Build a Wall of Resistance, Don’t Talk to the F.B.I. has been used for four decades to resist many other instances of government oppression and is still being reprinted and used to fight repression of progressive movements by the U.S. government.
Designed by Terry Forman of Fireworks Graphics Collective in San Francisco in 1983, it was originally silk-screened on newsprint and posted on the street. Later editions were silk-screened, offset printed, and jet printed. It was one in a series of posters supporting members of the Puerto Rican independence movement in Chicago, New York and Puerto Rico, who were being harassed by the FBI and subpoenaed to testify at Grand Juries. Several people went to jail for refusing to appear, but no one testified, and the Grand Jury was unable to break the solidarity of the movement.
It was reprinted several times in the 1980s, in 1984 to support members of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee in SF who had been subpoenaed to a Grand Jury in Chicago under the ruse that a threatening letter had been sent to the Chicago Attorney General with the JBAKC mailbox in San Francisco as the return address. After a few months of refusal to testify, the Federal Attorney dropped their fishing expedition.
The poster was used to support environmental and animal rights activists subpoenaed to Grand Jury fishing expeditions in the 1990s and 2000s, the “Green Scare” attacking the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts. Some people did testify, and some didn’t. Several people were convicted and imprisoned for long terms.
Since September 11th, 2001, many Muslims and people from Middle Eastern countries have been questioned by the FBI, some pressured to be agents within their own community, and some set up on terrorism charges. Fear in the community was widespread, as was concern about civil rights. Hamid Hayat, a Muslim in Lodi, CA, was framed by the FBI on terrorism charges in 2005, had his conviction overturned in 2019, and was released from prison.
In 2005 there was another reprinting: to support animal rights and environmental activists caught up in the Green Scare; the subpoena of a San Francisco activist and journalist for his video of a demonstration; and a resurrected charge against eight men who were once in, or close to, the Black Panther Party. Called “the San Francisco 8,” these men were charged with the murder of an SF policeman in 1971, a charge which had already been thrown out of court in 1973 because evidence was gained by the police torture of three activists.
In the fall of 2010, several political activists in the midwest were raided by the FBI and Homeland Security, supposedly investigating support for terrorist organizations. (Several of the activists did solidarity work with Palestine or Colombia.) Twenty-three people were subpoenaed to a Chicago Grand Jury. All refused to testify.
In response to this new round of Grand Jury subpoenas, “Know Your Rights” workshops were held in the SF Bay Area by the National Lawyers Guild and co-sponsored by civil rights groups, including the local Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR, which was already concerned about civil rights issues within the Muslim community). Materials for the workshops included the “Build a Wall of Resistance” poster. Fox News attacked the workshops and a racist and McCarthyite Federal Congressional hearing was organized by Congressman Peter King (R-NY), who also used the poster to attack CAIR and other Muslim organizations for not being “cooperative.”
Fore more about how the history of how US has used the Grand Juries: The Improper Use of the Federal Grand Jury: A Instrument for the Internment of Political Activists by Michael E. Deutsch
The poster was chosen as a 2010 “Poster of the Week” by the Center for The Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles.