Today, Charlottesville community members held a press conference at the U.S. District Courthouse to declare solidarity with survivors of the August 12th car attack, who have been repeatedly harassed by federal law enforcement and were summoned to testify before a grand jury.
A full transcript is below:
SPEAKER 1: We are here today because the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been bullying those of us who were most severely injured by the car attack. Chris Kavanaugh subpoenaed us to appear before a federal grand jury. In a federal grand jury, you can’t bring your attorney into the room. There’s no judge in the room. The rules of evidence do not apply. They can ask you about anything under the sun. They can even take away your right to plead the fifth. I was already run over by a car. I will not be bullied by the federal government.
SPEAKER 2: I’m just gonna build on what’s been said. So, since November 27th, 2017, a number of federal grand jury subpoenas have been served to anti-racist activists who were the most severely injured survivors of the car attack on August 12th, that was carried out by white supremacist James Alex Fields, Jr. It is shameful that the most vulnerable members of our community are being singled out by law enforcement. As was said earlier, U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh has justified these subpoenas by stating that he’s only seeking to indict Fields and other white supremacists. Yet, we don’t know if they are also seeking to indict the anti-racist activists who defended our community this past summer.
Grand juries are a secretive procedure. People who are called to testify, again, are not allowed to have their lawyer present, and there is no judge, only the prosecutor and the jurors. The prosecutor may ask any and all questions they deem relevant, and they are not obligated to reveal the subject of their investigation. Grand juries have historically been used as a tool of political repression to surveil and incriminate social movements, from Standing Rock to Greensboro, North Carolina. The survivors of a terror attack should not be subject to up to 18 months in jail simply for refusing to participate in the unjust processes of a grand jury.
Charlottesville activists are in solidarity with our comrades who have been called before the grand jury. We are inspired by their bravery in resisting the grand jury in order to keep our community safe. Already, at least one subpoena has been rescinded by the U.S. Attorney’s Office because activists refused to speak. Resistance works: the federal prosecutors backed down once they realized community activists were committed to noncooperation. The fight is not over, however; we need to raise awareness about the history of grand juries and lend support to resistors, as we know this isn’t the last time community members will be called to testify.
I just wanna read a quote submitted anonymously by one of people who has chosen not to cooperate with the grand jury:
“Being in Charlottesville is gut-wrenchingly hard. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid driving by the street where a Nazi tried to kill me. Or by the statue where some of the people I love most in the world were surrounded by a torch-bearing mob. Seeing cars that remind me of the one that hit me makes me catch my breath, again and again. I am surrounded by reminders of one of the scariest days of my life. I refuse to sell out the people I love. We have been burned with torches, pepper sprayed, and run over. We receive threats both from the Nazis and from the federal government. But we keep on going. Why? Because standing up for the powerless is what love looks like.”
SPEAKER 3: Hi everyone, I want to speak on the connections between the state repression faced by those subpoenaed by the grand jury, and the state repression faced by the 193 defendants of the J20 trials that are currently going on. These 193 defendants were arrested as part of a kettling [by] the MPD in Washington, D.C., during Trump’s inauguration on January 20th of this year. They were kettled and mass arrested […] The police officers are known to be part of a police group that has used white supremacist logos and dog whistling insignia.
The case mostly relies of charges of inciting a riot, and it sets a very important precedent for what we have experienced here in Charlottesville, because the evidence that the prosecution is putting forward includes things like “attending public protest,” “wearing similar colors,” “not leaving if someone nearby breaks the law.” All of these they are using as grounds that the entire group of those that was mass arrested were conspiring to riot. To put it in context of Charlottesville, if any of us had been nearby one of the Nazis who assaulted people or shot at people on August 12th, and the prosecution is able to prove that, we could be charged with conspiring with the Nazis.
Another connection to Charlottesville is through the Police Foundation. The Police Foundation is a research and internal investigation foundation that aided Heaphy’s report. They are also running the investigation on MPD in regards to January 20th. A thing to note about this Foundation is that they are very pro-cop, regardless of what crimes the police have committed. For example, they were the ones who did the internal investigation around the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 20th of last year. They found that the cop did no wrongdoing.
So with that, I want to say that solidarity with those who are facing state repression goes across the whole nation and the whole world, that we are here to stand in solidarity with those, the resisters. That’s all, thank you.