Gerald “Jerry” Koch, a New York City anarchist and legal activist, has been subpoenaed for the second time to a federal grand jury investigating the same event. He was found in contempt of court on May 21, 2013, and is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, NY.
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We, the undersigned, believe it is necessary to publicize and condemn the indefinite federal incarceration of New York City Grand Jury resister Gerald "Jerry" Koch. He has been in Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center since May 21st, 2013.
We write with the knowledge that Mr. Koch's detention for civil contempt is the latest in a long line of attacks on basic human rights like freedoms of association and speech. Since its inception, the United States government has utilized executive, legislative and judicial powers to undermine and suppress organized dissent. From the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, to the Fugitive Slave Act and injunctions against unions in the 19th century, to the Espionage Act, Palmer Raids, Mccarthyism and COINTELPRO of the last century, Americans of all stripes have been persecuted by the United States government for their activities and beliefs. Recently revealed FBI and Homeland Security documents showing surveillance and infiltration of the Occupy movement leave no doubt that the government continues these practices to this day. And just as millions of principled people, living and dead, have heroically defied state repression in the past, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Jerry Koch and demand his immediate release from federal prison.
Four years ago, Koch, then a 20 year-old political and legal activist, was subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury investigating the 2008 bombing of the Times Square Military Recruitment Center. Since he was never a suspect in that case, Koch was granted immunity and, therefore, was stripped of the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th Amendment rights enumerated in the United States Constitution. Grand Jury proceedings make a mockery of justice, as they happen in secret and deny the defendant's benefit of legal counsel. These coercive mechanisms have been used extensively in the recent past against activists and journalists who refuse to reveal their relationships with political dissidents, whistleblowers and anonymous sources.
In 2008, Koch made publicly clear that he has no knowledge of any instance in which he overheard or was given information about the event in question, and had no knowledge of who may be responsible for the act itself. A year later, he refused to testify before the Grand Jury, and cited his rights to free association, protection from unreasonable search of his person, protection from being coerced to testify against himself, a speedy and public trial, and asserted that he was deprived of counsel.
In an almost unprecedented, double jeopardy judicial maneuver, Koch was again called to testify in May, 2013. Again he refused. As a result, he is being held in contempt of court, and has been imprisoned indefinitely. Note well that Koch has not been convicted of a crime; he has not even been charged with one. Contempt is a civil charge that is meant explicitly to be coercive, not punitive. Koch is currently incarcerated for refusing what can only be seen as government scare tactics combined with a pernicious "fishing expedition" bent on further undermining, infiltrating and attacking the political activist and journalist communities in the Pacific Northwest, New York City and elsewhere.
In refusing to testify, Jerry Koch joins a great tradition of standing up for his and our rights to political dissent and the tradition of non-cooperation with the forces of fear and repression. Many of those who have come before have ended up casualties of their decision to stand firm for what they believe. There is no doubt that by his past actions – particularly his role in anti-war activism and legal support for political dissidents, student protestors, and Occupy Wall St. participants – Jerry has made himself invaluable to our community and, at the same time, a valuable target for a state that everyday seeks to undermine movements for social change.
We believe that people of good conscience must speak up whenever and wherever injustice occurs. Thus, we repeat our demand on the United States government: release Jerry Koch and all political prisoners. Put an end to this war on political expression.
Noam Chomsky – Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Chris Hedges – Journalist and Author
David Graeber – Reader, Goldsmiths, University of London
Paul Mattick – Professor and Department Chair, Adelphi University
Francis Fox Piven – Professor, CUNY Graduate Center
Stanley Aronowitz – Professor, CUNY Graduate Center
Jodi Dean – Professor, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Simon Critchley – Hans Jonas Professor, New School for Social Research
Jeremy Varon – Associate Professor, New School for Social Research
Thomas Drake – NSA Whistleblower
Jesselyn Raddac – DOJ Whistleblower
Jeffrey St. Clair – Publisher, Counterpunch
Doug Henwood — Publisher, Left Business Observer
Tangerine Bolen — Founder of Revolution Truth