Saturday, November 21, 2009

What is a Grand Jury?

Being part of a community means we help each other. We support each other. We strengthen each other. And sometimes, we must make sacrifices for each other.

Grand juries started as an important part of our justice system to prevent over-reaching prosecuting powers. However, this process has been used historically against political movements. In the context of this history, most recently in the Green Scare, when investigative techniques of law enforcement have been halted by the silence of political movements, grand juries have been used as a tactic to intimidate our communities and as an attempt to coerce testimony from movement members.

This is an abuse of a constitutionally mandated process by using it as an investigative tool rather than its intended purpose.

Grand juries can be very disempowering for us all, and especially for those targeted by them. We face questioning without legal counsel present or a right to remain silent. We can be threatened, coerced, and jailed. However, no punishment could be worse than surrendering our values. And this decision, whether we cooperate or resist, is the one thing we, as individuals, have control of in this process. Luckily, this is the choice that allows these grand juries to succeed or to fail.

Our willingness to cooperate and to be complacent, our willingness to be intimidated and to be scared, not only serves to legitimize these proceedings, but it also empowers the tactics of state repression. However, when we as individuals, with the strength and backing of our communities, are no longer afraid of their punishment, choose to resist this process and refuse to cooperate, we dis-empower this tactic and give strength to our communities. We return the strength that is given to us.

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