Interview with Grand Jury Resister Kerry Cunneen
Grand Jury resister Kerry Cunneen gave an interview to Finn's Revolution radio show. Here is a rough transcript of the interview:
Question: What is anarchism and how did anarchists find themselves at May Day in Seattle?
Kerry: Anarchism is a political philosophy centered on the idea that a society without domination is better suited to foster the wellbeing of its members. Anarchists are necessarily anti-capitalists because capitalism hinges on exploitation and economic division in society. We also oppose the concentration of power that we refer to as the state. These various bodies of law, force, and control seek to contain the possibilities for society and compel us all to perpetuate capitalism. There are many other forms of social domination that anarchists will fight to abolish, such as racism and patriarchy, that are also deeply entwined with capitalism.
As for May Day, it is, among other things, an anarchist holiday. It is a day that commemorates the militant labor struggle for the eight hour work day and the anarchists who were killed or imprisoned by the state for participating in this struggle. In Chicago, where the labor struggle was particularly militant, the police opened fire on a picket, killing and wounding picketers. The next day a demonstration was called and a bomb was thrown at the police line, killing an officer and wounding others. The state tried eight anarchists for the murder, and regardless of whether they were at the demonstration or not, all eight were sentenced to death or life in prison. We take May Day as a chance to remember these militant struggles and to inspire us to keep fighting against the state that wants us submissive or dead. Every year there are demonstrations and other events in cities all over. In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle was calling out to anarchists to come together and have a really massive anti-capitalist march. Many anarchists answered the call and showed up in Seattle that day.
Question: What was May 1, Seattle all about? Were there progressive groups involved? What was your involvement? Were you arrested or investigated? If so, how were you treated?
Kerry: There were a lot of events and marches scheduled for May Day in Seattle this past year. A lot of them were related to occupy. I can't say much about the organizing of Seattle's May Day because I don't live there and was not part of the organizing. I can say that May Day demonstrations have in many places become somewhat placid, not resembling the spirit of resistance to state control. They often get city permits, and designate peace police to
make sure the march is whatever the organizers want it to be. The anti-capitalist march in Seattle was organized to be different. This march was meant to be a disruption of capital. It was unpermitted and there was no leadership in the march or expectation of abiding laws.
I was in Seattle at the anti-capitalist march on May Day. It was a glorious day for anarchists, in my opinion. We effectively disrupted the goings on of downtown Seattle. I was not arrested or anything, but clearly I have become involved in the investigation somehow. But, with secret investigations it is difficult to glean much information.
Question: Some people are appalled when property damage and injury occur in these kinds of events. What can you say regarding that?
Kerry: I would say that property destruction is an important tactic in the fight against capitalism. I think property destruction does a number of things that further the struggle against domination. For one, it solidifies for us and reminds us that the powers we fight are not abstract and insurmountable. They are vulnerable to attack. I think also that when an institution which forcibly maintains power over us is targeted by property destruction, this will often resonate with others who experience the violence of that institution. It makes us feel less alone and less like victims. I think that property destruction has a good effect on those who carry it out as well. I think most people need to unlearn submission and show themselves that they have the capacity to act for their own liberation. I think that when people burn cop cars, break bank windows, or blockade a road (thwarting the transfer of goods and or law
enforcement) they are also demonstrating to themself some of the magnitude of their ability to resist. I think too that in some cases the economic damage of property destruction can be effective against the state and capital. It is not as though breaking windows is an end goal, but it is a
tactic that people shouldn't thoughtlessly cast aside as if it were the introduction of violence into the fight against the state, instead of the response to endless state sponsored violence.
There are many flawed arguments against property destruction, but without a specific one to debunk, I would only extrapolate on this point that in general people are accustomed to experiencing and absorbing state
violence as normal. There is a desensitization and sometimes a blame shifting that goes on to justify state violence against people. But, when people fight back against these concentrated powers it is sensationalized and often viewed as unprovoked or illegitimate. In the case of a demonstration in the streets, it is really awful to hear someone criticize the breaking of windows as they gloss over the acute violence at the hands of the state. Demonstrations are often brutally repressed, people are beaten, pepper sprayed, arrested and imprisoned and this is expected and often accepted by witnesses and people in general. How can a rational person deny efforts of resistance the use of violence against those who hold it in a monopoly? We want to win, we really mean to destroy capital, and for that
we will need to be open to the idea of property destruction. We have to strip capital of its power over society. This is not an easy or voluntary occurrence but one that is achieved by force. Property after all, is a farce.
Question: Kerry, you, Maddy, Matt & Kteeo are currently refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury in Seattle which is investigating events which occurred during May Day protests last year. First, why do you think the government has subpoenaed you and has decided to pressure you to testify? And why are all of you refusing to appear?
Kerry: I don't know why I was subpoenaed to the grand jury. I am an Anarchist, I am known to have been in Seattle on May Day and the Feds are grasping at straws trying to make a case against Anarchists in whatever way they can. I doubt they have any idea who broke the courthouse windows nor do they care. I think they are using the attack on the courthouse as a pretext to bring down a heavy hand and try to scare Anarchists away from militant resistance. It isn't working and I am glad to think that this is frustrating to the state.
I refuse to appear because I despise the state. They are working to undo everything that Anarchists stand for. I refuse to help them on the principle that prisons should be abolished. I refuse them because I am in complete support of the crimes they are investigating. I refuse them with a visceral hatred for the law and all of the lives they ruin. I am glad for the little bit of resistance I can provide in denying them information. I respect and admire Matt, Kteeo and Maddy for making the sacrifice that is involved in sitting for and undetermined jail sentence. I just am not personally willing to take a step in the direction of my own jail cell.
Question: Clearly the government is attempting to intimidate you and anarchists and activists in general. First by calling you to testify in a Grand Jury setting thereby trying to force you give up your right to remain silent which exists in standard judicial courts, and then by jailing some of you to wear you down. Can they legally keep any of you in jail indefinitely until you testify, and just how long do all of you think this can last? Can you talk about what legal actions are being taken on your behalf?
Kerry: The state has the power to do lots of things, legal or not. Legally though, people can be held in civil contempt for not testifying for a period up to 18 months or whenever the grand jury ends, whichever comes first. The grand jury is slated to end by March of 2014 so there could be a lot of people in jail for a long time over this. There are currently no legal actions being taken on my behalf that I know of. I am not in need of any legal help unless I am arrested. There doesn't seem to be much that lawyers can do to help people who are subpoenaed. All of the attempts to get the subpoenas thrown out have been laughed out of the courts. They are going to do all they can to turn people against their principles. I don't see it working with most anarchists though.
Question: Kerry, where can listeners find out more about all this, and what can they do to get involved and help?
Kerry: So, the support group for the subpoenaed folks has a website. It is nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com. That is where you can go for news and updates about the grand jury in the Pacific Northwest. It is also where you can donate some much needed money which will help us fill the commissary of the folks in jail so they can continue to write letters, eat and such things.
We also need money for lawyers fees and in case of indictments coming from the grand jury. There is a support site for the 5 people recently indicted for alleged crimes during the various marches of May Day in Seattle. The site is seattleantirepression.wordpress.com. There is also a
site, saynothing.info which is cataloging the numerous actions of property destruction which are being carried out in solidarity with those resisting the grand jury and its targets.
I would say that people can help by holding fundraisers and other events to raise money and awareness about what is happening. You can contact either support groups to figure out how to set something up in your area. Probably the most important thing though, is that people continue to
struggle in the spirit of the anti-capitalist march on May Day. People need to attack, in whatever way they feel they can, the institutions that hold us down. We are all inspired by resistance and it helps those of us facing repression to know that we don't struggle alone.
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