Day 172 of Josh Wolf’s unenviable adventure


(Josh Wolf is a freelance journalist and anarchist. He has been jailed for refusing to turn over videotapes of a protest being investigated by a federal grand jury. Online Journalism Review has written about his case; here is a bit more from Wikipedia. On Friday, December 1, 2006, I ran a reminder of his incarceration. I will write about his case every Friday until he is freed. Visit his site and find a way to help. Tom Abate, San Leandro, Ca; aka MiniMediaGuy).

On Tuesday Josh Wolf spent his 169th day in the slammer, surpassing the previous record for time spent in jail by a U.S. journalist in defiance of a court order. A San Francisco Chronicle story about this milestone suggests the 24-year-old freelancer might be in for a much longer stay. The federal grand jury, whose order Wolf is defying, is already scheduled to stay in session until July and “a prosecutor said in court papers last month that the term could be extended six months.” Wolf could be held as long as the grand jury sits.

What do prosecutors want? 

The Chronicle summarized it thus:

Wolf brought his video camera to a July 2005 Mission District protest against an economic summit taking place in Scotland. A police officer was hit in the head and suffered a fractured skull, and a foam cushion under a patrol car was set on fire — the basis for the federal investigation, because the car was partly funded with a federal grant to the Police Department.

Part of Wolf’s video was shown on local television, but a Joint Terrorism Task Force of FBI agents and police sought the entire tape and Wolf refused, saying he would not act as the government’s eyes and ears. In court, his lawyers said the tape showed no evidence of a crime and invited Alsup to look at the outtakes, but the judge declined.”

Wolf’s supporters have been helping him maintain his blog — titled, The Revolution Will Be Televised — during his incarceration and a few days ago they posted a note from him, doubtless written in advance, in long-hand and on paper and mailed to someone who typed it an put it online. In that note Wolf writes:

“This entire matter is about eroding the rights of privacy and those of a free press. It is about identifying civil dissidents and using members of the news media to actively assist in what is essentially an anarchist witchhunt. This is what I have suspected from the beginning, but it has been brought closer into focus with the government’s recent response to our motion. I will not allow myself to be put in a position of outing anarchists who likely are guilty of nothing more that possessing political beliefs outside the American norm.”

There were more than six dozen comments posted to the blog entry when I visited it this morning. They ranged from the the supportive . . .

“As a future journalist myself, sick of corporate rat race, I want to tell you that what you’re doing is right and you are an inspiration.”

. . .  to the scatalogical . . .

“How have you been able to keep your asshole virgin while in prison?” 

Most of the comments were from angry people who think Wolf is nothing more than a leftist punk who should rot in jail until he rolls over on his anarchist buddies. In fact my brother James, the most politically conservative of the six Italian-American siblings of whom I am the oldest, is also inclined to believe Wolf is getting what he deserves. But at least he expressed himself in a level tone when he commented to one of by previous notes by noting that:

“There is a valid federal court Order, which has been appealed and the appelate pannel declined to overturn the Order which still stands. Wolf’s refusal to obey the judge’s Order is unsupported by law. By siding with a clear lawbreaker on the issue of journalistic protection, the left damages its credibility. There may be other reasons to oppose the prosecution, but journalistic rights is not a good reason.”

I’m actually inclined to agree with my brother on this point. In fact as I blogged once before, what most concerns me about this case is that what is happening to Josh Wolf could happen to any American. And the bottom line is that his jailing is an injustice.

So how about this: I stipulate that he is not a journalist, and the feds lift the court order and set him free.

Whaddya say? Deal?