On Grand Jury Resistance
by Press Officer Nicoal Sheen
With the recent arrest, grand jury indictment and imprisonment of Jordan
Halliday in Utah, as well as Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth in Minnesota, our
right to silence has become the best defense in shutting down any effort to
divide and conquer. Continued resistance on principle and in praxis is vital for
community survival against any government repression.
Increasingly, grand jury resistance has become a crucial part of activist
vocabulary and action - especially in the animal rights community. According to
many references in law, grand juries are said to "protect the innocent" against
"unfair publicity" and serious accusations where one may or may not be guilty.
Political activists have clearly experienced the opposite of such protection.
Rather, grand juries are strategically used by the government and judicial
prosecution to oppress. In several cases against activists, grand juries are
used as a tool to "extract information" they believe the accused can access.
Grand juries are no more than a witch hunt where authorities target activists
who are effective and outspoken in order to stifle free speech.
However, resisting grand juries by pleading the Fifth – the right to silence –
comes with a long activist history; animal rights activists are not the first
social group to face persecution. During the Red Scare and the era of
McCarthyism in the 1950s, people accused of communist ties were forced before a
grand jury by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Committee
demanded the accused to "name names" and give any information concerning their
alleged relationship with the Communist Party. Those condemned for
supposed communist associations called upon the Fifth to protect themselves and
evaded any possibility of self-incrimination. In response, the government
blacklisted the accused for knowing and applying their rights.
Along with this pattern of repression comes the obligation to actively resist.
Nothing just will ever come from grand juries and providing “harmless” knowledge
will never help the situation. Grand juries are developed for the purpose of
avoiding attorneys or other extensive legalities in order to gather
“unrestricted” information. Therefore, resisting the urge to talk is necessary
to preserve the fight for animals and the right to free speech. Subpoenas are
issued in the hopes of creating desperation and hysteria among people which in
turn divides activist circles and results in a fractured movement. Instead, a
movement built on principles of trust, common sense and devout
anti-authoritarianism is impermeable.
Silence inhibits the state's success and sends a clear message that such
repression will be met with opposition. Total rejection of their fear mongering
strengthens the movement and can avoid long-term imprisonment. Even when the
state threatens an activist with “civil contempt of court” – as Halliday faced –
talking will make the situation worse and is never acceptable. Supporting Jordan
Halliday and other grand jury resistors is crucial in demonstrating that the
community and activist circles act in solidarity and will not be subject to
In the case that you are subpoenaed and are required to stand before a grand
jury, always call your attorney or seek some form of legal counsel. Also tell
other activists and friends. Do not hide that you have been called to appear
before the jury.If you need help finding an experienced attorney, contact us
here at the North American Animal Liberation Press Office.
Following are several examples in which activists have continued to resist grand
juries and kept our communities safe from state intervention. Some activists
have refused to show up. Many others refuse to answer any questions when called
before a jury. The state will hold activists as long as a grand jury is in
session, but refusing to cooperate will save yourself and other activists in the
end. In addition, activists have participated in protests outside the courthouse
rather than comply.
For more information on Jordan, Carrie and Scott please visit the following
Contact: (818) 227-5022
Animal Liberation Press Office
6320 Canoga Avenue #1500
Woodland Hills, CA 91367