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SALT LAKE CITY — Anti-war activists opposed to FBI raids in Chicago and Minneapolis last week rallied outside the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building on Monday as part of a nationwide demonstration day.
A dozen protesters, mostly members of the Revolutionary Students Union at Utah Valley University, chanted and held signs reading "Hands off our anti-war activists" and "Peace is not a crime."
Organizer Gregory Lucero, a UVU graduate students, said the group responded to a call from the Minneapolis-based Anti-War Committee to rally in support of peace activists the FBI targeted last Friday.
"There was no evidence. There were no arrests. That seems pretty clear it was just harassment," Lucero said.
But the FBI suggests there's more to the story. A spokesman told the Associated Press over the weekend that the bureau's investigations "are predicated on criminal violations, not First Amendment protected activities."
The FBI searched seven homes and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis on Sept. 24 as part of a terrorism investigation looking for connections between anti-war activists and terror groups in the Middle East and Columbia. No arrests were made but 11 activists, who are also vocal opponents of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. Agents seized computers, cell phones and documents.
Protesters at the Salt Lake rally, one of more than a dozen nationwide, said those actions have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights.
"We feel this is an infringement on our rights," said Cory Bushman, of The Mormon Worker, a local group that combines Mormonism and radical politics.
The Revolutionary Students Union denounced the FBI raids and called on the government to stop the "repression" of peace and solidarity activists and end the grand jury proceedings against them.
The UVU group organized about a year ago and meets regularly to discuss the nation's political, economic and social structure which Lucero said is "not working for us." In addition to peace, it lobbies for student rights, undocumented workers and labor unionization, he said.