Supporters of Berkeley’s venerable Long Haul, angered by last Wednesday’s raid, plan to rally at Sproul Plaza today (Thursday) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the wake of the seizure of 13 computers and a collection of disc and hard drives from the group’s offices at 3124 Shattuck Ave. as police searched for the source of what they described as threatening e-mails.
But just who will defend the Long Haul in the long haul remains an open question. “Everybody wants money,” said one group activist Friday.
While the Electronic Freedom Foundation blogged about the incident, media coordinator Rebecca Jeschke said the foundation was unable to do more because of attention demanded by other cases.
“Unfortunately, we’re a small group,” she said Friday.
EFF blogger Hugh D’Andrade posted a commentary on Deeplinks, the EFF blog, declaring, “The seizure of media computers would appear to be a violation of the Privacy Protection Act, which says that the authorities are not entitled to ‘search for or seize any work product materials possessed by a person reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper [or] broadcast.’”
The raiders seized the hard drive used by Berkeley Liberation Radio, an underground radio station as well as all the computers used by the Slingshot, a 20-year-old radical quarterly.
In a notice posted at the newspaper’s website, Slingshot staff said that all the subscriber information was apparently safe because it is stored on another machine off-site. [See http://slingshot/tao/ca/]
“Government seizure of Slingshot collective computers is a direct attack on freedom of the press and in particular, the independent, non-corporate alternative press,” the group declared.
Mitch Celaya, assistant chief of UC Berkeley police and the department spokesperson, said Wednesday’s raid was the result of a campus investigation of threatening e-mails, though he wouldn’t identify the nature of the threats or their targets.
Asked if the threats involved animal researchers, Celaya replied “not necessarily.”
Also participating in the action at the Long Haul were representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
Celaya said they were present “because they are members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
The task force operates under the aegis of the FBI and includes representatives of other federal agencies and state and local law enforcement.
“We’re the lead agency, and we executed the search warrant,” Celaya said. “We are conducting the investigation into the threatening e-mails.”
Forensic investigators are examining the computers and storage media, “and if the computers are not stolen and are found not to be percipient to criminal acts, then they can be released” at some point, he said, while anything containing criminal evidence would be kept by the investigators.
Alan Haber, Long Haul founder and the first president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1960, said the raid was the fruit of “a fascist legal system which should be overthrown.”
Haber, speaking from his home in Michigan, said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau “should resign because he allowed his police to do blanket searches.”
As for the Long Haul’s current occupants, which include the Infoshop, East Bay Prisoners Support, Bread Not Bombs, the Needle Exchange, the Slingshot newsletter and Cycles for Change, “I hope they sue [the university’s] pants off, so they can used the money to send lots of kids to school.”
The Infoshop is one of several nationally, part of an online network of activists, many of the anarchist persuasion, and serves as a focal point for activists focused on a range of issues.
Among the items seized in last week’s raid was Berkeley Liberation Radio’s hard drive, containing files maintained by the underground radio station, which has been the target of repeated actions by the Federal Communications Commission.
While the search warrant mentioned only the Infoshop, police seized all computers, discs and data storage media used by all the groups inside the building, which civil liberties attorney James B. Chanin said could raised serious legal problems for the police.
The largest collection of hardware was located on the loft at the rear of facility, where a collection of computers was freely available for anyone who needed access to the online world. “We get homeless people and people who can’t afford computers,” said Long Haul activist Greg Horton.
Meanwhile, the Long Haul has issued a call for hardware donations, and are seeking PCs and Macs—the former preferred-less than five years old. Dropoffs are welcome between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays and between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. weekends.
A notice posted at the Long Haul Tuesday also called for volunteers to gather at 6 p.m. Wednesday to prepare signs for the protest.