A group of local antiwar activists gathered outside the Dirksen Federal Building on the morning of June 16 to protest FBI raids on some of their leaders. The FBI raided the homes of seven of the activists in late 2010 on suspicion that they were providing aid to a Pakistani terrorist group.
The press conference was held in support of Carlos Montes, a famous community activist who was having his first day in court in Los Angeles for charges related to illegal gun possession. It was one of several rallies planned to be held in 19 different cities as part of the Day of Action, said Stephanie Weiner, a local activist whose home was among those raided by the FBI last year.
“In my house alone, there were over 20 agents for over 10 hours,” said Weiner, whose husband, Joe Iosbaker, was the central speaker at the press conference.
Weiner said the raids were comparable to those conducted on Martin Luther King, Jr. and some of his compatriots. She said it was a form of intimidation, and the grand jury hearing for them and 20 other suspects was the same.
“The grand jury is like a fishing expedition,” said Weiner.
A few moments before, Magda Castaneda, another local antiwar activist, presented Weiner with a yellow flower from a pot inside the federal building. They hugged before Weiner dove back into the fray.
Castaneda led the press conference, pushing for chants and more applause, and starting it off by yelling into her microphone a bold prediction.
“Let it be known that history is happening here today,” Castaneda said to the crowd.
After a few brief remarks by her and others, Iosbaker took the microphone.
Iosbaker, who works for a local union and the University of Illinois at Chicago, has gained some notoriety for his frequent media appearances since his home was raided. His speech was more focused than the others, and even included a catchy chant: “FBI! We say no! Raids on activists have got to go!”
“When the FBI works together, they are really, really tough. So we have to be tough as well,” said Iosbaker.
He said that all he or his compatriots had done was speak their minds, and the FBI was trying to stop them.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office offered no comment on charges made by the activists against U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Regarding the grand jury investigation, the spokeswoman said her office does not comment on ongoing investigations.
The ten or so activists were outnumbered by the local students who came to write about it for their classes. A few police officers stood to the side. Sheldon Sorosky, a defense attorney in the Blagojevich retrial, walked by in a pink shirt. He, and almost every other passerby, looked at the group momentarily before walking on to wherever it is people go on sunny summer mornings.