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(en) US, Kansas City, Media, The Anarchists' Datebook (FBI Goes Info-Shopping)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 5 Aug 2004 09:43:23 +0200 (CEST)


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When 21-year-old Nate Hoffmann called his roommate, Jeff Kinder,
and told him that the FBI was looking for him, Kinder thought
Hoffmann was being paranoid. He reconsidered when a black Ford
Explorer tailed him as he pulled into his West Plaza driveway.
When Kinder stepped out of his truck, two men in dark suits
approached him. They introduced themselves as Ryan C. Lamb
and Eduardo D. Velasquez from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task
Force. They asked where Hoffmann was.
It was around noon on Friday, July 23, and Kinder, also 21,
had just returned from classes at the University of
Missouri-Kansas City. Hoffmann wasn't home, which was
normal; he has two jobs. He works at the Applebee's on
Rainbow in Kansas City, Kansas -- and he's one of the
organizers of the collectively run Crossroads Infoshop at
1830 Locust, which sells leftist books and posters and
serves as a meeting place for a mostly high school- and
college-age clientele.

The agents asked Kinder three questions that anyone who
hangs out at the Infoshop can now recite in various forms:
Do you know of anyone planning organized violence at the
Democratic National Convention, the Republican National
Convention or the elections? If you did know, or if you were
to find out about such plans in the future, would you tell
us? Do you know that if you did have such information and
failed to tell us or were involved in such activities, you
could be charged with a crime?

Kinder said he doubted that anyone he knew would be planning
anything violent. And he wouldn't say whether he would
report such information to the FBI if he did have it. "I
wanted to be as blunt as possible," he says. "With me, [the
conversation] had a reasonably respectful tone. I was trying
not to be overly arrogant or defensive."

Bob Herndon, an agent at the FBI's Kansas City office, says
local agents conducted interviews after the Boston bureau
office informed them of a possible plan to firebomb media
trucks at the Democratic convention. "Of course, preventing
any terrorist act on U.S. soil is the number one priority of
the FBI right now," Herndon tells the Pitch. "So that's why
we were out there conducting interviews."

When he heard the FBI was looking for him, Hoffmann and his
ex-girlfriend, fellow Infoshop worker Erica Wiggins, 24,
were riding their bicycles. They pedaled to the Infoshop and
conferred with their comrades. During the half-hour Hoffmann
spent debating what to do, Lamb and Velasquez called him
four more times. Hoffmann reasoned that the agents would
find him eventually, so he answered their next call and
arranged to meet them at the Broadway Café in Westport. A
dozen or so of Hoffmann's friends agreed to meet there, too.

The black Explorer was parked in front of the Broadway Café
when Hoffmann arrived. Lamb and Velasquez sat coffeeless at
a corner table. Hoffmann was nervous at first, and when he
sat down, he started laughing.

"They asked me whether they'd said anything that was funny,"
Hoffmann recalls. "I finally said I was laughing because I
thought the situation was so ridiculous."

The agents asked him the three questions. "I've been
politically active long enough to know that the only thing
that can come from answering the FBI's questions is
trouble," Hoffmann says. So he told them that he wouldn't
respond without a lawyer present.

"They told me that usually when people don't answer, it's
because they have something to hide," Hoffmann says. He says
Velasquez handed him his card and told him that when he got
a lawyer, Hoffmann should call him. He added that if
Hoffmann failed to call within the next two days, the agents
would find him again -- by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Wiggins called her parents to warn them that the
FBI might be calling. When her mother came home from work,
she says, there was a message from Special Agent Donald S.
Albracht asking Wiggins to call him. Four days later, early
Tuesday morning, Wiggins' parents found Albracht's blue FBI
business card stuck in their screen door. On the back was
the instruction "Please call me, Erica." Wiggins has not
responded.

The feds didn't make good on their advisory to Hoffmann that
they'd find him again -- the following Tuesday passed
without a visit. But the FBI also questioned anarchists in
Lawrence, Columbia, Kirksville, Topeka and St. Louis,
according to the KC Direct Action Network, a Web site that
aids local activists. In Kirksville, agents served several
anarchists with subpoenas, ordering them to report to a
grand jury on the same day they had planned to go to Boston
to protest the Democratic National Convention, says Kansas
City lawyer Fred Slough.

"We know the FBI has a history of simply disrupting
dissenting groups and trying to discredit them," says
Slough, who was contacted for advice by one of the
Kirksville anarchists. "There's no problem with the FBI
wanting to talk to them. That's the FBI's job. But these
kids have no duty to speak with them and shouldn't be
harassed if they don't. They're exercising their
constitutional rights."

"I'm not in Boston -- I'm here," Wiggins says. "That's part
of why this situation is so ridiculous. I'm not going to
that farcical protest so I can sit in the protesting pen
next to the media pen. I'm doing other things. I'm talking
to people, I'm working with labor unions, doing other things
to try to talk to folks about the world we live in. That was
legal, last I heard, to talk to people."

Hoffmann says he believes that the FBI questioned neighbors
of Wiggins' parents, Hoffmann's neighbors near the Plaza and
Hoffmann's manager at Applebee's. They showed Hoffmann's
neighbors a picture of him and asked Wiggins' neighbors what
kind of car she drives.

"People can lose their jobs. Their landlords can kick them
out over stuff like this," Slough says. "Stuff like this
could hurt these kids."

Still, if a radical bookstore's success can be measured in
how soon it gets a visit from the FBI, then the Infoshop,
which opened July 2, is doing well.


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