Communications Coordinator Amina Sharif Speaks at Press Conference, Condemns FBI Raids

Amina Sharif, CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator,  issued a statement today on behalf of the organization, condemning the FBI’s recent raids  on the homes of local anti-war activists who have dedicated their lives towards peacefully organizing for justice at home and abroad.

This string of raids began on September 24 when more than 70 federal agents in a coordinated raid burst into the homes of prominent anti-war, international solidarity and labor activists across the midwest, seizing many of their possessions.  Four more activists were subpoenaed in Chicago Tuesday, bringing the number of activists targeted to 23.

Sharif shared her words at a press conference held at the Dirksen Federal Building  (230 S. Dearborn, in downtown Chicago).  Other speakers included Michael Deutsch of the People’s Law Office – who for decades has defended political activists  brought before the grand jury, Maureen Murphy – a Palestinian rights activists whose home was raided on Tuesday, Joe Iosbaker –  an activist whose home was raided in September, and Kristin Szremski of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).

Sharif issued the following statement:

“The FBI has overstepped its bounds in targeting individuals based on their commitment to peacefully challenging US policies.

“Contrary to the accusations that these individuals were involved in terrorism-related activity, they are known in the community as peace advocates who fight to ensure that our country does not further human rights abuses.

“As a Civil Rights agency we cannot afford to stay silent when a citizen’s home is raided simply because he or she dared to practice their freedom of speech by voicing an opinion the government deems unfavorable.

“We must remind the government that its job is not to limit the things we say, but to protect our fundamental right to say them.

“It is our right and our duty as citizens to keep our government in line when it goes too far, and in this case, it has gone too far.

“What makes this nation great are our precious rights and freedoms afforded under the constitution. We have the right to free speech and freedom of assembly.

“These raids, searches and grand jury investigations come off as an attempt to limit these rights through the creation of a chilling effect.

“America thrives on a system of checks and balances. We understand that the role of the FBI is an important one. FBI agents are at the forefront of fighting crime, corruption, and security threats for which they must be thanked and supported. But what happens when there is a misuse of power within the agency? What happens if there is bias or overreach? Who checks the FBI? There needs to be stronger oversight and stronger controls over the bureau’s use of its investigative powers.

“We call on the Justice Department to immediately withdraw the grand jury proceedings of the anti-war activists, return all confiscated materials, and cease targeting those who exercise their First Amendment rights to dissent.”