U.S. Nixes Subpoenas Against Protesters

12 FEBRUARY 2004


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: February 10,
2004


Filed at 6:14 p.m. ET

 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) —
Federal prosecutors withdrew a subpoena Tuesday ordering Drake University
to turn over a list of people involved in an antiwar forum in November,
as well as subpoenas ordering four activists to testify before a grand
jury.

    Brian
Terrell, leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry and one of the four, told
a crowd of about 100 cheering people outside the federal courthouse: “We
made them want to stop, and we have to make sure they never want to do
this again.”


   The U.S. attorney’s
office had no immediate comment on why the subpoenas were withdrawn just
one day after federal prosecutor Stephen O’Meara issued a statement acknowledging
an investigation was under way.


    O’Meara
said the focus of the probe was alleged trespassing at the Iowa National
Guard headquarters in Johnston that happened while a protest against the
war in Iraq was taking place nearby on Nov. 16. He said the protest, in
which 12 were arrested, was not the problem.


    The antiwar
forum at Drake University was held the previous day.


    Al Overbaugh,
a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said the investigation was
not over, but he would not comment further.


    As part
of the probe, prosecutors had served a subpoena last week asking the university
to turn over the names of participants in the forum.

    It also
requested campus security records about the forum, sponsored by the Drake
chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which included sessions on nonviolence
training and the Iraq war.


    Drake
was preparing legal motions to fight the subpoena when Steve Serck, a lawyer
representing the school, received word it had been dropped.


    “We
would have argued that it chilled the First Amendment rights of free speech
and free association of our students,” he said.


    Civil
liberties advocates welcomed the withdrawals, but said troubling questions
remain. The Iowa Civil Liberties Union pledged to file legal motions
and “use other avenues” to find out why the subpoenas were served in
the first place.


    “If
it was just a trespassing investigation, why seek the membership records
of the National Lawyers Guild?” asked Ben Stone, executive director of
the ICLU. “If this was an attempt to chill protests
through the aggressive policing of a run-of-the-mill crime, we’ve got a
serious problem in America.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith. https://linktr.ee/jaywbabcock