APRIL 19, 2021 -- On April 12th grand jury resister Steve Martinez was released from the custody of the Federal Government and has returned home to his partner and community, after over 60 days in custody.
Early in Steve's case, those of us engaged in movement defense and providing support to Steve were in direct communication with his attorneys. However, since the end of February, neither his attorneys nor Steve himself have been at liberty to speak with anyone about Steve's legal situation or the court proceedings.
Anti-repression efforts are a crucial tool for our movements and communities. The Federal government is hard at work to repress powerful social and political movements that are working towards the liberation of the earth and all of us who inhabit it. As our movements become more effective or gain power, the government's tools of repression often become more divisive and cruel. We can look to the hard won lessons of movement elders and ancestors and see this to be true. The Grand Jury is one such divisive and cruel tool of repression. Our power to combat such cruelty is rooted in a deep care for one another and the belief that a more liberatory future is within our collective reach.
We continue to stand in our solidarity with Steve and are working to ensure he can soon share his story with those who have shown their support over the past months of his resistance. We will share future updates through our social media accounts and on the website.
MARCH 3RD, 2021 -- Water Protector Steve Martinez has been taken back into federal custody in Bismarck, North Dakota today following an appearance before the federal Grand Jury. Martinez continues to stand in solidarity with his Indigenous relatives and Water Protectors by refusing to testify or cooperate with this secretive and unjust process.
On February 24th, after being jailed for 19 days for refusal to cooperate with the Grand Jury subpoena served to him, Martinez said:
I was served another subpoena before I was released, making it the third one. My lawyers are working hard to keep me from being imprisoned for standing up for my constitutional rights as an American citizen. After having my rights stripped from me, I was imprisoned with no charges for 19 days. Even with the work of our legal team, the chances are high that I will be imprisoned once again for up to 18 months or the duration of the grand jury. I humbly ask for your continued prayers & support as I continue to speak volumes through my silence. Thank you. MNI WICONI, WATER IS LIFE.
Supporters of Martinez stand in solidarity with his choice to invoke his constitutionally protected right to silence in the Grand Jury process. He was stripped of that right to remain silent by a federal Judge who imposed an order of immunity upon him. Grand Juries have historically been used as a tool of political repression against Indigenous people in their efforts to maintain sovereignty, push the United States government to honor treaties, and achieve self-determination for their relatives and nations.
Martinez was previously subpoenaed in 2016 to a Grand Jury allegedly seeking information regarding the injuries incurred by Sophia Wilansky in November 2016 at Standing Rock; a now infamous night where law enforcement used fire hoses on Water Protectors in freezing temperatures. Wilansky was gravely injured, nearly losing her arm, and unable to receive emergency medical transport due to the blockades implemented by law enforcement and the State of North Dakota. Martinez acted as a good Samaritan on that night, driving Wilanksy in his vehicle to receive emergency medical care. He was then summoned to appear before a grand jury and refused to cooperate.
Four years later, Martinez is once again being targeted by the government and detained for his principled refusal to participate in a secret process that has historically been highly susceptible to politically motivated abuses. "The secrecy of federal grand jury proceedings and the unfettered power and discretion that federal prosecutors have in the proceedings makes federal grand juries ripe for abuse against dissident political activists and their movements," said James Clark, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild. "Mr. Martinez's saga with federal grand juries seems to have already been characterized by a number of procedural abuses and irregularities, such has his incarceration last month by a magistrate judge who lacked legal authority to order it," Clark continued.
Chava Shapiro, a supporter of Martinez since 2016 said “We are all standing in solidarity with his choice to invoke his constitutionally protected right to silence in the Grand Jury process. Political activists know that Grand Juries have historically been used as a tool of political repression against Indigenous people in their efforts to maintain sovereignty, push the United States government to honor treaties, and achieve self-determination for their relatives and nations. The best and safest choice for Steve and for all those who protect the water is to maintain silence to this Grand Jury.”