“We need to wake up.”

It’s not directly about art, but todays Democracy Now has some pretty chilling information on the government’s current crackdown on domestic dissent. The whole show is worth checking out but here is an excerpt of the interview with imprisoned independent journalist Josh Wolf. It is worrisome stuff for anyone trying to speak out about what is happening in this country, artist or journalist.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, we spoke with Josh Wolf from his jail cell in Dublin, California. I began by asking him why he’s in prison.

JOSH WOLF: I’m here for refusing to comply with a subpoena demanding that I both testify and turn over a tape of a protest that occurred on July 8, 2005.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you refusing to comply?

JOSH WOLF: Well, there’s a number of reasons. It’s been viewed that the tape is central to the issue, but it’s also the testimony. Essentially, what the government wants me to do, as we can tell, is to identify civil dissidents who were attending this march, who were in mask and clearly did not want to be identified, but whose identities I may know some of, as their contact that I’ve been following in documenting civil dissent in the San Francisco Bay Area for some two-and-a-half years now.

AMY GOODMAN: US Attorney Kevin Ryan’s office says they’re investigating whether protesters tried to torch a police car. Ryan’s spokesperson, Luke Macauley, said the grand jury needs the video to “determine what, if any, crimes were committed.” Your response?

JOSH WOLF: Well, my response is that we’ve offered to turn the video over to the judge to review in camera to determine whether or not there is any evidence on the tape. The US Attorney’s office has said that that would not be appropriate, because there’s certain information that only the grand jury is privy to. I don’t understand why the grand jury information can’t be then passed on to the judge, who can balance all these factors and determine whether or not there is any evidence on the tape, which I contend to this day there isn’t, because all newsworthy material on the video was put out online the night of the incident, because I had no idea this was going to all bubble up when I was shooting the video that night and editing it down later on.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened that day in 2005. What was the protest you were covering?

JOSH WOLF: The protest was against the G8 summit, which was going on in Gleneagles, Scotland, at the time. It started in the Mission — it was actually completely in the Mission District of San Francisco. There was probably about 100 people, mostly anarchists. It was facilitated by a group called Anarchist Action, and they proceeded to walk through the streets. There was some minor property damage, some spray-painting, that sort of thing, dragging newspaper stands into the streets. At some point in time, the police — kind of the tactical police squad backed off, and the main police didn’t seem to be around. At that point, a lone squad car that was just patrolling the neighborhood proceeded to accelerate into the crowd. This is what set off the issues that have since become so explosive, because shortly after the car rammed into the crowd, they took off and tackled two individuals.

I happened to be witnessing and filming one, who was being choked, and you could see it on my videotape. The other individual, the other cop that took off, I don’t really know what happened, because I was following the one. The cop that I wasn’t filming was apparently struck in the head during some sort of an altercation, and at some point, allegedly by the US Attorney, someone threw some sort of a firework four days after the Fourth of July in the vicinity of the cop car, although when I walked past the cop car I certainly didn’t see any flames protruding, and the damage report shows that there wasn’t really any damage to the cop car beyond a broken taillight.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Wolf, why aren’t you protected by California Shield Law, that protects journalists?

JOSH WOLF: I am protected by the California Shield Law. This isn’t in California state court, though. This is in federal court. And the federal government does not acknowledge any sort of federal protections for journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: How did this end up in federal court?

JOSH WOLF: The government contends that there is a statute that says that because the San Francisco Police Department gets money from the government for training against terrorism and other stuff like that, that any property belonging to the San Francisco Police Department is of federal interest, and therefore, this is a federal offense that they’re investigating. But clearly this seems like an attempt to sort of circumvent the protections that California feels are due to journalists in order to prevent the situation that I’m currently dealing with at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh, what has been the response of the journalistic community in this country to your incarceration?

JOSH WOLF: It’s difficult for me to gauge what the journalistic response is. I obviously don’t have internet access or anything like that in here. I do get the newspaper, and the San Francisco Chronicle‘s covered this story quite well. I’ve been told that it’s been a sort of lackluster response. I’m not entirely sure why that is. But it seems to me that part of it may be that the existing news media doesn’t want to acknowledge that independent journalists who don’t rely on television stations or large-scale newspapers or anything like that really are an additional form of journalism that’s part of the media today.

AMY GOODMAN: You were named, however, the Northern California 2006 journalist of the year by an establishment journalistic organization, the Society of Professional Journalists.

JOSH WOLF: That’s correct, and I’ve also been told that on Tuesday I was awarded the James Madison Award by the same group for online journalism.

AMY GOODMAN: The protests that you were covering, what do you think the government is trying to find out about the protesters?

JOSH WOLF: I think that their intent is two-fold, or even more than that. One thing that they’re trying to do is they’re trying to basically move toward state-sanctioned journalism. They’re trying to say that I’m not a journalist, and even if I was, that journalists aren’t protected, in order to basically force journalists to act as agents for the state. Beyond that, they’re also trying to identify civil dissidents and form databases. The ACLU has uncovered numerous instances of the government trying to capture identities of people who are protesting against the government. Dissent may be patriotic, but this current administration doesn’t think so, and they’re doing everything to criminalize it, or at least intimidate those that are engaged in it to the point that they feel that it is not safe to continue expressing their beliefs.

AMY GOODMAN: You have used the term, Josh, “anarchist witch hunt” in your blog. What do you mean?

JOSH WOLF: Well, the grand jury itself is a very strange segment of the government, in that there’s no attorneys, there’s no judges. It’s just the US Attorney and the grand jury, and it’s my belief that what they want to do is they want to call me, have me identify the people in the video. Then any people that I’m able to identify would in turn be called in. Those people would then be forced to either go to jail for contempt or name the people in the video that they saw. Then those people would follow the same procedure like so forth and like so forth until they had a database of everyone that was there that night. We’ve seen similar things happen in regards to the ELF, the Environmental Liberation Front, as well as the ALF, the Animal Liberation Front, in several Bay Area grand juries that have resulted in grand jury resisters and other people that have chosen not to resist and told what’s going on….

JOSH WOLF: Look around you. If they’re sending me to jail for essentially no charges, what’s next? We need to wake up. We need to come to terms with the government we have right now…

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