An activist in the US state of North Carolina could face up to 18 months in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury over the firebombing of a Republican Party office during the 2016 presidential election.
Katie Yow, a 31-year-old anarchist and social worker, decried the order, arguing that the secretive nature of grand juries enables the government to target activists without accountability.
Because witnesses’ lawyers are not allowed in grand jury testimony sessions, Yow’s supporters accuse the government of using the subpoena to intimidate activists and gather information on protest movements.
On Monday, dozens of supporters rallied outside the US Middle District Courthouse while Yow was inside.
A grand jury is different from a trial jury in the US justice system because they are used to assist a prosecutor in deciding whether or not to bring criminal charges against an individual during an investigation.
With no judge present and no legal defence lawyer for the witness, the prosecutor explains the law to the jurors, decides what type of evidence jurors see and can effectively interrogate any witness they like.
More than 200 activists are currently facing 70 to 80 years in prison for protesting Trump’s inauguration on January 20 in Washington, DC, a move many view as an example of increased political pressure on anti-Trump activists.
Anti-racist activists in Virginia have also accused police of a crackdown on their communities as far-right movements are allowed to organise and rally.