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(en) US, LA, Media, WEEKLY ARTICLE ON SHERMAN AUSTIN - Anarchist, Interrupted, Sherman Austin May Face State Charges

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 23 Aug 2004 08:36:19 +0200 (CEST)


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Last Friday the 13th was Sherman Austin’s lucky day. After serving a
one-year sentence for distributing explosives information over the
Internet, the 21-year-old anarchist walked out of an Echo Park halfway
house and into a summer’s morning a free man. He was met by his mother,
girlfriend and the family dog — which he took for a walk before leaving for
home. Austin had finished his federal term in the Gateway correctional
facility after spending most of it in a medium-security lockup near Tucson.
During the job searches that were part of his Echo Park regimen, Austin got
a taste of problems that may lie ahead when he was forced to turn down a
canvassing job that required using a company cell phone.

Under the terms of Austin’s three-year probation, the Raise the Fist
Webmaster may only use a cell phone that is owned in his name; he may use a
computer — but only a laptop that he must bring in for government
examination at any time, and he cannot associate with individuals thought
to advocate political violence. In other words, don’t expect him to show up
at the Republican convention in New York.‰

Worse, according to his new attorney, William Paparian, Austin is still
subject to state prosecution not only for the same count for which he was
indicted, but also for an incendiary-devices charge that the feds had
agreed to drop as part of a plea bargain. Unfortunately for Austin, that
agreement didn’t include immunity from future California indictments.
Deputy L.A. County District Attorney Jonathan Fairtlough is currently
reviewing documents on the case prepared for him by the FBI. When
contacted, Fairtlough declined to answer questions about Austin’s possible
case, saying, “The District Attorney’s Office cannot comment on cases that
have not been filed.”

“It offends anyone’s fundamental feelings of fairness,” Paparian told the
/Weekly /by phone. In addition to guiding Austin through his probation,
Paparian is trying to get the government to return computer hardware seized
from Austin’s home during a 2001 raid.

“Sherman could be in violation of his parole,” the Pasadena lawyer said,
“if he’s at a meeting of the Daughters of the American Revolution and
they’re talking about the Declaration of Independence. There’s a myth being
perpetuated here — the stereotype of the black-masked anarchist breaking
the plate-glass windows of Starbucks. It’s part and parcel of the
demonization of [Sherman’s] anarchist philosophy.”

Indeed, Austin has come to represent an American radicalism endangered by
post-9/11 crackdowns on civil liberties. So much so that he has become a
kind of touchstone to the young left (even /Hustler /ran a spread on his
case) — sometimes to the ire of older radicals who don’t view him as an
Angela Davis or a George Jackson.

“Celebrity feels kinda weird,” Austin told the /Weekly/ a few days after
his release, shortly before a homecoming party at his mother’s Valley
Village apartment. “My reason for starting Raise the Fist wasn’t to be a
celebrity.”

While in Tucson he played in prison rock bands and moved from his old love,
the drums, to bass guitar. In between looking for work and enrolling in
Harbor City College, Austin has busied himself by recording songs he wrote
in Tucson and honing his new bass skills. Meanwhile, he must navigate
between expressing his beliefs and abiding by the terms of his probation —
as well as his relative fame.

“I don’t mind speaking in public, but there’s a certain point where someone
might use you as a poster for their own agenda. I don’t want to only talk
about my case or because I went to prison. I want to move forward to find
solutions.”

Today the drummer who learned bass is adapting to a different personal
environment, one that could drastically change should the deputy D.A.
decide to prosecute him.

“I’m just trying to get back on my feet,” Austin said before his party
began. “I’m still going to do organizing, but I have to watch out what
scenery I’m around.”

(Note from Sister Marpessa: For continuing updates, visit
www.freesherman.org and support!!!
Sherman IS all of us!!!)


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