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Law

Remnant of last year's May Day riots: Grand jury resisters

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Protesters are seen clashing with police on May Day, 2012.

Reverberations from last year's May Day melee in downtown Seattle are still being felt among some activists in the Pacific Northwest.

You could say what happened after the window-smashing by black bloc anarchists on May 1, 2012 has spawned a whole new protest movement, the grand jury resistance movement.In videos like this one from May Day of 2012, you see black-clad protesters breaking windows at the Nakamur federal courthouse building on Sixth Avenue in Seattle.

It was this attack on federal property that prompted the FBI to get involved and the U.S. Justice Department to convene a federal grand jury to investigate. And it’s what happened before the grand jury that seems to have launched a whole new protest movement.

Four people called before the grand jury refused to answer questions about possible suspects. They were ordered locked up until they agreed to talk. Olympia resident Katherine (KTeeO) Olejnik spent five months in the federal detention center at SeaTac, more than 60 days of that in solitary confinement.

Olejnik’s attorney Jen Kaplan says the treatment of her client was over the top, especially considering that Olejnik wasn’t  even in Seattle when the federal property was vandalized.

“And she testified as much—she was not at May Day. Nobody had told her about their plans to go to Seattle for May Day, and she hadn’t been in Seattle the week before or prior," Kaplan said.

Supporters of the grand jury resisters, as Olejnik and others are called contend the government is on a sort of witch hunt to crack down on the anarchist movement in the Pacific Northwest. As evidence, they point to court papers in which an FBI agent indicates the feds had a group of anarchists under surveillance last year as they drove from Portland to Seattle.

The U.S. Attorney’s office won’t comment on the secret grand jury proceedings, or the FBI’s ongoing investigation into last year’s May Day riots. Kaplan says she thinks it’s had a chilling effect on free speech.

Protests are once again planned for this May Day. On flyers promoting anti-capitalism marches in Vancouver B.C. and elsewhere, repression of grand jury resisters is high on the list of things being singled out to protest.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.