Jesse Shackelford

At 3:00pm, Wednesday, August 19, Jesse Shackelford, 28, was taken into federal custody at the Dane County Jail and joined a long history of grand jury resisters. He claimed his Fifth Amendment right to silence in order to protect himself and his community and in a strong stand against both this grand jury in particular and the grand jury process as an oppressive, movement-busting tactic.

For refusing to testify in front of a grand jury targeting the Black liberation struggle and uprisings in Madison, Jesse was charged with civil contempt and put in a cage: he is currently being held in solitary confinement. This was his second call to the federal grand jury convened by US Attorney Scott Blader this summer. It is FFLS’ understanding that Jesse is the first grand jury resister nationally to be incarcerated in contempt as a result of the 2020 Black liberation uprisings.

Supporters gathered on Henry St. by foot and by car to uplift Jesse as he entered the courthouse. A strong band remained until after 4:00pm when word was released that Jesse had been taken into custody at the Dane County Jail with a charge labeled “federal contempt offense- hold for US Marshalls.” He has been held in civil contempt of court for continuing to refuse to speak after being granted use immunity. He could be held in federal custody for the duration of the grand jury, up to 16 months.

Make sure you follow the mail guidelines listed on the Dane County Sheriff’s Office Mail page.

Words from the resister: Jesse is a prison abolitionist, longtime Madison resident, and a law student at the City University of New York planning to build a career in movement support. His statement of resistance is as follows:

"The feds and Madison police are facilitating a coercive, manipulative operation to quash this movement for black liberation. they are playing a game, as they always have. A brutal, disgusting game, where they steal away those raising their voices in dissent, torturing them, labeling them as felons, doing everything they can to quiet them.

If you support BLM, truly, you know this. You are here because you know this, because you know from the bottom of your heart, and with full mental clarity, that this system and the way it operates is not only the opposite of justice, but evil. The true, real-world embodiment of evil. A system that fills torture chambers with vastly disproportionate amounts of BIPOC, but will take anyone who raises their voice loud enough in opposition.

I’m a white ally and not one to try to be the center of attention, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to convey this message even though realistically I’m pretty nervous. To everyone I have met through the movement in the last several weeks, and the friends I’ve made: I am thankful for every moment I have being in your presence, learning and listening with you. Don’t ever let them make you believe this fight is unjust, it is the furthest thing from!

I came out here simply because I feel ethically bound to resist this racist fascist system. I came because I am a full abolitionist!"

If you receive visits from federal agents or subpoenas to a grand jury, please call the Freedom Fighters Grand Jury Support Line at (608) 535-9907 for free legal support. If you are outside Wisconsin, please call the National Lawyers Guild Anti-Repression Hotline at (212) 679-2811 to speak with an attorney at no cost. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you and others, so it is advisable not to talk about anything you did, witnessed, or heard about with anyone but your attorney. Memorize the line: “I will not speak without my attorney present.”

Per Freedom Fighters Legal Support's Facebook Page, Jesse was released from custody August 24, 2020.  No information as to why.



Support Group Email: 

Support Group Facebook: