Detroit, MI- Tuesday morning, the FBI and Coast Guard issued
subpoenas to Marie Mason and Frank Ambrose of the Sweetwater
Alliance and Massasauga Earth First!. The subpoenas ordered
the two to submit fingerprints and DNA samples to a federal
grand jury being convened in Grand Rapids. Ambrose and Mason
plan to fight the subpoenas. They believe that the grand jury
demands are illegal and are not issued as part of a real investigation,
but rather a blatant attempt to harass activists and gather
information about dissident movements.
Grand juries are antiquated legal bodies, a leftover from
early British law. They conduct an investigation in order
to determine if there is sufficient evidence to press charges
against the individual. They have been used extensively as
a political tool throughout the country, especially under
this administration, to intimidate and repress activist communities.
When a person is subpoenaed by a grand jury, they must comply
or risk imprisonment. In this way, an innocent person can
be jailed for noncompliance, whether or not evidence exists
to convict them of any crime. Those subpoenaed to testify,
lose their right to plead the 5th amendment and the right
to have legal counsel present during any of the process. People
are forced to decide between talking to the FBI and lending
credibility to these questionable proceedings, or going to
jail. [for extensive information on grand juries, see http://www.protectcivilliberties.com/grandjuries.html]
Marie and Frank have been very vocal in the fight to end
the water shut offs in Detroit and Highland Park, as well
as in the campaign to shut down the Ice Mountain bottled water
plant in Stanwood, MI. The Detroit water board is violating
thousands of people’s human rights by shutting off their
water for non-payment. In Highland Park, the city manager
(a state appointed official) has shut off, or is threatening
to shut off over half of the city’s 16,000 residents.
While our poorest citizens are denied access to water, corporations
get it for free. Despite a $2 billion dollar budget deficit
for Michigan, Gov. Granholm is giving Ice Mountain $10 million
in tax abatements while they pump our ground water for free.
Ice Mountain, a subsidiary of Nestle, makes profits of over
$1 million a day from the sale of our water.
The water campaign has made successful links between the
urban and rural struggles for water rights. "The corporations
and their stooges in the state government want to continue
to use the divide and conquer strategy to weaken this movement
and facilitate their bid to privatize control of Michigan’s
water. They think they can split us along racial and class
lines. They think they can frighten people with grand juries
and the FBI. They’re just plain wrong", said Mason.
Water activists across the state have been harassed by FBI
visits in recent weeks. It is believed that the FBI is investigating
the attempted sabotage at the Ice Mountain bottling plant.
"The FBI’s unwelcome visits are meant to serve
as a distraction and a deterrent to citizens’ ability
to express their discontent with government policies,"
said Ambrose. " They want people to be afraid to get
involved, for fear of being harassed by the FBI. They make
people feel like they are common criminals for caring about
protecting water. It is inappropriate for the government to
hire out its henchmen to the corporations who want to despoil
The FBI has its own checkered past. Just recently, the FBI
was found to have violated two Earth First! activists’
civil rights 11 years ago in California, after someone attempted
to assassinate them with a car bomb in 1991. Judi Bari and
Darryl Cherney were awarded $4.4 million by a jury to compensate
for their losses due to the FBI’s campaign to silence
and marginalize them. At the time of the bombing, the two
were organizing for Redwood Summer, a summer of actions to
protect the ancient redwoods in California.
The two subpoenaed local activists, Marie Mason and Frank
Ambrose, have hosted events in the past to educate the public
about FBI abuses of power and how the agency uses their power
to divide and disrupt political movements. There is a great
need for the public to be aware of past government abuses.
"In order to prevent any more harassment, we need to
stand together and denounce the FBI and the corporations they
are protecting. The FBI is no friend of the people or of the
earth," said Dana Gross, Sweetwater Alliance.
Several years ago, the FBI engaged in a campaign of harassment
against the two environmental activists under similar circumstances
in Indiana. There, several groups were working in coalition
to end logging on public lands. In an attempt to divide a
successful activist community, the FBI raided Mason and Ambrose’s
home and brought false charges against Ambrose. The government
later dropped the charges, after 9 months of attempting to
brand him a terrorist in the media, due to a total lack of
The Water Defense Committee is asking people to call the office
of the Attorney General and demand that he un-convene the
Assistant US Attorney Lloyd K. Meyer
Grand Rapids, MI