Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

LOCAL Commentary :: Miscellaneous

The Issue Of Snitches

Why snitches are dangerous.
There has been lots of debate in Chicago and on indymedia over the issue of Jeremy Hammond's cooperation with the authorities and whether or not he deserves the support of the activist communities. I find the ever growing number of comments on the newswire speaking out in favor of supporting him not only unfortunate, but downright alarming. I am an animal rights activist here in Chicago and I have seen time and time again the harm that snitches can have on social justice movements. I have seen fellow activists jailed due to the cowardice of so called "activists". I have seen first hand the governments attempts to gain information through intimidation. I have also seen first hand how quickly the governments cases crumble when people stand up and refuse to be intimidated. These statements against Jeremy and snitches like him do not come from a place of naivety. At one point, I was forced to go through 3 depositions for a lawsuit attempting to gain millions of dollars in punitive damages from myself and others. Depositions where nearly every question was attempting to gain information on myself and other activists. By refusing to cooperating, myself and the other people being sued were threatened with contempt charges on many occasions, but by staying strong and refusing to be intimidated, we not only won the lawsuit, but refused to allow other activists to be dragged into the proverbial frying pan with us. Unfortunately, Jeremy and others like him didn't have the fortitude to make that stand. I have heard all the arguments, "he was railroaded into giving up the tape", "he made a mistake but we have to forgive and forget" or "he didn't tell them anything they didn't already know." None of these statements excuse what he did and none of these statements should garner him any support from the activist communities he has harmed and I don't doubt will harm again if welcomed back with open arms.

People need only to look to the animal rights community to see why the issue of snitches is so important to social justice movements. Below is a statement from Peter Young. A man who currently sits in federal prison and whose co-defendant, Justin Samuel, snitched him out. The grand jury he is referring to is ongoing and is investigating an arson attack in San Diego. It is only one of many grand juries going after animal rights activists around the country. I feel there are many parallels to be drawn from his statements to the issues being debated here in Chicago. It is very easy to be forgiving of snitches when it isn't your head they placed on the chopping block. Even if Jeremy's cooperation doesn't lead to further charges against other activists, that is merely due to luck and in no way absolves him of his actions. Jeremy sold out other activists in an attempt to save his own ass. He wanted to do what was best for him and didn't think about or care about the potential harm his actions may have had. He is not deserving of support from the activist community and neither are those who attempt to reintegrate him into said activist communities. As Peter said below as to why we need to not support snitches and those that apologize for their actions, they should not be welcome in activist communities "Not for revenge, but for survival. For there will be more damage done by informants and those who harbor them, more fallen activists in their wake – and you may be among them."

Below is Peter Young's statement on the grand jury
situation in San Diego. Please feel free to forward widely.

As I sit in a Madison, Wisconsin jail on federal
animal enterprise terrorism charges, 5 years after
Justin Samuel entered a Grand Jury room to offer a
“full, complete and truthful statement” against me
regarding my involvement in 6 mink farm raids in 1997, it is yet another burden upon me to hear of a current debate – a debate on whether to lend support to two of the three people jailed in San Diego for refusing testimony to a grand jury. One, the girlfriend of the aforementioned informant, Justin Samuel. The other, Justin’s friend and vocal apologist – David Agranoff. Justin’s one man PR machine in his attempt to reintegrate into the animal liberation movement after his informant work with the FBI. I’m told this subject of support is one of much discussion, and I feel it
unfortunate that we find this debatable. That on the subject of snitches and those who enable them to walk among us, when it is not us that suffer the direct effects of informants we sit back and debate the issue from the comfort zone.

The view from behind bars is much different.

When they find themselves in the hot seat, we have an obligation first and foremost to defend our own. This does not apply, because I no longer consider them one of us. It is they who offered their after-the-fact collaboration with a person who was so quick to throw me to the wolves. Now I say – let them go to the wolves.

Before offering support to these two currently
resisting a grand jury, let us ask where that voice of resistance was when the target was another. Their voice was clear, and it wasn’t one of resistance – it was one of excuses, lies, and complicity. One’s right to support is forfeited when they deny it to another. To turn informant for the FBI is to forfeit that right. To publicly defend and therefore enable an informant to walk among us is to forfeit that right. And with so much on the line, to stand beside either one is to forfeit that right. Until this month, the message of both these grand jury resisters was: it’s ok to inform on another, to condemn them to a 5 to 10 year prison sentence to save yourself. Now these same people stand before us, puffing their chests, full of feigned bravado, telling us with straight faces they sit in jail to defend our movement from attack. But their sudden distaste for FBI cooperation is too little, too late.

So exactly what form of “attack” do they oppose?
Across my cell as I write this sits a large stack of legal paperwork, including portions of Justin Samuel’s testimony against me. The collective effort of the world’s most powerful domestic agency could not pull together evidence as damaging as what came from Justin Samuel’s mouth. You could say I’ve never felt so “attacked.” So now we see the only attacks they oppose are the ones against themselves. And its these people whose merits and worth are being debated. But
they burned their bridge, so let them stand alone.

The crucial point is: one defends a snitch out of
empathy – they see themselves in that person. Today’s snitch apologists are tomorrow’s snitches.

So support them? Yes, of course support them. In the Grand Jury room, there is no harmless information. So support them as one would support a ticking bomb – with great, delicate care; out of fear for what they might do. Support as babies, whose hands must be held until the passing of the storm. Support them for fear they too will join that club of their dear friend, entering that small, reviled choir of those who “didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know, I swear.”

I hope to see us capitalize upon this opportunity to make the very firm, far-reaching message that snitches and their collaborators will find themselves alone. Not for revenge, but for survival. For there will be more damage done by informants and those who harbor them, more fallen activists in their wake – and you may be among them.

Peter Young
Dane County Jail
Madison, WI
August 2005

As of this writing, a third woman – Danae Kelley –
sits in jail for refusing testimony to this same grand jury. She is nothing less than a hero of great fortitude, and I wish nothing less for her than the whole of our support. May she be out soon.



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