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Brittany Kenville Responds in Opposition to Grand Jury Subpoena
"I have been working with an attorney, and I plan on exercising every right that I have in response to my subpoena. I have the complete, unfaltering support of my family, my friends and my fellow activists. I encourage anyone else who is subpoenaed to reach out, seek counsel, do research, and learn your rights in these proceedings. I hope everyone reading this will learn more about the grand jury system and join me in standing up against its use as a tool of harassment." — Brittany Kenville
“I plan on exercising every right that I have” to oppose California grand jury, activist saysby Will Potter on November 30, 2012
An activist who has been subpoenaed to a grand jury in California investigating the animal rights movement says she will exercise every right to oppose it and that “using grand juries to harass activist communities does not serve justice, it is simply a means of political repression.”
Brittany Kenville is one of several activists who have been subpoenaed to the grand jury, which appears to be investigating a 2008 fire at the home of an animal experimenter at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In a statement Kenville noted that grand juries have historically used the pretense of a crime, such as the 2008 arson, as justification for threatening activists with jail time if they do not testify about their political beliefs and political associations.
“Grand juries operate in secrecy, and witnesses who choose to testify are not allowed to have a lawyer present when doing so,” Kenville says. “In cases like this, grand juries are used as a tool to strike fear in and intimidate activists, and also to neutralize them from action. They spread seeds of mistrust throughout activist movements, and they operate under the assumption that people in activist communities are inherently guilty by association. I am adamantly opposed to these proceedings. I believe that they are unjust and an appalling misuse of prosecutorial power.”
Kenville has previously been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, and may be asked again to appear. If she refuses to answer questions about her personal beliefs or her friends, it is possible that she would be imprisoned for the duration of the grand jury.
This looming threat is made more real against the backdrop of another grand jury currently convened in Seattle, Washington. A series of Joint Terrorism Task Force raids in the northwest targeted local anarchists. Two anarchists are currently imprisoned for refusing to take part in what they call a political witch hunt. A third, Maddy Pfeiffer, is scheduled to appear again in December (after refusing to answer any questions previously).
In some instances, this threat of jail time is enough to persuade activists to turn on their friends and testify. This is certainly the case when prosecutors subpoena individuals who don’t know their co-defendants well, if at all, and don’t consider themselves particularly active in “the movement.”
When I spoke with Kenville recently, what struck me was that she had no interest in any of these kinds of justifications; she said she would oppose the grand jury and has the full support of her friends, other activists, and most importantly her family.
Brittany Kenville’s full statement is below:
Please consider making a donation toward Brittany Kenville’s legal fees. You can do so on her Tumblr.