A month ago, I met Leah-Lynn Plante, a Portland woman who had been summoned before a federal grand jury in Seattle—without an attorney present, which is how grand juries work—ostensibly to testify about the May Day smashup during which a federal courthouse was vandalized.
But we don't know what, exactly, the grand jury wanted to know—she came to Seattle, but refused to testify. She was told to come back today and has returned, along with several dozen demonstrators.
Plante was not in Seattle on May Day, and she says the prosecutors know that—but she is a self-described anarchist. Her house was raided by the FBI, part of a series of raids in Seattle and Portland by local and federal law-enforcement officials, who, according to the warrants, were looking for items such as black clothing, sticks, paint, computers, cell phones, and "anti-government or anarchist literature or material."
"The assumption that this is about broken windows on a courthouse is a false one," she said in an interview on the courthouse steps this afternoon. "This is a witch hunt."
Emily Langlie, from the US Attorney's office, disagrees—this afternoon, she reiterated that "we do not prosecute people for their political beliefs."
Nevertheless, Plante thinks she has been targeted for her political and social affiliations, and suspects prosecutors are hoping that she, along with other people who've received subpoenas, will incriminate others. If she refuses to cooperate, she could be jailed for contempt of court. Plante was scheduled to go before the grand jury at 2:30 pm.
She also explained that she's not condoning the May Day vandalism. "Just because I'm taking this stand does not mean I endorse anything that happened on May Day," she said.
She's been told she's not the target of the investigation and was recently granted immunity from prosecution in the case, which is more problematic than it sounds. Once she's immune from prosecution, she says, she loses some legal ground in her right to remain silent, because she can't plead the Fifth. Last month, she was prepared to be jailed. Today, she's prepared to be jailed. "It's the last thing I want," she said. "No—that's not right. The last thing I want is for people to give into this kind of pressure."
Other folks—non-anarchists—at the courthouse today made similar arguments. Adrienne Weller, a longtime socialist, said "the widespread raids and intimidation tactics discourage our freedom of speech and dissent against a government that desperately needs dissent."
Weller said this issue is important, not just for activists, but for "people if they care about their right to strike, or even if they care about their right to speak."