Report on recent FBI activity in the Pacific Northwest. Originally posted to Puget Sound Anarchists.
Puget Sound Prisoner Support (PSPS) is an anti-repression collective based in Seattle. For 5+ years we have provided jail and legal support for people who have been arrested at protests and demonstrations. We walk people through the legal procedure of arrest, court proceedings, bail if necessary, getting in touch with a lawyer also if necessary, and in general help people understand a confusing legal system. We do not provide legal support for people who get arrested for civil disobedience; rather, we provide an “emergency service” for when participants of a protest or demonstration get arrested. We offer a safety net for people to land in when the unexpected happens and things go wrong. We’ve supported friends and strangers alike, bailed people out, showed up at court proceedings throughout trials, and helped with fundraising to cover legal costs. Our major caveat is that we do not offer support to anyone who would endanger our communities by way of cooperating with the police, the courts or any other governing agency. No snitching, plain and simple.
The nature of our work has changed over the last 5 years as the anarchist and radical milieus have shifted in the Seattle area. We worked primarily by word of mouth up until very recently. Frankly, we used to know enough of the crews and they knew us that we didn’t need to ’advertise.’ Recently, we found that the newer formations of more formal organizations and the accompanying growing radical left meant that we needed to more broadly put ourselves out there as a resource. Hence the new @pugetsupport twitter and increased public engagement. A lot of the more formal crews and groups in the area have their own jail support structures, and we deeply applaud this. Our work has almost always focused on helping unconnected, newer or unaffiliated people stay out of legal trouble by not being alone through the process. Cops, District Attorneys and the feds love to focus on people that they think might be more peripherally involved and therefore less invested, experienced and more susceptible to pressure. We are primarily here for those folks.
We are a small collective providing support for those targeted by the state during demonstrations and events in the PNW. We are not lawyers and do not give legal advice or counsel. Please check back here for information regarding arrest updates. DMs are open.
— Puget Sound Prisoner Support (@PugetSupport) January 3, 2020
The FBI in particular has a long and active history of targeting anarchists in the Pacific Northwest. We are hoping to create some workshops and open events about the history of the use of the Grand Jury to target anarchists soon. We recently realized that people who are newer to the area or the scene may not be aware of this history of repression, or our collective response to it. Our aim is to reinvigorate some of the security culture that was built in that time, and to learn from the wins and losses of that older movement. With that, we would like to address what we see as a deep necessity to be open and transparent about investigations that are happening in our area, including visits from the FBI or other federal agencies. In the meantime, here is a zine and resource list prepared by Resonance Audio Distro on Grand Juries.
Every instance of state surveillance should be viewed as a threat not just to ourselves but our networks that stretch beyond what we may think of as those who are affected. Sometimes even the smallest detail opens up bigger and broader nets for the state to cast in an attempt to try to get information. In openly tracking what is happening around door knocks and other surveillance activities, we can both foster support for those targeted and directly impacted, and allow for lessons to be passed on about how to respond if an agent is at your door, work, etc. It is from a culture of open sharing and dialogue that safer communication can come from those targeted as well, allowing them to say what happened, instead of rumors and misinformation circulating. A lack of transparency allows for possible mistrust, and also helps the state sow that same mistrust even deeper and weaken us. It is also important to track what alphabet agency is knocking (FBI, SPD, DHS, JTTF, CBP, etc.) for the purposes of at least examining where and with what the state seems to be attempting to exert power. If we see patterns or know who to watch out for, the community/milieu/whatever at large is safer than if people on the fringes are picked off one by one to try and move in on more and more individuals.
With all that in mind, here is a statement from Ezra, a member of the local community, recounting from his perspective a conversation he had with FBI and CBP agents, which we will be responding to:
On January 2nd, 2020 I was visited by an FBI agent and a CBP agent. They arrived at my home the day after I bought a plane ticket to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq to join the YPG as an International Volunteer. In what was frankly a moment of fear I allowed them to speak with me about the intentions of my visit. I allowed them to come inside and they spoke with me about my trip for approximately half an hour, and left. Immediately afterwards, I told my comrades what happened and what was discussed. I’ll be the first to admit I should have turned them away, but I wanted to make it clear to them that I wasn’t joining ISIS or anything like that. I understand that this may damage the trust that our community has in me, and I will respect whatever consensus is reached. I hope the community will prioritize a culture of security and trust, and that the success of antifascist, anti-capitalist struggle is maintained. You can reach out to me for any questions in regards to this before I leave.
Love and solidarity,
This visit was brought to our attention via a third party and not from Ezra. When we did reach out to Ezra, he was very amenable to the idea of having a sit down conversation about the visit and possible responses to it. There were several issues we found inside of our conversation that lead to the desire for a public statement. Namely, a 30 minute conversation with the FBI is a serious situation that everyone needs to know about in order to make their own decision about. Secondly, we felt that Ezra while acting in good faith, should have spoken to more than just his “comrades” about the situation. A lack of public engagement leaves large holes for possible misinformation and distrust, and leaves the rest of us in the dark about possible repression. One telling fact from his encounter is that a CBP agent was with the FBI, something we have not encountered here in the Seattle area and is good information for those doing anti-repression work or individuals currently attempting to dodge authorities.
This statement is not an attempt to chastise Ezra, but to bring to light that a person inside our community was visited by federal agents and decided for their own reasons to have a sit-down conversation with them and then neglected to inform the broader community around him. We are reproducing his statement here in an effort to dispel rumors, and give the broader community of anarchists a chance to make up their own minds about their future involvement with Ezra. We don’t know what was said inside this conversation, and we never will. We do know that non-cooperation with the state has been a long-standing mantra of the anarchist community, and that in this instance, regardless of intention, that idea was broken.
If you are visited by the FBI, JTTF, CBP or any other organ of the state repression apparatus, please let the broader community know. You do not need to out yourself or identify yourself in any way. We are all safer when a brief statement of day, approximate time, and the agencies involved are made public. Here is a link to an article from 2017 when FBI agents were knocking on peoples’ doors in Olympia, WA . PSPS is always here as a resource to help facilitate this, and anonymous posts can be easily made to pugetsoundanarchists.org.
Secondly, if you are visited, please do not speak with the officers in any capacity. Close the door, walk away, say nothing and get yourself out of that situation. Contact a lawyer, us, or both and let people know what has happened. The state has a monopoly on fear, and that fear is a huge part of these interactions. Anyone who says they are not afraid when an agent knocks is lying, we all are. But we can move through that fear together, we can shoulder it among all of us and make the weight less for each of us. To do this though, we must inform each other and extend those small tendrils of trust. We are all in this together.
You can reach out to Puget Sound Prisoner Support via email at psps (at) riseup (dot) net or via twitter @PugetSupport
-Puget Sound Prisoner Support crew