MINNEAPOLIS, MN - February 10 - The U.S. Attorney announced this afternoon that it withdrew the subpoena seeking records relating to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) chapter at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Subpoenas directed at four activists were also withdrawn.
The NLG subpoena sought records relating its leadership and to a forum held at Drake on November 15, 2003, the day before a protest at which 12 were arrested. A gag order placed on employees of Drake University has also been lifted.
NLG President Michael Avery said, "The government was forced to back down in this case and it shows that people can and should stand up to the government when it is abusing its powers. The Lawyers Guild is grateful to our many friends and allies who supported us in the face of this attack by the government. This experience demonstrates that the American people cherish their right of free expression and the right of political groups to dissent from government policies."
Late Monday night, prosecutors from the United States attorney's office for the southern district of Iowa issued a statement confirming their investigation but saying that its scope was limited to finding out more about one activist involved in a protest at an Iowa National Guard based in Johnston, Iowa, the day after the forum.
Prosecutor Stephen Patrick O'Meara said in a statement, "The narrow purpose and scope of that inquiry has been narrowed to determine whether there were any violations of federal law, or prior agreements to violate federal law, regarding unlawful entry onto military property."
Federal officials had previously refused to provide any information about the grand jury inquiry.
"This is a complete retreat by the U.S. Attorney and an unequivocal victory for the National Lawyers Guild and the peace movement in general. The Guild is calling for congressional hearings to determine the extent to which the FBI and Justice Department are gathering information on student political groups, said Heidi Boghosian, Executive Director of the Guild.
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, comprises over 6,000 members and activists in the service of the people. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters. Guild members provide legal support to progressive demonstrations throughout the country, and well understand the nationwide trend toward increasingly repressive measures deployed against political protesters.