EEUU. ZK/La Haine. 11/08/03.- Sherman Austin, webmaster of RaisetheFist.com, was sentenced today, August 4, 2003, to one year in federal prison, with three years of probation. Judge Wilson shocked the courtroom when he went against the recommendation of not only the prosecution, but the FBI and the Justice Department, who had asked that Austin be sentenced to 4 months in prison, and 4 months in a half-way house, with 3 years of probation.
Austin's probation stipulates, among other things, that (1) he cannot possess or access a computer of any kind without prior approval of his probation officer, (2) if his probation officer gives permission, the equipment is subject to monitoring and is subject to search and seizure at any time, without notice, (3) he cannot alter any of the software or hardware on any computer he uses, (4) he must surrender his phone, DSL, electric, and satellite bills, (5) he cannot associate with any person or group that seeks to change the government in any way (be that environmental, social justice, political, economic, etc.), and (6) he must pay over $2,000 in fines and restitution. Austin must surrender himself to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by September 3, 2003.
La Haine interviews Sherman
Austin, webmaster of RaiseTheFist.com
(RTF), sentenced to one year in federal prison
- How did RTF get started and what goals it had/s?
It was presidents day of 2000. Unhappy about the fact that U.S presidents have their own holiday and are supposed to be celebrated, I decided to do at least something about it. So I decided to make a strong political web site. My goal right then and there was to make it huge and known world wide so not only my voice, but others peoples voices would be heard. The site started out small but it wasn't long until more and more people started knowing about it, including the authorities.
- Why is the FBI so interested in RTF? Did they ever warn you before the raid?
The FBI and government agencies including international government agencies have been monitering the site for along time. They've been monitering the site very extensivly on a daily basis long before the raid and 9-11. It got to a point where I would get over 100 hits from the government in a single day. They were getting scared because for one, RTF advocated and promoted atonomous thinking and atonomous organizing. RTF became more than just a web site, but a tool and resource for others to communicate, coordinate and organize with eachother. The FBI never warned me before the raid, but they did make it obvious that they were watching me very closely.
They began packeting my internet line (monitering all data going through my DSL connection) months before the raid, and started commandearing my email and instant messager accounts, blocking me out, talking to others using the same wording i'd use, sending me threats such as "your ass is going to jail" .. etc. On other occasions i've noticed suspicious vehicals parked out side my home. I would organize small little protests and undercover's would show up taking pictures, FBI would show up and drive around stopping next to people calling out their names, they'd immediatly point me out and aproach me while videotaping asking questions.
- Security measures are important for proyects such as RTF. What kind of measures did you have in RTF?
One security measure I had was that I hosted the site myself on my own servers instead of having it hosted on some companies web servers. This limited the posibility of the feds contacting my hosting provider and getting into my server without my knowledge. Allthough this is what they did anyway when they raided my home, but at least I was the first to know about it. If they were to get into my server without my knowledge they could install tracking scripts that generated detailed logs for each visitor, and I would have kept running the site without even knowing.
As for security measures for protecting my identity, I didn't have any. I felt I didn't need any. Yes I was strongly against this government, advocated revolutionary class struggle, and called myself an anarchist, and I wasn't afraid to admit it. I felt I had nothing to hide. This government has always had it's agenda which is to be at war. Whether it be the wars over seas or the wars here at home. I am not surprised to see them react the way they did, because that's what this government is. That has always been the nature of this government. To take, intimidate, rape, kill, anihialate, bully and police the world.
- How is the "virtual community" and the streets responding to the repression brought up towards yourself and RTF?
Both are extremely outraged. If the feds were trying to intimidate people from standing up by setting an example, then they sure fucked up big time. They've only created more outrage and motivated hundreds of thousands , millions of other people all over the world to stand up.
- What´s the future of RTF?
The web site, along with the RTF Direct Action Network will continue to grow and remain active. A 1 year sentence is not the end of this. It's just the begining.
- You´ve already been in prison. What can you tell us about your stay?
Well one thing i'd like to say is that slavery was never abolished. This country has more people locked up in the prison industrial complex than any other country in the world. Over 3/4 of the prison population is black. I don't see any difference between now and back on the slave plantation where blacks did slave labor for rich white land owners. Today blacks do slave labor in prisons for corporations owned by rich white CEO's. They're the ones making money off us. We still wear the shackles. The first police in this country were slave catchers. Slavery was never abolished. It just moved from the plantation to the prison industrial complex. It's time to wake up and get free.
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