By Jesse D. Palmer
In response to an August 27 police raid on the Long Haul community center in Berkeley by a joint terrorism task force composed of University of California police, sheriffs and the FBI, Long Haul filed a lawsuit in federal court on January 14 against all law enforcement involved in the raid. The police seized all computers at Long Haul after breaking in with guns drawn to execute a search warrant as part of an investigation of allegedly threatening emails allegedly sent to UC Berkeley animal researchers from a public-access computer connected to the internet at Long Haul.
Long Haul is a non-profit that publishes Slingshot and operates an infoshop and library at 3124 Shattuck in Berkeley. It is clear that the police never would have gotten such a broad search warrant to seize every computer at the Berkeley Public Library if the email in question had come from the public library, rather than from a radical Infoshop. While the police perhaps intended their raid to intimidate local activists, Long Haul was able to reopen the night of the raid. The public-access computer room reopened a month later with new (used) donated computers. The Long Haul community has ultimately not been distracted from the real struggle for freedom and ecological sustainability, and by filing suit, Long Haul is pushing back against police repression.
The lawsuit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of Northern California on behalf of Long Haul and East Bay Prisoner Support Group, which had an office at Long Haul and had their computer seized in the raid, seeks an injunction against law enforcement using the data from the seized computers for improper purposes. The lawsuit also seeks “to prevent any retaliation, monitoring, or surveillance enabled by the seizure of” the computer data.
The suit contends that the search warrant was improper because it “authorized searches and seizures of areas and effects for which the affidavit failed to provide probable cause” and because it “did not specifically describe the place to be searched or the things to be seized.” The lawsuit alleges that the statement of probable cause supporting the search warrant “established no reason to suspect Plaintiffs of any wrongdoing and presented no evidence to the issuing magistrate alleging Plaintiffs were involved in any illegal acts. Rather, the Statement of Probable Cause only alleged improper use by an unknown member of the public of a public-access computer located at Long Haul. Despite this, Defendant Kasiske requested and obtained a warrant applying to all the rooms at Long Haul, even those inaccessible to the general public, and all electronic processing and storage devices, even those not used by or accessible to the general public.”
The suit charges that the police violated the first and fourth amendment (freedom of assembly/speech and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures) as well as the federal Privacy Protection Act, which protects publishers from search and seizure except in the most narrow circumstances. The lawsuit claims that the Slingshot and East Bay Prisoner Support computers should have been protected from police search under the PPA because each were used “with a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.”
Despite skepticism about the mainstream, bourgeois legal system and the whole concept of “rights” granted by government entities, Long Haul folks decided that it was essential to take a stand in court so the police won’t conclude that they can raid infoshops and take computers used to publish the alternative press with impunity.
Since the last issue of Slingshot, police returned all of the computers seized in the raid, presumably after copying all information contained on the computers. As a result, law enforcement have had unrestricted access to private data relating to the Infoshop, Slingshot and East Bay Prisoner Support as well as anyone who might have used the public access computers prior to the police raid. Luckily, it does not appear any address records of Slingshot’s volunteer distributors were on the computers seized.
So far, as Slingshot goes to press, no one has been arrested related to the police raid or regarding threats to UC Berkeley animal researchers. At least to our knowledge, the police have not attempted to contact or question anyone associated with Long Haul regarding the raid. The initial fear and stress surrounding the Long Haul scene right after the raid have been replaced by a sense of increased energy and unity at Long Haul. There’s nothing like a police raid to shake a project out of its sense of complacency and stagnation and to reduce infighting. The Long Haul raid was quickly followed by numerous house raids in Minneapolis designed to squash resistance to the Republication National Convention. Let’s hope all of us who have suffered police raids can figure out ways to push back, both in the court room, and in the streets. Long live the Long Haul!