National SJP Statement on Impact of Grand Jury Subpoenas on Students’ First Amendment Rights

Today, the Harvard PSC joins 54 other student groups around the country in speaking out against the aggressive use of grand jury subpoenas to stifle the lawful and peaceful work of students, journalists, and peace activists in the Chicago and Minneapolis areas. For background information, see Democracy Now, the Electronic Intifada, and MondoWeiss.

Students for Justice in Palestine

National Solidarity Statement on Impact of Grand Jury Subpoenas on

Students’ First Amendment Rights

December 29, 2010

“For if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

– James Baldwin, in an open letter to Angela Davis, November 19, 1970

As students at over fifty American universities, we unequivocally condemn the abuse of grand jury subpoenas to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights by university students and anti-war activists speaking and organizing against Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people. Since September 24, 2010, the F.B.I. has served at least 24 grand jury subpoenas on students and activists in a secret investigation that many have called a witch-hunt. We call upon Attorney General Eric Holder and United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to respect the civil rights and free speech of all those who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom by immediately withdrawing grand jury subpoenas which threaten the First Amendment rights of students and activists around the country.

The government’s assault on organizations and individuals who support the Palestinian struggle for freedom has become increasingly authoritarian. The abuse of laws criminalizing “material support for terrorism” is unprecedented and, had they been implemented at the time of South African apartheid, would have effectively criminalized broad American support for the anti-apartheid movement. At the apparent behest of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the government today has cast a net so wide that it has entangled journalists, college students, and peace activists. We know that a campaign so indiscriminate will seriously impinge on the First Amendment and other civil rights of people living in the United States. This will, in particular, affect active and outspoken students on university campuses, especially those of Palestinian descent.

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