*The article was originally published in 2011 to call attention to FBI raids against anti-war, labor, and international solidarity activists in Chicago, the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and other parts of the Midwest.
Anh Pham and her husband were still in bed when the FBI came to their home on September 24. Pham’s husband went to the door and returned to tell Pham that FBI agents were at the door and wanted to speak to her. Pham asked him if they had a warrant. He didn’t know.
She left the bedroom with her husband to see if the FBI had a warrant, but by that time it was “almost a moot point.” The FBI had let themselves into Pham’s house.
The FBI presented Pham with a warrant. It said they were going to search through her apartment for any evidence that she had given “material aid to terrorism.” They particularly wanted to know if she had helped the revolutionary forces of Colombia (FARC) or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
They mentioned her work with the Anti-War Committee (AWC) and her relationship with the Freedom Road Socialists in Minnesota. Specifically, they used the words “my indoctrination” and wanted to know about her “indoctrination” into the Anti-War Committee and these groups.
Pham’s grand jury date was “the first of three dates” set in October for activists who were subpoenaed to appear. All of the fourteen who were subpoenaed pled the fifth and refused to testify. A month went by and then on November 2, Election Day, Pham’s lawyer was notified that Pham’s subpoena was reactivated.
“When I tell people what’s happening to me and what I see in my subpoena, people who are not activists, who go to classes of mine and who are just people in day to day life, who do any political work , [they] say that this is McCarthyism,” said Pham. “These aren’t things they are getting from any literature we’ve put out, but these are things they remember from growing up here.”
She fears the PATRIOT Act and the Holder v. Humanitarian Aid Law decision by the Supreme Court is being used by the government to prevent activism and deter Americans from getting into debates about what their country is doing in their name.
Pham joined the AWC when she was no longer a college student and had graduated. She wanted to be part of a group that wasn’t a student group.
Her profile on the Committee to Stop FBI Repression website says, “As a member of the AWC, she helped organize local forums, pot-lucks and teach-ins as well as buses to Washington D.C.for protests. She traveled to El Salvador to attend an anti-globalization conference and then to Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine where she met with NGO workers and activist who shared their struggles.”
“Pham immigrated to the U.S. from Viet Nam with her family in 1975 after the end of the war. Her family raised her with a strong sense of community service and she taught Sunday school to toddlers at the first Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Minnesota.”
When news came that the Republican National Convention was going to be held in St. Paul, Minnesota, the AWC organized a large mobilization against U.S. wars to coincide with the convention.
“Because it was going to be held in the center of the country, there was a fear that there would be no response, and especially with the failed antiwar policies, there needed to be a strong response,” recalled Pham.
The members of the AWC wanted the public to know there were people who thought the occupation of Iraq was wrong and the continued militarization that is going on in the country should be opposed.
The AWC applied for a permit. Their application for a large legally permitted demonstration on the very first day of the Convention was denied. The AWC organized a large coalition with antiwar organizations, trade unions, etc, which met over a period of time and held regular protests along the proposed march route. Finally, they were given the permit, which made the coalition proud.
However, in the week before the Convention, when the activists saw the pens authorities expected the activists to use during their protest at the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention was held, they realized they were not going to get anywhere near the center to speak and deliver their message to attendees.
Pham said her parents often do not agree with her, but as Pham remains the target of this FBI investigation, Pham’s parents remember why they brought her to the United States. She was supposed have the right to speak out against the government.
Pham still believes “the most important work for anti-war and solidarity activist to do is to speak to our own leaders about our military spending and foreign policy here in the U.S.” She was surprised when she got the subpoena for being involved with the AWC because it has been a few years since she worked with the group. She has spent most of her time recently advocating for immigrants.