McCarthyism and the FBI’s attacks on the Queer Community

Published in the June 2011 AWC Pride Zine by the Anti-War Committee
Anti-War Committee, Pride 2011

For two Minneapolis queer families the morning of September 24, 2010 started at 7 am with banging on the door and FBI agents presenting search warrants and subpoenas to appear before a secret grand jury.  While their young children watched, their homes were searched, and computers, cell phones, address books, pictures and political papers were carted out by the boxload.  Similar raids were occurring in other Twin Cities homes, as well as in Chicago.   It might seem surreal, but it is just another incident in the long and disturbing history of repression of both political activists and queer rights activists by the U.S. government. 

Back in the 1950s “President Eisenhower issued an executive order barring gay men and lesbians from all federal jobs. In 1955, against the backdrop of fear created by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for homosexuals and Communists, the FBI began a surveillance program against homosexuals.” Members of the Minneapolis based Anti-War Committee can attest to the fact that this surveillance and harassment are continuing today.  Many of its members are queer women, and the FBI took advantage of this fact, sending an undercover law enforcement officer pretending to be a lesbian mother to infiltrate the AWC just prior to the Republican National Convention in 2008.

The mole, “Karen Sullivan,” worked side by side with members of the Anti-War Committee for over two years, the whole time pretending to be a queer anti-war activist. During this time, she gained the trust and friendship of each member on the committee, claiming to work to end wars of U.S. occupation around the world.  Then came the September 24th raids, and “Karen Sullivan” disappeared.  Questions and concern emerged, and then the FBI confirmed that she had been spying and lying for them.  The fact that she claimed to belong to the same oppressed minority as many of the committee just made her lying and betrayal that much more painful.

In September, fourteen people were subpoenaed, including five queer Minneapolis anti-war activists.  Since then nine more subpoenas and another raid have been carried out by the FBI in their unbelievable fishing expedition to find evidence of “material support for terrorism.”  All twenty-three people that have been subpoenaed to testify have refused.  While the US government may think it can continue its McCarthyesque campaign of repression and harassment of queer peace activists, these people are fighting for their right to organize and continue to work for change.

Ways to get involved:

  • Go to to sign the petition and for more information on our case.
  • Join us to stand up to any escalation of the attacks on anti-war and international solidarity activists.  Fight for the right to speak out, organize and to stand in solidarity with those who want freedom!
  • Call President Obama (202-456-1111) to say Stop FBI Repression of Antiwar Activists NOW!