Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: “State Oppression Presented as Legal Manipulation”

Imagine for a moment that a few windows of a federal building were smashed during a protest. Imagine that, months later, FBI and police officials start raiding homes in three cities and two states, throwing stun grenades to wake people up, and then confiscating black clothing, computers and “anarchist materials.” Imagine that some of these people are then subpoenaed for secret grand juries where legal representation is prohibited.

Oh, wait – you don’t have to imagine. This kind of persecution is directed at activists and radicals right now – in the Pacific Northwest, and across the country. Of course, this is all part of the same state apparatus that relentlessly criminalizes people of color, poor people, and anyone who gets in the way of corporate business as usual.

Grand juries have long been a tool in this country to force activists to testify against one another for fear of imprisonment. They are also used to justify police state tactics – fabricate some evidence, and you get another billion dollars for the “war on terror,” the “war on drugs,” or any other war on dissent.

Thankfully, most of the activists targeted in the recent grand juries are refusing to cooperate, and this brave gesture serves as a valuable example of how to respond to state oppression presented as “legal” manipulation.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore ( is most recently the editor of Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform.


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