Public Statement From Lindsay Parme- Jailed Animal Activist and Grand Jury Resistor
Lindsay Parme, a California animal rights activist, has been imprisoned since her arrest by FBI agents on June 12, 2003. Lindsay was arrested for defying a New Jersey judge's order to appear before a Grand Jury--currently one of at least six Grand Juries investigating the animal rights movement.
June 23, 2003
An Open Letter From Jail
My name is Lindsay Parme and I am an animal rights activist. I am not a criminal and I am not a terrorist. I?m just one person among millions in this country who believes that non-human animals are deserving of respect, consideration, and compassion. I have stood up and offered my voice to the animals within laboratories, fur farms, circuses, and other institutions that view animals as nothing more than commodities. Today I sit in jail not for committing any crime or for breaking any law, but simply because I believe that it is our obligation as humans to resist oppression and injustice. I have been sitting in jail, without any charges against me, since Thursday, June 12th and I have no idea when I will be released.
On January 20th of this year I was served a subpoena at my home by FBI Special Agent Madison of the Watsonville, CA field office to appear and testify before a federal Grand Jury in Newark, New Jersey. To this day, I still have no idea why I received this subpoena in the first place, as I?ve never been to New Jersey. I did not appear before the grand jury and instead had an attorney inform Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna that my appearance was unnecessary, as I would only be invoking the Fifth Amendment in response to his questions. He still demanded that I travel to New Jersey and got a judge to issue an order commanding my appearance.
Unless in a similar situation, I don?t think anyone can quite understand how maddening it is to know that some supposed ?higher? governmental power can demand you to put your life on hold for an indeterminate amount of time and travel across the country to answer some questions posed by an investigatory body that operates in complete secrecy. Not only do these proceedings occur far-removed from the public, but I would also not be allowed to have an attorney appear with me and could be denied Constitutional rights like the Fifth and First Amendments.
These grand jury proceedings occur not for the purpose of investigating any real crimes; rather, they are fishing expeditions into the animal rights movement. Let it be clear that I have nothing to hide, I have committed no crime and in fact have not even been charged with any crimes in relation to this grand jury, yet I face 18 months in prison for refusing to cooperate out of principle. I refuse to answer questions about who my friends are, what my political affiliations are, and what the political affiliations of my friends are. I refuse to assist and aid Assistant U.S. Attorney McKenna?s political witch-hunt.
Despite having a ?Subpoena to Testify Before Grand Jury? in my possession, AUSA McKenna refuses to acknowledge that this grand jury exists. The U.S. government refuses to admit that this grand jury was empanelled in October of 2002 with the sole intention of investigating the animal rights movement, yet has no qualms about indefinitely imprisoning me in regards to this grand jury. Grand juries like this one have historically been used to investigate, intimidate, and disrupt political movements and for this reason have been abolished in most democratic nations. I might as well be asked whether I am a communist or if I know anyone with communist sympathies. Political grand juries are the antithesis of all that is democratic and I must follow my conscience and refuse to cooperate with this abuse of power.
My conscience forces me to stand up in defense of sentient life. My conscience tells me to resist oppression and injustice. My conscience obliges me to speak out against suffering. My conscience makes me speak out against the racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic statements that our society promotes daily. And my conscience compels me to do everything within my power to stop injustice wherever it appears. I have no affinity for jail and I have no desire to remain incarcerated. But I cannot, in good conscience, walk into that grand jury room and validate its existence. My conscience forbids me from acknowledging a grand jury whose sole purpose is to undermine the legitimate efforts of the animal rights movement. When forced to choose between my freedom and cooperation with a grand jury system that flies in the face of all that is democratic, I must follow my conscience?even if it leads me to a jail cell.
In the South in the 1960s they used fire hoses and attack dogs to suppress political movements. Today in New Jersey they use grand juries and FBI agents to disrupt the efforts of animal rights activists. In the 1960s, the abuse of power and criminal acts of law enforcement is now clear and obvious. In 2003, that abusive government still exists, only in a far more subversive manner. While the law may have supported the injunctions prohibiting the civil rights marches on Selma, history has shown us that the moral right is at times in conflict with the legal right. As an activist, I must always choose the moral right. Those of us working to make the world a more just and compassionate place are not criminals. The real criminals are those who go to work in the morning and butcher beagle puppies for a paycheck and it is now apparent that our government supports those who violate the laws of morality, of compassion, and of empathy. People gave up their freedom and lives for civil rights in America; I am prepared to spend 18 months behind bars for that same sense of justice.
One U.S. Attorney has said that I have no respect for his authority. Maybe he?s right. I cannot respect his authority when it is a product of corruption and brutality. The government wants me to put my life on hold indefinitely and travel across the country to answer some questions that they know full well I have no intention of answering. I am not acting out of fear or rebelliousness. I simply refuse to assist the government in their campaign of harassment against political dissidents. How would any self-respecting, sovereign, and freethinking adult react when demanded to travel across the country without explanation and appear before a secret panel that operates behind closed doors?hidden from the public. I?m reacting just as any dignified person would react when bullied by thugs. I?ve broken no law, I?m not even charged with a crime. Yet I will sit in this jail cell for the next two weeks before being shipped like human cargo to New Jersey where I will face 18 months in prison for not talking about things I know nothing about.
Martin Luther King, Jr. told us that the true measure a person comes not in times of comfort and convenience, but in times of challenge and controversy. He states that, "On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question?is it politic? Vanity asks the question?is it popular? Conscience asks the question?is it right?" My conscience tells me that I am right and I would ask all those on the outside to follow their conscience and do what is right. Stand up and create compassion and justice for those who have no one but us.
Until All Are Free,
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