Hepan emakiyapi do. Wasicu ia Scott DeMuth emakiyapi do. Damakota do. Oyate mitawa kin hena Bdewakantunwan ewicakiyapi do. Bdote heciya tanhan wahi do. Wanna nina cante mawaste do.
Hello all my relatives. With a good heart, I greet you all with a handshake. It is good to see all of you here today. My name is Scott. My place name is Dakota is Hepan. I am from Bdote, the confluence of the Mnisota and Mississippi Rivers, where the creation of the Bdewakantunwan took place.
Before anything else, I wanted to address you all in the Dakota language. State repression isn’t anything new to this country, or even to this city. One hundred and forty-six years ago, only a few
miles from this courthouse, over 300 Dakota prisoners of war were held in a concentration camp. Over a third of them died in their captivity. Whatever happens to me today, whatever I face, it will be easy in
light of the hardships those men faced. Right now, my heart is really good. I am glad to see so many people from so many of the communities I am a part of here to support me today. Being part of a community means we help each other. We support each other. We strengthen each other. And sometimes, we must make sacrifices for each other.
Grand juries started as an important part of our justice system to prevent over-reaching prosecuting powers. However, this process has been used historically against political movements. In the context of
this history, most recently in the Green Scare, when investigative techniques of law enforcement have been halted by the silence of political movements, grand juries have been used as a tactic to intimidate our communities and as an attempt to coerce testimony from movement members. This is an abuse of a constitutionally mandated process by using it as an investigative tool rather than its intended purpose.
Grand juries can be very disempowering for us all, and especially for those targeted by them. We face questioning without legal counsel present or a right to remain silent. We can be threatened, coerced,
and jailed. However, no punishment could be worse than surrendering our values. And this decision, whether we cooperate or resist, is the one thing we, as individuals, have control of in this process.
Luckily, this is the choice that allows these grand juries to succeed or to fail.
Our willingness to cooperate and to be complacent, our willingness to be intimidated and to be scared, not only serves to legitimize these proceedings, but it also empowers the tactics of state repression.
However, when we as individuals, with the strength and backing of our communities, are no longer afraid of their punishment, choose to resist this process and refuse to cooperate, we dis-empower this
tactic and give strength to our communities. We return the strength that is given to us.
So thank you all for giving me that strength. And I only hope to give back as much as has been given to me.
Supporters are still determining where Scott and Carrie are being held. Watch for more information about where to send them mail, as well as other ways to help. Meanwhile, legal funds are needed.
To donate, and for more information about Carrie and Scott, please visit https://davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com.