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Re: Ariana Tanabe
by Ben Rosenfeld
Friday Nov 9th, 2012 10:20 AM
Regarding the posts that Ariana Tanabe cooperated with the government by testifying before a grand jury allegedly investigating fire-related incidents in Santa Cruz in 2008:


Re: Ariana Tanabe


I am not Ariana’s attorney, but I have knowledge that the characterization that she cooperated with a grand jury is misleading and unnecessarily divisive.  While testifying does not constitute resistance, it does not automatically constitute cooperation.  After Ariana and her attorney vigorously challenged a series of subpoenas over a four year period, she appeared before a grand jury and answered a limited set of questions which the government previewed to her attorney, rather than go to jail.  She did so because (a) she had no information regarding the incidents the government was investigating, and (b) she knew in advance the questions they would ask her.

I support grand jury resistance and commend protest communities for taking a hard line against grand jury use and abuse.  England, from whom we inherited the grand jury system, has abandoned its use, along with the rest of the Commonwealth, leaving the U.S. alone in its sick reliance on this totalitarian tool to probe people’s political and religious beliefs, practices, and associations, and to harass, chill, and disrupt activists and movements. The courts have leapt out of the way of the executive juggernaut and largely abdicated their responsibility to exercise meaningful judicial oversight.

Nevertheless, the issues are complex and the solutions scarce, as they often are in the face of powerful state repression.  Real support has to entail something more than lionizing those who resist and vilifying those who testify.  With all credit due to the people who have stood up to challenge recent grand jury abuse, it is important to acknowledge that no substantial community solidarity has coalesced in support of those subpoenaed in connection with the current Santa Cruz investigation. 

While testifying may be far from the preferred outcome, demanding, as some bloggers posting about Ariana seem to be doing, that every activist (or roommate or friend) who knows nothing go to jail on pain of being ostracized by the community, is not necessarily the best outcome for the community either – to say nothing of the security risks such reaction creates in potentially driving people into the government’s arms.  However ideal and virtuous the demand may be that every subpoenaed activist accept jail time if her legal options run out, it is also unrealistic.  People have different vulnerabilities and needs, and break at different points.  The goal should be to elevate people’s breaking points by providing meaningful, actual support rather than just attaching derisive labels to them if they testify.

To be sure, those sitting in jail for contempt deserve to know their sacrifices are not in vain, and that cooperators are not coddled.  But activist communities have reacted inconsistently toward people who have spoken to the authorities, depending on such factors as the context in which they spoke, what they said, their standing and popularity beforehand, and whether they debriefed afterward.  Activists intimidated into speaking to FBI agents at their door may be given a pass, while those who answered limited questions before a grand jury to avoid becoming another casualty, are sometimes demonized, even if they harmed no one.  Each case is different, and the issues are complex.

Activist communities will have to continue to wrestle with these conundrums amid these ongoing grand jury witch hunts, the incarceration of Kteeo, Matt D., and others, the speculation about Leah’s actions, and Ariana’s appearance.  There are no perfect options in the face of callous government abuse.  Communities may need to develop new principles and best practices which factor in these harsh realities.  And political clients may need to remind their lawyers they want to be represented politically, with solicitude for the welfare of their broader communities, and respect for their communities’ interest in information about otherwise secretive processes.  Lawyers can help to disclose information so as to minimize further harm and invasions of privacy, and also share useful information among each other as part of a joint defense in service of their clients.

I recognize that people may have legitimate questions and criticisms of these views.  I am not trying to indoctrinate anyone in my viewpoint.  For now, I just want to implore people to study the issues in their complexity, and to examine individual cases with journalistic exactitude, before branding their fellow activists as tainted and giving the government the satisfaction of watching activists devour one another alive.

Ben Rosenfeld, Attorney

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by .cp
Saturday Nov 10th, 2012 10:45 AM
many good points.
I'm going to share the biography of Richard Krebs (AK Press) which I recently read. It lays out a historical example of radical activists tracked down and held for forceful interrogation in Germany before WW2. There might be analogous accounts from 3rd world anticolonial struggles etc.

This online preview should let you skip through to the middle of the book. The quick version of this book is that the author was born in 1905, and was a precocious teenage activist who became devoted to communism after WWI when europe was both liberated from the old monarchies but also had economic instability. Cities such as Hamburg had 10s or 100,000s of leftist radicals, and there was a lot of agitation. He describes teams of neighbors arriving to disrupt evictions, large strikes, and also details conflict and infighting between the communists (who were directed in a very top-down hierarchical fashion out of Moscow) against moderate, Roosevelt style social democrats who they viewed as an impediment. Towards the end, Krebs really resents the leadership for being willing to sacrifice the lives of activists.
Skip ahead to page 340 when Hitler's party gained some power in 1932 (several years before roundups of other targeted groups). A gestapo was formed and it only took a couple of months for them to completely dismantle the leftist opposition, which had been very large in many cities. They seized prominent leaders and tortured them to give up names. Many of them wouldn't talk, but they did things like killing family members and giving their children away. They got longer lists of names, did raids on houses, and terrorized all their neighbors and associates by threatening anyone with even vague connections. Nearly all activists who had prominent names had to flee to Holland within a few months, and everyone else learned to avoid opposition parties and remain quiet about their political positions among neighbors (perhaps leading to the impression of silent, willing germans).

So, I can't exactly point to a 'lessons learned' here. We could all spot some clear contrasts and similarities with the modern situation. The german radicals put in gestapo jails often didn't talk due to solidarity and loyalty to comrades, and it was very important that they didn't talk because each new name brought into the system can have a cascading effect of expanding the list. U.S. street protests are legally protected under the 1st amendment- which is very important for our strategies. The Committee against political Repression and similar groups have a rhetorical strategy of informing people about grand juries, and both organizing support and creating social consequences for people who do participate. This strategy of loudly circulating this message should help slow down the dragnet. But the unfortunate people called in have a disproportionate price to pay. A major difference is that U.S. activists aren't centrally organized and sometimes journalists or attendees of street protests have been subpoenaed, rather than only tight-knit groups. ( e.g.The SFPD arresting most of the Columbus day march, and downloading the info from all their cell phones - what is a strategy to avert this?). Can we actually expect peripheral participants at a protest to sacrifice and have loyalty to the ideal of not testifying? It can't hurt to try to convince people that they are expected to anyway, but the police agencies certainly have the advantage of grabbing semi-bystanders and trying to crack them first. The catch 22 is that if the 'true bystanders' who have no information go ahead and testify, it makes resisters look guilty. But the sacrifice they make is not inconsequential. The first grand jury I knew about was Josh Wolf's episode several years ago. When his video footage was aired on TV with totally inaccurate narration about what had happened, I was scared to show up at work the next day, sure that coworkers would spot me in the background. Wolf didn't even have information about alleged crimes, and it seemed very unfair that he should sacrifice to not name his acquaintances, when nobody planned for a street protest to go that way. It would cripple ability to organize a protest, if new, marginal participants told too loudly they owe a loyalty to the group if they unfortunately get picked out for a subpoena. What creeped me out about the recent Portland grand jury is that apparently some of the activists already had their cell phones tapped before a street protest occurred in Seattle (where a courthouse window was broken, under full view of video cameras, and the subpoenaed people clearly weren't the ones who did it.). Does that mean that a whole bunch of people from Occupy Portland were put on an FBI list, and they just jumped at this opportunity because they might have evidence that they may have gone to this protest?
by Jessica M. Pasko
(Jpasko [at] Monday Nov 19th, 2012 10:25 PM
I'm hoping to speak to someone further about people being called in for the grand jury in this case. Is anyone out there able to speak to a reporter about this?
The firebombing of the animal researcher's residence and car happened how many days before the state assembly vote on giving 'special' protection to animal vivisectionists in the form of an FBI liaison for many UC campuses, complete with office and FBI agent on campus?

Of course the state assembly voted for that law and it's funding

In another local false flag operation that has occurred locally in recent history the Anarchist May Day block party was sideswiped by provocational window smashers days before a city vote on whether to fund private security patrols downtown.

Of course the city voted for that patrol and it's funding.
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