On July 26, 2012 at 1 PM activists near Burlington, VT received a knock at the door of their home from two FBI agents. The agents asked to speak with a member of the household who wasn't present. The person who answered the door, organizer and self-identified anarchist Jo Robin, a pseudonym, asked the agents why they were looking for her roommate. While they initially declined to tell her, they ultimately said that they wanted to ask him questions about the Northeast Governors' Conference, to take place in Burlington over the July 28th weekend.
Organizers from the northeast United States and Quebec have planned a convergence to coincide with the binational governors' meeting, the BTV Convergence. Members of the FBI-targeted house near Burlington have been actively involved in planning the convergence, including Jo Robin.
"I think it's highly inappropriate for the FBI to visit my home to ask my roommate about his political activity," said Robin. "That kind of intimidation intends to chill political speech. It isn't appropriate and I want the federal government to know that we are not intimidated."
It's not the first time Robin has been approached by law enforcement to inquire about her First Amendment protected political activity. While organizing in New York City she was repeatedly, informally interrogated by plainclothes NYPD officers about her protected speech and association. On more than one occasion, members of the NYPD legal office called Robin out by her legal name in public. An NYU and Fordham University study released this week says that Robin is far from alone, reporting "evidence that police made violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments, obstructed independent legal monitors and [were] opaque about [their] policies."
Today's FBI visit to the activist house near Burlington in advance of the governors' conference follows a week of FBI raids on houses affiliated with anarchists in the northwest United States.
Also this week, journalist and green activist Will Potter released documents showing that the FBI "is creating reports and maintaining files about the writing, interviews, and lectures of journalists who are critical of the government’s repression of political activists," including his own writing, which agents called "compelling and well written."
Remember: if the FBI asks to speak with you, you do not have to talk to them, no matter what they say. The best thing you can do is take the agent's card and say your lawyer will contact them. Say nothing else, because lying to a federal agent can get you in very serious trouble, and they'll figure out a way to make it look like you lied. Watch the clip below to see how that works. Don't get caught in their vice; don't speak to them without your lawyer present. Ever.
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Read more on the targeting of dissent.