In July of 2017, long-time activist Katie Yow received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury in North Carolina.

Grand juries are not regular trials, but rather operate in secrecy where normal rules of evidence do not apply. The prosecutor runs the proceedings and no judge is present. Defense lawyers are not allowed to be present in the grand jury room and cannot present evidence, and witnesses cannot obtain a transcript of their testimony. If witnesses refuse to provide information to the prosecutor, they can be jailed for up to 18 months.

In this way, grand juries have been used as tools of the State to isolate, divide, and destroy social movements since the 1960’s. They have been used to sow distrust and coerce information from the Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Black liberation movements, the anti-war movement, and more recently the environmental, animal rights, and anarchist movements. They are currently especially being wielded against anarchists, anti-fascists, and indigenous water protectors who struggled at Standing Rock.

But we have powerful tools as well, those of resolute silence, courageous refusal, and fierce solidarity. In honor of her principles and the different world we struggle for together, Katie is refusing to cooperate with this witchhunt. We send our love and solidarity to Katie, and to all who stand against the state and its repressive tactics. Our solidarity will continue to keep us strong if the state seeks other targets. Towards that end, if you have been contacted or subpoenaed, you can email NoRepressionNC@protonmail.com. We are strongest if we stand together and take this repression out of the shadows.

Panel 1

Katie’s Statement

My name is Katie Yow. On Monday, July 10th I was served a subpoena to a federal grand jury, being held in Greensboro, NC, and ordered to appear on July 31st. While many things about what will happen next are developing and uncertain, one thing is absolutely clear: I will never comply with this or any subpoena.

I have lived in so-called North Carolina for my entire life. I am a social worker and an artist who works in mental health and advocacy with young folks whose lives are impacted by courts and incarceration. I spent years before this as an elementary school teacher, a high school librarian, and running a bookstore and community center. I have been an anarchist for nearly half my life. My convictions as an anarchist inform every part of my life, and being part of the anarchist movement gives me all the strength I need to resist this subpoena.

I am resisting this grand jury with the benefit of the example of decades of committed and courageous grand jury resistance by comrades across our movements. I am resisting this grand jury with the considerable support and wisdom of many people who work every day to combat state repression. I am resisting this grand jury in solidarity with all those resisting the unforgivable daily violence of the state.

While we do not yet know the subject of the grand jury, we do know that it follows a spike in FBI harassment across the state. We also know that grand juries are used to intimidate communities of resistance. Whatever the specifics of this situation, our response to this grand jury must be defiance.

I want to express how moved and fortified I have been by the outpouring of support I have already received in the several days that we have been spreading the word about this subpoena. If there is anyone else who may be in the same position that I am with this grand jury, I want to urge you to make it public and resist this grand jury, with me and with all of us. If you have been contacted or subpoenaed, you can email NoRepressionNC@protonmail.com.

I cannot begin to explain what defending the land and the people I call home means to me, but I want to express that my resistance to this grand jury comes from my fierce love for them. I was raised in movement by bold and resilient elders, inheriting histories of resistance that taught me what it means to fight from where you stand. I know people here will respond to this as we do the many other challenges we face: with care, creativity, joy, humor and resolve. Our struggle is long, and our lives are spent in commitment to it. I have spent over a decade organizing and building family with some of the bravest and kindest people I could imagine knowing. I have known, long before now, the depths of our strength, and it is with honor to that strength that I say that there is nothing on this earth that could compel me to degrade my integrity by testifying in a grand jury.

The state demeans everything that we hold dear when they threaten us in this way. The most free and wild thing we have in this world is our love for each other, and we know that our health, our safety and our liberation can only exist in a world without their cops, their courts and their cages. Our strength lies in knowing that we can provide that for each other, and that nothing they offer or threaten is worth betraying our commitment to our communities.

As state repression escalates, I know that all of us are struggling with the trauma and the grief that comes from the forces we fight against, and the vulnerability that we feel to the state in its despicable efforts to attack us. What I also know, what I believe with all my heart and everything I have, is that we have the strength we need to take care of each other and to fight back until we win.

 

Panel 2

What is a Grand Jury?

What is a Grand Jury?

In the federal legal system, the grand jury is used to decide whether someone should be charged (“indicted”) for a serious crime. The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecutor: the U.S. Attorney. The grand jury uses subpoenas to gather this evidence. It can subpoena documents, physical evidence, and witnesses to testify. The “special” federal grand jury, created in 1970, can be used to investigate “possible” organized criminal activity rather than a specific crime. The California legal system also has grand juries, but it is optional whether criminal prosecutions are initiated by grand jury indictment, or by a complaint by the District Attorney and preliminary hearing before a judge.

How is a Grand Jury Different Than a Trial Jury?

Unlike the “petit” jury, which is used to determine guilt in a trial, a grand jury consists of 16 to 23 jurors who are not screened for bias. The purpose of the grand jury is not to determine guilt or innocence, but to decide whether there is probable cause to prosecute someone for a felony crime. The grand jury operates in secrecy and the normal rules of evidence do not apply. The prosecutor runs the proceedings and no judge is present. Defense lawyers are not allowed to be present in the grand jury room and cannot present evidence, but may be available outside the room to consult with witnesses. The prosecutor and the grand jury members may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room and witnesses cannot obtain a transcript of their testimony.

How Has the Grand Jury Been Used by the State?

Because of their broad subpoena powers and secretive nature, grand juries have been used by the government to gather information on political movements and to disrupt those movements by causing fear and mistrust. The grand jury lends itself to being used for improper political investigation due in part to the prosecutor’s ability to question witnesses without regard for rules that prohibit irrelevant, unreliable or unlawfully obtained evidence. Those called before the grand jury may be compelled to answer any question, even those relating to lawful personal and political activities. That information has been used by the government as a basis to conduct further surveillance and disruption of political dissent. When used against political movements, the grand jury causes fear and mistrust because persons who refuse to answer questions about their First Amendment political activities, friends and associates may be jailed for the life of the grand jury: up to 18 months. If a witness asserts their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, they may be forced to accept immunity or go to jail for contempt. Even a witness who attempts to cooperate can be jailed if minor inconsistencies are found in their testimony. Such a perjury charge may stand even when the grand jury fails to hand down any indictment for what it was ostensibly investigating.

Panel 3

Media

An Archive of Press Covering NC Resistance to the Grand Jury

Panel 4

More Resources

The Frontlines Are Everywhere Zine by Water Protector Anti-Repression Crew

Grand Jury Resistance at Standing Rock by The Final Straw Podcast

Grand Jury Flowchart PDF

Grand Jury FAQ

Dealing with Grand Juries by CLDC

Committee Against Police Repression

What You Should Know About Grand Juries

The Strange Success of Grand Jury Resistance

Grand Juries Are An Abuse of Power from CLDC

Don’t Talk the Police or FBI Poster from Crimethinc

Support the PNW Grand Jury Resisters from Crimethinc

Grand Jury Trainingby Midnight Special Law Collective

Grand Juries and Past Liberation Struggles from Freedom Archives 

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Panel 5

Media

An Archive of Press Covering NC Resistance to the Grand Jury