Noor Elashi, Holy Land 5 and FBI repression
More than 30 student activists from Florida State University (FSU) packed into a room in the Oglesby Student Union to hear Noor Elashi and other organizers speak about government repression, March 25 2013 . Holy Land 5 attorney John Cline joined Elashi on the panel, along with Mick Kelly, who was one of the 23 anti-war activists raided by the FBI in September, 2010.
The event was organized by the newly-formed Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Cecelia O'Brien, one of the founders of the chapter, introduced the speakers and contextualized this new wave of government repression for students. "Student groups in Florida recently faced repression from their university administration, which is part of a larger attack on the rights of activists," said O'Brien. She continued, "The way we fight back against this repression is by supporting each other and sharing our stories at events like this one."
Noor Elashi spoke as the daughter of Ghassan Elashi, a founder of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development who was raided by the FBI in 2001 and imprisoned by the U.S. government in 2008. As the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., the Holy Land Foundation provided housing and scholarships for poor students in Palestine and around the world. The Bush administration shut down the Foundation in 2001 and later indicted its founders on bogus charges of material support for terrorist groups. Ghassan Elashi remains imprisoned, along with four other Foundation members, for providing charity to the Palestinian people.
Finally, Mick Kelly spoke about his experience with government repression when he was raided by the FBI on Sept. 24, 2010. Kelly talked about receiving a call from his spouse while at work, who told him ominously, "They're here." After returning home, he found his home had been raided by a machine gun-wielding FBI SWAT Team, who had used a battering ram to break down the door to his apartment. The agents carrying out the raid came heavily armed with two extra clips, as if expecting a confrontation. Kelly reiterated that he was raided because of his anti-war and solidarity work, particularly with regards to Colombia and Palestine.
Student organizers from New Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), in anticipation of one of the largest demonstrations Florida will see in years, are eager to share their plans with students and activists who will be traveling to Tampa next week for the march on the RNC. The group of organizers was in high spirits, listening to political hip hop and swapping stories about activist experiences as they pulled in to Athens Georgia on August 20.
"I'm excited to speak to students I don't even know who are working for the same ideals as myself. Its a great feeling of solidarity," said Cecelia O'Brien, a Florida State University student.
Students hope to build lasting infrastructure, helping new chapters and affiliates to develop across the South, leading up to the SDS National Convention in October. "It's going to be a big semester for activism in Florida and around the country," said Tallahassee student organizer Andrew Arachikavitz, with a grin on his face.