FBI cites terror link in raids of local activists

Agents raided the Minneapolis homes of five antiwar activists, seizing computers and documents.

The FBI raided the Minneapolis homes of five antiwar activists, including three leaders of the Twin Cities peace movement, Friday morning as part of what it called a probe of "activities concerning the material support of terrorism."

The Minneapolis office of an antiwar organization was also raided, protest leaders said. No one was arrested in any of the raids.

FBI spokesman Steve Warfield said the searches were conducted at about 7 a.m. Lawyers said the agents seized computers, cell phones and documents in the protesters' homes.

The federal search warrants in Minneapolis were related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force, Warfield said. He offered no details.

Protest leaders said the raids surprised them. Mick Kelly, whose home was searched, played a central role in the 2008 demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Asked if he was involved in illegal activities, he replied, "Absolutely not.''

Ted Dooley, Kelly's attorney, called the raids "a probe into the political beliefs of American citizens and any organization anywhere that opposes the American imperial design." He said the warrants cited a federal law making it a violation to provide or conspire to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations.

The warrant for the raid on Kelly's apartment, in the 1800 block of Riverside Avenue, sought notebooks, address books, photos and maps of Kelly's travels to the Palestinian territories, Colombia and in the United States on behalf of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. It also sought materials on his personal finances and those of the group, on Kelly's "potential co-conspirators" and recruitment efforts for the group.

The warrant also sought any information about efforts to support FARC, a guerrilla organization in Colombia, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hezbollah, the political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon.

Other homes raided were those of Jessica Sundin, a leader of a large antiwar march on the GOP convention's opening day, and Meredith Aby, a frequent protest spokeswoman.

The FBI also raided the homes of two other Minneapolis activists and the Minneapolis office of the Anti-War Committee, which has sponsored many protests in the Twin Cities in the past decade, including at the GOP convention.

Subpoenas were issued to the activists to appear before a federal grand jury next month in Chicago. Raids also were conducted on two homes in Chicago, and grand jury subpoenas were issued in Michigan and North Carolina.

Searches seek travel data

Kelly said he hasn't traveled to Colombia or the Palestinian territories although he's been to Lebanon. "To me, this is harassment of antiwar activists and leaders who have spoken against U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Middle East."

The FBI also raided Sundin's apartment in the 2900 block of Park Avenue; Aby's home in the 3000 block of 14th Avenue S.; the apartment of Anh Pham in the 3400 block of Blaisdell Avenue, and the apartment of Tracy Molm in the 1700 block of 2nd Avenue S. Molm is an activist in Students for a Democratic Society; Pham is an antiwar activist.

Steff Yorek, an antiwar spokeswoman, said the Anti-War Committee offices at 1313 5th St. SE. also were raided.

Molm said she woke up to "federal agents pounding on the door. I was told to be seated on my couch and I had no rights to walk around the apartment and I was under an investigation for my connections with groups in other countries, particularly Palestine."

She said she went to the Palestinian territories in 2004 with an international solidarity delegation. She said she saw houses demolished without notice and people jailed without evidence. "I don't believe I've done anything illegal."

Sundin said, "They're targeting us because we've supported struggles for justice in other countries, and we oppose the U.S. government's military involvement in places like Colombia." She said she has traveled to Colombia, but has done nothing illegal.

Aby said the warrant she received also focused on the Anti-War Committee, how money was raised and how recruiting worked. She said she believed the raids were designed to intimidate the committee but "will be unsuccessful."

Attorney Bruce Nestor, who frequently represents the activists, said the FBI seemed to focus on allegations of support for foreign organizations designated as terrorist by executive order of the president.

"There is no process whereby you can contest the designation," he said. "Ever since these laws were passed in 1996, there is a concern that they reach so broadly as to certainly chill or intimidate people in speaking out on foreign policy or support for groups that oppose U.S. foreign policy."

Stephanie Weiner, a peace activist in Chicago, said about 20 FBI agents raided her house and took documents and photos, including one of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. "This is an injustice," she said.

In Chicago, the FBI raided a condo of Hatem Abudayyeh, director of the Arab American Action Network, said Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera, a Colombian revolutionary imprisoned in Colorado. Burke, who was given a subpoena, said he is a member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, as are some other raid subjects.

Burke said the group "advocates for socialism in the U.S." and opposes U.S. military intervention abroad. "Chicago and Minneapolis are two of the places we are bigger," he said.

On Friday night, more than 100 people gathered at Walker Community United Methodist Church in Minneapolis to sign statements of solidarity with those whose homes were raided and to make plans for a protest at 4:30 p.m. Monday at FBI headquarters in Minneapolis.

"We refuse to let the accusations of a notoriously untruthful, repressive government divide us in any way," the statement said. "Our struggle will continue."

Staff writer Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report. rfurst@startribune.com • 612-673-7382 asimons@startribune.com • 612-673-4921

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