Excerpts from freelance journalist Josh Wolf

Pub date August 23, 2006
WriterSarah Phelan

What follows are excerpts from an Aug. 14 letter that freelance journalist Josh Wolf wrote to reporter Sarah Phelan from inside Dublin Federal Correctional Institute. Wolf has been held at Dublin FCI since Aug. 1 refusing to give a federal grand jury unpublished footage from a July 8, 2005 anti-G8 protest that turned violent.

Aug. 14, 2006

Dear Sarah,

Thanks for writing to me about my case;

On Judith Miller:

“The issue of Judith Miller is a complicated one. My reservations about the Judith Miller situation are as follows: She should be protected, but should she have published it in the first place? I’m very thankful that she has helped publicize my case and I have talked to her on the phone and wouldn’t want it to seem like I’m ungrateful for the support.”

On the injuries that a SFPD officer sustained during the July 8, 2005 anti G8 protest:

“The officer’s injury is a sad and unfortunate incident, and I do not in any way condone violence against any living creature. However, as tragic and unjust as it may have been, it is a potential crime which falls under state and not Federal jurisdiction and although the Assistant US Attorney has brought up the injured officer repeatedly, he has never asserted that this potential crime is part of the grand jury investigation and is therefore nothing more than an effort to sensationalize the case.

Furthermore, my mother’s statement is accurate, I neither witnessed nor filmed the alleged assault on the officer – I learned of the incident after hearing “officer down” by several bystanders. At that point in time, I was filming the aforementioned officer’s partner choking Gabe Myers whom has been charged with the conspiracy charge of attempting to lynch himself, along with resisting arrest and rioting. The published video illustrates this fairly well and can be accessed through http://joshwolf.net/grandjury/ along with the all the legal documents up until I became incarcerated and could no longer maintain the site.”

On the alleged arson to a SFPD patrol car:

“Another important factor in the police’s story of what happened that night is their claim that the Styrofoam sign (for the 500th time, there was no mattress) became lodged in front of their car, therein disabling it. While the Styrofoam sign may have been lodged – I have trouble believing that a piece of Styrofoam could actually force a modified Crown Victoria to a stop. As a rear-wheel drive car with more-than-ample horsepower, I believe it would’ve been able to push the sign along indefinitely, if not able to completely rise over the top of it. Beyond that, the officers immediately jumped out of their vehicle and chased after the 2 people they believed were originally holding the sign.

By the way, these officers – Shields + Wolf (no known relation to myself) were not assigned to the protest and were responding to some sort of complaint. These police officers attempted to disperse the crowd by accelerating their vehicle towards us – it was at that point that the sign carriers in the back of the crowd dropped their sign and dived out of the car’s path. The most accurate description I heard of the event came from Attorney Ben Rosenfeld who spoke at one of my press conferences, the video can be accessed at the URL I mentioned previously.”

On the grand jury investigation:

“As I’m sure you are aware, the subject of the grand jury investigation, or the reason that I’m in jail, is the alleged attempt to destroy property that the federal government may have had a fiscal interest in, the SFPD patrol vehicle. If this pretense for a federal interest is allowed to stand, then would not all public property – be it city, state, or federal serve to trump state protections such as the California Shield law. This would not only include streets, schools, and sidewalks, but also city hall itself.

Perhaps you recall Matt Gonzales last art exhibit as Supervisor – the Supervisor arrange to have graffiti art sprayed onto his office wall. Now, obviously he did this with the approval of the city, but could the federal government have intervened under the claim that this art damaged Federal Property? Obviously they wouldn’t, but according to the logic of the US Attorney, I imagine they might feel they could legitimately do so. The analogy is a stretch and borders on being cartoonist, but is it really any more outrageous than throwing me in prison for refusing to comply with this order to turn over a videotape regarding a police vehicle that apparently wasn’t even damaged – we’ve yet to see any repair orders for the squad car.
Both myself and my attorney have filed declarations to the fact that I did not film any attempts at arson on a police car. It seems highly unlikely that the US Attorney doesn’t believe us as I imagine lying in a declaration would result in perjury for me but could also, to my best understanding; result in my attorney facing even more serious repercussions than that. Neither myself nor my attorney would be stupid enough to behave that irresponsibly. I remember Alger Hiss.”

On Alger Hiss, McCarthyism and Black as the new Pink:

Speaking of Hiss, I feel that given the circumstances, this witch hunt could very likely be a witch hunt akin to those of McCarthey’s blood thirsty quest to expose communists. If that in fact is the case, then instead of a red-scare, this is a black scare.

Keep in mind, that each subpoena I have received not only demands the unpublished materials, but also my testimony. I do not feel that is paranoia which leads me to think that I would be compelled to identify anyone on the footage whom I might know in an effort to create a list of political dissidents and anarchists in the bay area.

Yes, the idea is alarmist, but; it happened in this country 50 years ago – and anyone with a decent education is painfully aware that history has a way of repeating itself. There is no way this much money and energy has been expended simply to investigate some kid throwing a firework four days after the 4th of July, and as the government has not been forthcoming, I have no reason not to assume the worst.

On life inside Dublin Federal Correctional Institute:

“In your letter you also asked me about Dublin; I don’t have a whole lot to say about my experience here, but I can say that the experience is nowhere near the nightmare I had expected. I’ve never felt like my personal safety is in jeopardy, and I have made friends with many of the inmates. There’s food which is edible during every single meal, and 90% of the staff have behaved with the utmost professionalism. At the same time, visits are limited to immediate family, and I only get to feel air on my face for an hour each day; 5 days a week.

Living in captivity is emotionally very difficult, and you find yourself missing the simplest of things. Not having my music, for one, has been very hard for me. The experience is akin to being a young child in man ways, and almost all decisions have been robbed from you. Regulations which serve no purpose abound – we are prohibited from doing laundry after 2pm; I have no idea why.
I have the opportunity by being here to catch up on a lot of reading; however, and I’ve written more letters by hand over the last two weeks than I’ve composed throughout my 24 years up till now. I miss email. I’ve also been inspired to create a new organization, but I can’t share the details just yet about that one.”

Thanks again, for covering the story and in the words of Edward R. Murrow,
Goodnight and Good Luck,