From Earth First!, March 29:
Environmental Activists Jailed as Grand Jury Indictments Increase
San Francisco, CA—As attorneys argue in federal court in San Francisco on March 30 to quash a grand jury investigating a protest in San Francisco, activists point to current trends that use secret grand juries to carry out broad, politically-motivated sweeps of environmental and other activists around the country.
In January, 11 people were indicted by a grand jury in Oregon investigating acts of sabotage linked to the underground Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Charges relate to alleged arsons at such targets as a ski resort expansion into endangered lynx habitat and a facility for rounding up wild horses for dog food. There were no injuries, but the FBI claims millions of dollars in damage to property and calls the actions terrorism. Two Washington state activists were added to the indictment in February, and one person was indicted in a related grand jury in San Diego for a public speech. A grand jury in Colorado investigating crimes by environmental activists just began issuing subpoenas. A status hearing regarding the 13 indictments from the Oregon grand jury will take place on April 3 in Eugene. More indictments and subpoenas are expected, say attorneys in the case.
“Apparently, according to the FBI, the threat is greater than that posed by neo-Nazis, systemically brutal and racist police forces, or Al-Qaida,” said Ben Rosenfeld, a civil rights attorney from San Francisco. “The government’s vendetta is a campaign in a broader witch hunt against radical environmentalists and self-identified ‘green anarchists’ — those who merge ecology, animal rights, and anarchism in a vision of freedom and sustainability for all living beings.”
The FBI announced last year that ELF was their #1 priority for domestic terrorism and held a press conference in Washington DC with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to announce the indictments, where they dodged questions about Osama bin Laden but called the environmentalists “eco-terrorists.” The FBI has help from groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative corporate lobby group. A.L.E.C. has written model legislation stepping up the ante for acts of property destruction committed against corporations. Legislation has been introduced in 9 states seeking to categorize property destruction, trespass or arson as acts of domestic terrorism.
Activists point to the fact that these politically motivated acts of property destruction harmed no life, yet are being called terrorism even as violent attacks by right-wing zealots go unprosecuted. According to the FBI’s own 2003 statistics, 7400 hate crimes motivated by race, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation occurred that year. Information on these ‘eco cases,’ as they are called, can be found on the Civil Liberties Defense Center website.
See our last post on ELF and the domestic anarchist scare.