Filed under: Featured, Indigenous, Interviews, Repression, Solidarity, The State
Interview between Perilous Chronicle and Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. To listen to the latest It’s Going Down interview with Lauren Regan, go here.
By Ryan Fatica
On February 3, Standing Rock protester Steve Martinez appeared before a grand jury in North Dakota. The US Attorney’s Office had subpoenaed Steve in an ongoing investigation into a 2016 incident in which another protester, Sophia Wilansky, was gravely injured. After refusing to testify, the Magistrate Judge overseeing the grand jury held Steve in contempt of court and ordered him imprisoned. After nearly three weeks in jail, Steve was released, but the government’s attack on him continues.
In order to learn more about his case and the broader climate of repression against activists and protestors, I spoke with Lauren Regan, executive director and lead attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Oregon. The Civil Liberties Defense Center is an organization founded to give legal, educational, and strategic support to social movements that seek to dismantle the political and economic structures at the root of social and environmental destruction.
Ryan Fatica: We’re here today to talk about the case of Steve Martinez. Steve is a former Standing Rock protestor, and he was recently subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in North Dakota. He’s refusing to testify and he’s being held in custody. Tell us a little more about his case.
Lauren Regan: Yeah, so this is actually the second time that Steve has been subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in North Dakota. The first time was back in December of 2017. At that time he showed up and, consistent with his ethical and moral beliefs regarding non-cooperation with the federal government, he asserted his First and Fifth Amendment rights to not testify at that grand jury. And the US Attorney’s office at that time, basically, just let him go and appeared to shut down the federal grand jury.
In the three years since then, we have really heard nothing about this grand jury or about any kind of alleged investigation. And, a few months ago, the federal court, in the case of Sophia Wilansky versus Morton County et al, the federal judge finally, after a couple of years, ruled that her case was allowed to move forward and that discovery was allowed to begin against Morton County. Soon thereafter Mr. Martinez received a federal grand jury subpoena for February 3rd. Right around that same time period, Morton County served a civil deposition subpoena on him for the very next day. So he had a federal subpoena to appear to a grand jury on one day, and then a civil subpoena to appear on behalf of these defendants in Sophia’s case the next day.
All along, we’ve had our suspicions that Morton County and the federal government, the FBI in particular, have been colluding with each other to withhold evidence and information in their possession with regard to the injuries that Sophia sustained on the Backwater bridge.
Ryan Fatica: Lauren, let me interrupt you there and take us back a little bit for our listeners. Perhaps we should have begun the discussion with the case of Sophia Wilansky. Sophia is a young woman who was injured during a protest at Standing Rock in November of 2016. And in response to her injuries, she’s filed a federal civil suit against the Morton County Sheriff’s Office and various other law enforcement bodies and individuals. You’re representing Sophia in that civil suit. That case is linked in some way to the federal grand jury that’s now holding Steve Martinez in custody, is that correct?
Lauren Regan: Yes, which of course the government is entirely denying, but that we believe is undeniable. So, yeah, Sophia had traveled to Standing Rock to be in solidarity with the Indigenous-led water protectors. She was there for a couple of weeks to be present and to be part of history and to support the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
And, one night, there was a call for water protectors to go out to the bridge. And, she went out with others and sort of witnessed law enforcement using “less lethal munitions,” like rubber bullets and tear gas and pepper spray and water cannons on the water protectors. This is November 20th of 2016. And then things kind of died down and she left and went back to camp, and got some food and warmed up and got dry, warm clothes on. Around four o’clock in the morning, hours later, she decided to go back up on the bridge to see what was going on. And when she went back up on the bridge, everything was kind of wrapping up, water protectors were cleaning up trash and stuff from the bridge. People were sledding because the water cannons had kind of caused an icy situation. Everything was pretty mellow at that time, and Sophia basically took a turn holding vigil on the bridge. She replaced a couple of other water protectors that had been standing behind this makeshift shield. And at some point, the cops that had been eating donuts and hanging out by themselves behind the barricade made an announcement that was something like “get out from underneath the truck” and Sophia was not under the truck so she did not think that this address was directed at her. And all of a sudden law enforcement began shooting munitions toward her location. And at one point she was struck in one of her arms and suffers a painful injury that she still has a scar from today. And she basically decides that she can’t stay there any longer, so she yells to the police, “please don’t shoot me, I’m leaving.” She starts to leave from behind this truck when all of a sudden law enforcement launches an explosive device, most likely a flash bang grenade, at her and it explodes on her arm and basically blows her arm off. She thought she had lost her hand and she immediately falls down and is screaming and a handful of water protectors rushed to her, pick her up and rush her to a vehicle that had been cleaning up stuff on the bridge.
Steve Martinez had been assisting that vehicle. The person that owned the vehicle had locked the keys accidentally inside it, so Steve was helping that person to try to get into the vehicle so they could move it off the bridge. They get the vehicle open and here comes these people, carrying this woman who is in danger of dying, she is bleeding very badly, and is going into shock. So Steve drives this vehicle with Sophia and another person who’s rendering aid to her, and drive them off the bridge. And as he’s driving, he is calling the BIA and an ambulance to meet them at the casino so that she can be attended to by trauma medics. And so he drives the car that ultimately is responsible for saving her life. They get to this ambulance, the BIA medics ended up having to put a tourniquet on her arm. She’s ultimately taken in a helicopter to a trauma center in Minnesota, and they are able to reattach her arm to the rest of her body. But even to this day, after dozens of surgeries trying to rebuild the arm, she still really has very little use of the arm. So a very, very serious permanent injury caused by law enforcement. And the only role that Steve had in it was literally in trying to save her life in driving this car.
As a result of being a good Samaritan, he has now been facing two federal grand jury subpoenas. The second one, like I mentioned was for February 3rd, and when he showed up that day, there were a number of legal procedural problems with this grand jury and the subpoena that he received for it.
In the wake of the far-Right storming of the capitol, the Center is pushing for a new 'war on terror' that threatens dissent. How can social movements push back against a possible wave of repression? We spoke with Lauren Regan at the @CLDC to find out. https://t.co/XxasV4dgzn
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) February 20, 2021
There’s two kinds of federal judges: an Article III Judge and a Magistrate Judge–and certain types of court procedures can only be conducted by an Article III Judge. Trials are the most common example, unless the parties consent to letting a magistrate judge preside over the trial. In these instances, normally it is an Article III Judge that conducts a potential contempt of court hearing along these lines. But in this case, Steve only had a Magistrate Judge, and the Magistrate Judge rushed through the civil contempt proceeding. Contempt hearings are supposed to be public but the public was not allowed into this hearing, and she quickly finds him in contempt of court, and he is ushered off to a jail in Bismarck where he remains today. [In what appears to be an acknowledgement that the contempt process was improper, Steve was subsequently released from jail on February 22, 2021, but was served an additional grand jury subpoena for March 3rd where it assumed that this process will repeat itself with an Article 3 judge this time].
There are a multitude of appeals going on right now, and requests to let him out of jail, which of course there is a massive surge of a COVID-19 global pandemic going on, particularly in jails. And so to put a Native American person with other health vulnerabilities into a jail for civil contempt of court, for refusing to testify to a grand jury that has a total illegitimate purpose to begin with, is incredibly problematic. And the reason I say that it’s illegitimate is that grand juries are only allowed to investigate federal crimes or, in limited circumstances, they can be convened in order to seek information about a fugitive from justice. They’re not allowed to use a grand jury proceeding in order to do civil discovery. They’re not allowed to use a grand jury to try to bolster their B.S. narrative that somehow Sophia is responsible for her own injuries, which is some of the drivel that the feds and the defendants in the case are using to try to justify the almost deadly police misconduct that occurred in the early morning hours of November 21st.
Ryan Fatica: And just to be more specific, the government is alleging that protestors on the bridge that night were using what they’re calling “improvised explosive devices” or “IEDs” constructed from propane cylinders. And so they’re alleging that Sophia was not shot by a flash bang or other police munition, but that an IED exploded and that’s what caused her injuries. And so the FBI, if I understand it correctly, came to the hospital where Sophia was being treated and they seized some shrapnel that had been removed by doctors from her arm. And so that shrapnel is either part of a munition that law enforcement are known to use, or it’s part of a propane cylinder, but they’re refusing to say what it is, or to release any information about it. Is that correct?
Lauren Regan: That is correct. In February of 2018, we filed a federal lawsuit against the FBI trying to force them to either turn over that piece of shrapnel to our forensic experts at a big, well-known lab in Michigan, or to force them to use their forensic experts and test this piece of shrapnel and provide the report, one way or the other. They have adamantly refused to do so for this entire time period. In fact, really recently we again requested that our expert be able to test the shrapnel or see their test results of the shrapnel. And they’re continuing to refuse. In one of the recent discovery orders, the federal judge in Sophia’s case basically agreed that the test results of this piece of shrapnel could conclusively determine the outcome of this civil case. And like you said, if it’s a propane canister, then it would be a difficult argument to establish that it was shot by law enforcement behind the barricades. If it is anything but this Coleman propane canister, then the government has an uphill battle.
Also, just note that Sophia’s injuries are in no way consistent with something that would have had flames or heat. Her medical records and the other evidence basically demonstrates that if a propane canister had exploded, she’d probably be dead right now, but she would also have burns, that a propane canister would have heat and flame involved in it. And there were no injuries to her clothing or to her body that would be consistent with that. So it does seem much more like a munition that basically shattered and pieces of it actually went through her arm and out the other side. Although the government claims that on the 21st the cops found a used propane canister on the bridge, they apparently were unable to find the fragments of metal with flesh hanging from them that would have been on the bridge as well. So, interesting investigative techniques being used in that circumstance.
Ryan Fatica: And so we don’t know exactly why this grand jury is being conducted because these are shadowy secretive proceedings–lawyers are not allowed to be in the room with their clients during the procedures, judges aren’t even present. But it appears that the grand jury is being convened to investigate this incident on the bridge. And ostensibly, they’re trying to get some information from Steve. Or perhaps like many grand juries are, it’s just a fishing expedition in which they’re casting around, hoping to see if they can get any information that they can use to do further damage to this movement or to target any other activists.
Lauren Regan: It’s unclear why they took so long to subpoena Steve again. At one point they tried to say that they couldn’t find Steve to serve him with a subpoena, even though he’s lived in the same location in Bismarck right under their noses for many years openly, with a residence, an address, with a job, et cetera.
I think there’s a couple of points to kind of circle around to: number one, Steve has a cultural and moral compass that strongly instructs that you do not cooperate with grand jury witch hunts like this. And he fits into a long, long history of both indigenous and political activists who have held those convictions. And so Steve stands in a long line of movement heroes that have resisted grand juries in the past.
Another important thing to just keep in mind is that Steve has done nothing wrong. Steve has not been charged with a crime. But he is standing up on behalf of the movement and water protectors, which is important not only for himself, but for the movement as a whole. Steve was first grand jury subpoenaed a couple of years ago and nothing new has happened between then and now–they haven’t tested the shrapnels there hasn’t been any kind of informants that we know of. The only thing that has changed between the first time he was subpoenaed and now the second time is that Sophia’s civil lawsuit against them has been given the green light to move forward. So that is certainly, on its face, concerning.
"There have been reports of increased door knocks from the FBI. What use does the FBI have in door knocking? Why this tactic when seemingly they have other avenues of surveillance?"
Great interview from @IGD_News covering the basics of FBI door knocks https://t.co/HRSasnZQpS
— Atlanta Anti-Repression Committee (@atl_arc) January 16, 2021
The other thing that I would say is that history repeats itself. And as I have worked on this case over the years with many other lawyers, and co-counsel, and awesome movement organizers, I keep remembering the case of Judi Bari. Judi Bari was a forest defender from Northern California who bridged the gap between forest activism and labor activism. And back in the nineties, she was driving with another activist to a rally that she was going to be performing at, when her car blew up. There had been a car bomb, a pipe bomb, planted under the driver’s seat of her car. And she was gravely injured. And within minutes, FBI and other law enforcement swept in and started claiming that she blew herself up–that she had been carrying this bomb and it went off and she blew it up.
Fast forward 10 years later. She had filed a lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland police. She ends up getting cancer and ultimately dies while the case is still making its way through, but they actually go to trial against the FBI and Oakland Police Department. And ultimately, it ends up that the two law enforcement agencies were colluding with each other to basically cover up the fact that they were responsible for the bomb under her seat. And so we’ve seen, historically, activists, especially activist women, being blamed for their injuries caused by the state, and the FBI working with local law enforcement to cover up those crimes. There’s a documentary that was made about her and her case. It’s actually really illustrative and appropriate for folks to try to find that. Dennis Cunningham, who is a famous civil rights lawyer was Judi Bari’s lawyer in that case, and his daughter is a filmmaker and made the documentary.
Ryan Fatica: Wow, yeah. Thank you for drawing that connection for us. So Steve’s case is not the only case that has come out of the Standing Rock protests. There’s been years of legal battles and all sorts of repressive tactics that law enforcement has used to respond to and to shut down the movement that emerged in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline. You’ve been involved in much of those efforts. Can you help us understand better what kind of tactics law enforcement used there and what the outcome of some of those cases have been?
Lauren Regan: Yeah, I think it’s actually kind of timely and important to be having these conversations as things in Minnesota begin to also heat up, because like I just said: history does repeat itself. And especially with regard to the fossil fuel industry–they have a limited playbook that they continue to repeat over and over again. And so what happened in Standing Rock is important for activists to learn about and consider so that we do not repeat the same situations the next time around and so that we can be better prepared and more aware to strategically dance around the obstacles that we know the state will–once again–put in our way. When I used the word “the state,” I am referring to government, including law enforcement, but also corporations, especially fossil fuel corporations.
And so with Standing Rock, the first thing that I will say is that the whole playbook of standard activist repression was present. CLDC actually does really lengthy trainings on what is repression and how can you resist it. But one thing that’s important to know is that every social justice movement has faced repression and will face repression. Repression is nothing new. It is expected that when we challenge the status quo, when we push against capitalism and the profit sharing mechanisms of the state, that they’re going to come at us with everything they’ve got, and they’ve got quite an arsenal to fight back against us. We have people power, we have the mass movement, we have passion and commitment and all of those good things, and they have things like guns and prisons–that whole litany of stuff.
So, with Standing Rock, first what we know is that large amounts of money were invested in surveillance, both infiltrators, as well as the ability to spy using things like sting rays and cameras and other things. We know that a huge amount of money was put into trying to map the movement, trying to study and psychologically profile this movement. How do you pick targets? What’s the leadership structure, what’s the funding structure? All of those things, our adversaries are keenly studying and aware of. And so when people are telling me it’s okay for them to put all this crap on Facebook, “I’m not doing anything wrong,” what they don’t recognize is that a lot of that information is not necessarily relevant to whether you committed a crime or whether you’re going to be prosecuted or you’re going to go to jail, but it is being sucked up and used by our adversaries to make our jobs harder as movement activists.
RT! Do you want to build your resume and contribute to our mission at the same time? @CLDC is accepting applications through March 15 for prospective summer interns! Please visit https://t.co/kWgOAKHMcg to learn more! pic.twitter.com/iNYXi8Q3yG
— CLDC (@CLDC) March 3, 2021
And so surveillance, right off the bat. The next thing we saw is that hundreds and hundreds of water protectors were falsely arrested. Ultimately, their charges were dismissed, but they were still arrested and they went to jail and often, with the caravans of cars, their vehicles would also be impounded at that time. So, false charges and trumped up charges are also a standard part of repression, but also there was a money suck that was happening there because, at Standing Rock, every water protector that was arrested was cash bailed out. And the State was able to keep a percentage of all of that bail, even for the charges that were dismissed and that literally had no lawful basis to result in arrest to begin with. So, they made a ton of money off of falsely arresting water protectors, where if people had not been cash bailed out, which obviously some people do need to be cash bailed out for varying reasons…but if they hadn’t been cash bailed out, and if solidarity tactics had been used, the jails would not have been able to hold everyone.
Eventually, people may have been released on their own recognizance and the state wouldn’t have profited off of those false arrests in that same way. The state would have had to make some charging decisions. And then, of course, you have these tow companies, who made a mint off of towing away those vehicles and impound fees and all of this other stuff. So false arrests, trumped up charges: also part of state repression. The Water Protector Legal Collective–on their website–has the statistics of the outcomes of all of those cases. And it’s a tiny fraction–I can’t remember the exact numbers–but it was a very, very small fraction of the total number of arrests that actually resulted in convictions after trials.
A ton of them got dismissed. A lot of water protectors ended up taking slap on the hand plea bargains because they just couldn’t and didn’t want to return to North Dakota so long after the fact. A number of them resulted in minor plea bargains. And then, as you mentioned, a very small handful of, I think almost entirely indigenous water protectors, were prosecuted at the federal level for economic sabotage and ultimately took plea bargains and were convicted of those crimes. But, literally, it’s like five of those cases. We’re talking about Red Fawn Fallis, the only woman indigenous water protector who basically ended up taking a deal to being a felon in possession of a firearm. And the firearm was owned by this person that she thought was her boyfriend, but actually was an FBI agent posing as her boyfriend.
So that’s a whole can of worms in and of itself. The other individuals that had federal charges were basically charged with economic sabotage for using arson as a tactic to damage Dakota Access Pipeline property in desperate attempts to try and stop that pipeline from doing irreparable harm. And, of course, we all know now that the federal civil courts have ruled that the pipeline was, in fact, illegal, it should never have actually been constructed, but there’s no way to take back the damage and harm that this illegal corporation has caused, not only to the landscape and to the environment and to the climate, but also to these extremely valuable sacred sites: graves, cultural resources, et cetera.
Then, of course, we also had the form of state repression that is excessive force and police violence. So many different examples of police, police working with security, using illegal excessive force, sicking dogs on water protectors, shooting them up using tear gas and water cannons for the first time since the 1960s. And, of course, using explosive devices. They shot the eye out of a water protector. Dozens of non-violent water protectors were indiscriminately, permanently, and seriously injured as a result of police violence being used against them for the exercise of their constitutional rights.
Ryan Fatica: Yeah, you’ve been doing anti-repression movement defense lawyering for a long time now, and you obviously have a lot of this history in your mind. Let’s bring the discussion up to the present moment. This summer, there were nationwide protests, huge historic protests and uprisings, and that wave of rebellion has resulted now in this winter and in the fall in this huge wave of repression. Do you have a sense of how the current climate of repression compares to other moments in history that you’ve seen? And what can we say about this repression, and what do you expect?
Lauren Regan: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it is still unfolding and there are a lot of people doing really amazing analysis and statistics and data are coming out more and more. But what I would say, as a member of the Mass Defense Committee in the U.S., who is looking at this, these nationwide trends…
Ryan Fatica:That’s the Mass Defense Committee with the National Lawyers Guild?
Lauren Regan: Yeah. A couple of things that I would observe, at least at this point, is number one: the use of curfews to shut down protests is pretty unprecedented. We don’t see that in a lot of white-led movements very often. Number two, we saw overt police brutality and excessive force used against protestors. And my personal belief is that it is largely because those particular protestors were: a) of color, and b) chanting things like “ACAB,” and these “professional police officers” completely lost all professionalism and retaliated against the speech, the content of the protest, rather than responding to actual things that would justify that level of use of force. The other thing that I would say that is pretty unprecedented in my more than two decades of defending activists around the country is the use of felony riot charges.
I think I could count on one hand in the last 20 years activists that were charged with riot that I have defended, and that is thousands and thousands of cases at this point. But now we have dozens and dozens, hundreds around the country or more of people facing these felony riot charges. And the definition of riot is three more or five or more people who are engaged in tumultuous or “violent conduct.” And that happens all the time in activist-land where three or five or more people are doing some kind of mass action that could be described as tumultuous and/or result in property damage, but they are not charged with riot. But now we have this Black or POC led movement that’s engaged in very similar tactics that we saw in the WTO or in other anticapitalist actions or movements, and they were not charged with those crimes. So, it’s interesting that the state and the police are basically proving our point that the police and the justice system as a whole suffer from overt systemic racism and the disparate impacts on activists of color compared to non people of color has been incredibly obvious and overt. It’s almost like they’re proving our point for us. And yet they are so tone deaf. They don’t actually realize what that looks like to the rest of us.
Ryan Fatica: Lauren, what advice would you give to activists today? Particularly young people who may have gotten involved in social movements for the first time this summer. A lot of people may have seen these protests as very powerful, as they were, and were very enamored and are now dealing with some disillusionment with all the repression that we’re facing. What advice do you have for them?
Lauren Regan: The first thing I would say is: if you are going to engage in direct action, you have to take yourself seriously. And that means knowing what you’re getting into before you get into it. That’s not only regarding knowing your rights, which I do think are important. On our website since the pandemic started, we’ve been doing these weekly webinars for activists on all sorts of topics, including security culture, state repression, police misconduct, “know your rights” for climate activists, digital security, all these different topics. If you’re going to engage in activism that involves property damage, for instance, you are basically offering yourself up to the state if you are not prepared for that level of risk. The amount of discovery that I have had to watch of people wearing very distinct costumes and clothing, breaking windows, walking into stores, that are obviously filming, and have video cameras everywhere, and they’re not masked up or they’re in very distinct clothing. And, even in Eugene, where I am, the cops just posted like 60 pages worth of screenshot photos of people who were breaking windows and walking into stores and taking things or just walking around. And now there’s warrants out for their arrest and the state is hunting them.
We actually need to take responsibility for making their jobs so easy and just making ourselves such easy targets. So, the first thing I would say is: take yourself seriously. Know what you’re getting into and at least attempt to mitigate risk before you end up looking around and wonder why there’s a warrant out for your arrest and then being shocked and appalled that you’re being dragged into the state and prosecuted. We’re going to defend those people like crazy. But, I think people sometimes get caught up in the moment maybe, and their brain kind of turns off for a hot minute and they end up in water that they were not prepared to swim in.
Ryan Fatica: I can empathize, I imagine it’s hard to be always on the receiving end of that discovery and seeing video after video.
Lauren Regan: Yeah, it is. The other thing I would say is that although live streaming and citizens videography has been monumental with regard to holding police accountable for misconduct and abuse, it is also overwhelmingly being used by police and the state to incriminate and prosecute our side of the equation. People live streaming from actions and uprisings and showing the faces of people who are committing alleged crimes is working with the state.
Because there’s cops sitting behind computers and their job is to screen capture and record your live stream. In fact, in one of the BLM cases we have going on right now, one of the pieces of discovery received from the cops is a cop using his cell phone to record a computer screen of an activist live stream, showing people allegedly breaking the law. And that is discovery being used against those activists. So people need to get a little more savvy about how they’re using their phones and recording things on the streets. Way more savvy, fast, and then they also need to be much more aware of how social media is being used against them and the movements because the state is getting warrants and sending letters to Facebook and Instagram. In many cases, they don’t even need search warrants in order for these social media companies to voluntarily hand over all your stuff, including your private Facebook chats and other things like that. So anything you put online, you should ask yourself, “how is this going to look as an exhibit being used against me at trial?” Because it’s possible that that is going to happen.
So those are a few things that I would say that we really need to get a handle on really sooner than later, because there is vast damage being done to our movements by a failure to address these changes in technology and the way the state is capturing and using them against us.
Check out the new @IGD_News podcast with Lauren Regan of @CLDC about merger of corporate + State surveillance leveled at social movements. https://t.co/Zxq34r0f3s
— Snitch Watch (@SnitchWatch) August 10, 2019
Ryan Fatica: Thanks Lauren, for explaining all that, it’s all really important. So let’s circle back around to Steve Martinez. He’s sitting in jail right now in Bismarck, North Dakota. Is there an end in sight? How long is he going to be held? [Steve was released from jail February 22, 2021].
Lauren Regan: Well, technically, a contemnor, a person who is refusing to testify to a grand jury, holds the keys to their jail cell. Meaning: at any time they could say, okay, I’ll testify and they would be released from civil contempt of court and they would be brought to the grand jury room and once they testified they could go home. I have no indication that Steve Martinez is going to cooperate with this grand jury. And so in that alternative, number one, his lawyers are going to appeal all of the unusual shenanigans that landed him in jail to begin with.
Number two, there’s something called a Grumbles Motion. The purpose of civil contempt is to coerce you into testifying. And if you can prove that you will not be coerced, that instead of being coercive, your confinement is punitive or punishment, then you should be released from civil contempt of court and that’s called a Grumbles Motion. And I would expect sooner or later that that kind of motion would be made on Steve’s behalf, that he’s not going to testify and so it’s not coercive, it’s punitive and he should be purged from his civil contempt.
Ryan Fatica: How do you go about proving such a thing?
Lauren Regan: Well, normally you have to sit in jail for a while to basically establish that jail is not going to scare you into testifying. And then sometimes, your community will testify and say, “I know that this person has very strongly held ethical beliefs, and I don’t believe that they will ever testify.”
We can also attempt to say that the purposes of the grand jury itself are illegitimate and he should be purged because the grand jury itself is not lawful–that could be a basis. And then, finally, the federal grand juries have a maximum term of 18 months. And, unfortunately, it’s my understanding that this particular federal grand jury had been convened shortly before Steve was brought before it. So there are still 16 months left to go in this grand jury term, meaning that he could serve 16 or 17 months in jail for doing nothing illegal, for doing nothing wrong. He could sit in a prison cell for doing nothing other than refusing to participate in this illegitimate witch hunt of a federal grand jury.
Ryan Fatica: I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of economic damage, among other kinds of damage, being done to him and his family right now. Do you have any idea about Steve, about his life, and the kind of impact his incarceration is having on him and others?
Lauren Regan: I know that he’s probably gonna lose his job. He had a good job during a pandemic. If he hasn’t already lost it. I assume that he will lose all source of income…I don’t know a lot about his partner, but I do know that they have created a gofundme in order to try to help defray costs and expenses that will be incurred as a result of his resistance stance.
Ryan Fatica: And we’ll put a link to that in our show notes. Well, Lauren, thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you want to add or anything that you want people to know before we let you go?
Lauren Regan: I guess I would say that the intent of state repression is to scare the people into submission. And so if you become so afraid that you sit on the couch and click the “like” button and do nothing more about all of the problems in our world right now, then the state wins without even having to do anything.
Paranoia is two steps behind, and awareness is two steps ahead. And one of the best ways to combat state repression is by proving to the state that their tactics will not silence us, will not make us inactive, and that it’s not an effective way for them to try and control society or protect the profits of corporations.
So I would just encourage people to figure out a way that they can contribute to a better planet, a better society, and then do it–whether that’s feeding people or doing free legal work or standing on a pipeline route in resistance–there are so many different ways to contribute. You don’t have to get arrested in order to be an effective activist, but you do need to be doing something right now because, otherwise, it may be too late.
Ryan Fatica: Wow, Lauren, thank you so much for your time and for the work that you do really appreciate it.
Lauren Regan: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate your time too.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ryan Fatica is a member of the Perilous Editorial Collective and a founding member of Perilous Chronicle. He is based in Arizona.
photo: Enrique Alarcon via Unsplash