Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Battle Of the Beagles

By Nick Cooney Z Magazine May 2007
In case you hadn’t heard, FBI Deputy Assistant Director John Lewis has identified the number one domestic terrorist threat to the U.S. and it’s not radical Muslims. Or right-wing paramilitary types. Or gun-toting pro-lifers. Nope, guess again. It’s animal rights and environmental activists who have never hurt or killed a single person in the U.S. in their 25-year history.
What they have done is cause millions of dollars in damages and even more in lost profits to the logging, construction, SUV, pharmaceutical, and fur industries—all of which (with the exception of the fur industry) are major lobbying powers in Congress.
Among the many opportunistic post-9/11 agendas pursued by the outgoing Republican majority is a drastic increase in funds, per- sonnel, and judicial leeway granted to law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for pursuing grassroots animal rights activists. Some cases in point: in 2002, over 100 FBI agents investigated a single animal rights group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA (SHAC-USA). PATRIOT Act- sanctioned wiretaps of phones and emails of animal activists have become commonplace, as have airport detentions on both domestic and international flights for members of non-profits like Hugs For Puppies and Student Organization for Animal Rights chapters. FBI employees and FBI-backed investigators have engaged in romantic and sexual relationships with activists to try to pry information out of them. Raids on the homes of activists by armed JTTF agents are also a regular occurrence. In November 2006 seven individuals in Santa Monica, California had their homes ransacked by government agents for the “crime” of attending a peaceful demonstration against the POM Juice Company, which funds animal tests. One of these individuals was former child star Pam Ferdin, the voice of Lucy in the classic Peanuts television show. Lucy getting her house raided by the JTTF? It’s enough to make even Snoopy cry.
But not enough, apparently, for the federal government. In a much-touted case, six volunteers with SHAC-USA were each sentenced in September 2006 to up to six years in federal prison for operating a website and newsletter and organizing protests at the homes of pharmaceutical executives. On November 27, 2006 President Bush signed into law the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), a bill which labels as terrorists those who engage in sit-ins, civil disobedience, trespass, or any other crime in the name of animal rights.
To be clear, this bill is not aimed at squeaky clean groups like the Humane Society or even at the controversial People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)— both of which have the financial and legal resources to take on spurious charges. AETA, and the corresponding crackdown, is aimed at grassroots animal activists who lend their weekends and occasional evenings towards speaking out against cruelty to animals. Most have little money, no legal experience, and often belong to informal volunteer organizations.
The nature of the Bush administration’s war on grassroots animal activists bears similarities to that of the war in Iraq. The first is the use of loaded language and fear- mongering to create an easy to loathe enemy. Iraq was part of an “axis of evil” and supposedly had weapons of mass destruction it planned to use against the U.S. Animal activists are “domestic terrorists” out to end scientific research and attack anyone with a piece of meat on their plate. Second is the violation of the civil liberties of a now-marginalized group. Third, the war against this perceived terror threat is being waged even though a majority of Americans don’t see a need for it and don’t want to pay for it. Ask a dozen people on the street to list their top ten safety concerns and you can be sure “animal rights activists” won’t be making it onto any of those lists. They probably wouldn’t even crack the top 100.
The final similarity is that the bottom line is corporate profit. The industries targeted by animal activists are wealthy, influential, and, apparently, very vulnerable. Take, for instance, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a major contract animal testing laboratory based in New Jersey and targeted by animal rights groups like SHAC USA after undercover exposes showed a worker punching four-month-old puppies in the face. Focused protest pressure in the U.S. and abroad has left HLS $100 million in debt, kicked off of every stock exchange in the world, and forced to sell all of its property just to stay afloat. Major pharmaceutical companies like Roche, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and others have been targeted by activists for contracting experiments at Hunting- don; many have responded by cutting their financial support for HLS.
International protest in the UK against Huntingdon Life Sciences —photo from
In light of such activist success, it is no wonder the pharmaceutical industry—like the logging, construction, and auto industries—is clamoring for activists to be stopped. Given their lobbying muscle, it is also no surprise that they have been able to push through prosecutions and legislation that civil liberties groups find draconian and unconstitutional. Yet for all the resources poured into this domestic “war on terrorism” and for all its infringement on the civil liberties of law-abiding animal advocates, does the Bush administration at least have tangible success to point to in an attempt to justify its actions? As in Iraq, the answer is an unequivocal no.
Grassroots animal activists, though angered and sometimes scared by the increasing government attention to their movement, have nonetheless carried on as before. Groups like the Animal Liberation Front, which engage in illegal direct action by freeing animals or destroying the property of company executives, have, if anything, been inspired to heightened activity by the government’s actions. The year following the indictment of the SHAC USA defendants saw more illegal actions directed against Huntingdon than in any previous year. Just days after the defendants were sentenced in September 2006, ALF members broke into an animal testing lab in Massachusetts and rescued two dozen rabbits. In the weeks after AETA was signed into law, animal activists seem to have intensified grassroots activity as four separate actions, hundreds of freed animals, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages were claimed by anonymous activists.
Still, the breadth of the animal rights underground should not be overstated. The number of illegal actions claimed each year numbers in the dozens, not the hundreds or thousands. And (this bears repeating) no one has ever gotten hurt. Economic damage has been done, but even the most committed activists don’t come close to the financial thievery perpetrated by the companies they target. GlaxoSmith- Kline, for example, bilked the U.S. public out of $7 billion in taxes by under-reporting its profits, according to the IRS. Their punishment? In September they struck a deal to pay $3 billion, or less than half of what they actually owed. In one year this company has done 50 times more economic damage than animal rights activists have done in the past 25 years.
As in Iraq, the best solution would be to increase the power that the public has to affect issues that concern them—even if that causes financial setbacks for big corporations. After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about? Yet in the U.S., where 86 percent of the public finds the conditions egg-laying hens are kept in to be unacceptable, any bill to end such practices would be summarily shot down by the agriculture lobby—if it was even lucky enough to get introduced. It is no wonder, then, that in the last year activists have repeatedly broken into chicken, turkey, and egg farms to free animals or collect video documentation of conditions.
Animal activists—perhaps more committed, focused, and willing to sacrifice for their cause than any other grassroots social justice movement today in the U.S.—are not going away. The Bush administration’s response to their issues has been as much a farce and a failure as it has been in the Middle East.

Nick Cooney is the director of Hugs For Puppies, a non-profit animal advocacy organization in Philadelphia. His writing has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on PBS television.

Why People Hate Cops

an essay by Derrick Jensen

Insurgent American is happy to publish Derrick Jensen’s latest reflection on the relationship between the people who work for the state: those of us who support it with obedience and taxes, and those who are employed by the state to exercise its “legal monopoly on violence.”

I’m scared to write this essay, scared to have it published, scared it will be read by police officers or customs agents, scared that the next time I’m stopped for some traffic violation or the next time I try to cross a border, some police officer or customs agent will remember this article, and will make me pay for having written it.

I know what at least some police do to those they don’t like. I know what at least some police do to those who question their authority. I know what at least some police do with the power they have over our lives. This is what makes me afraid.


Pretend you see a cop. Pretend you’re doing nothing illegal. Pretend you don’t need police protection. You’re minding your own business, and BAM, you see a cop. What do you feel? Right then. In your gut. On a scale from minus five (fear or loathing) to zero (nothing) to plus five (warmth, comfort, safety).

For more than a decade I’ve asked hundreds or even thousands of people this question, and the long-term average is about minus three. The only profession I know that consistently rates worse is parking patrol, at a near unanimous minus five. Politicians and CEOs rate about the same as police. In the cases of politicians, CEOS, and parking patrol, the hostility is almost entirely loathing, and not much fear. In the case of police, it’s both loathing and fear, in roughly equal measures.

This average doesn’t come about merely because my friends are anti-authoritarian. I’ve asked people of all ages, all economic classes, all political and religious beliefs. Even many of the police I’ve asked don’t have good feelings when they see police they don’t know. Nearly all of the police I’ve talked to feel the same about FBI agents as normal people do about police officers.

In other words, this abysmal public perception of police officers doesn’t come from a skewed sample. And if the people I’ve asked in any way resemble a cross-section of people in the United States and Canada, this means a good portion of the people in these two countries viscerally hate and/or fear the police.

Why is that? What are the personal and social implications?

Cop shows, politicians, corporate media, and many cops tell us more or less incessantly that the police are heroes here to protect us. We hear also that hatred or fear of police is misplaced, and that police are an easy target onto whom otherwise powerless people too often blame their misery. I just got a very intelligent email from a cop commenting on a sentence from my book Endgame. The sentence was “A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper.” He wrote, “I agree for the most part. Yes, police are protecting the status quo, but they also protect poor people from gangs, thugs, and sociopaths who prey on people in lower socio-economic situations.”

I responded, “I don’t disagree with you. I think most of what individual policemen and policewomen do is exactly what you’re saying. That’s a hugely important function. And if that was all that police did I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.”

I continued, “I used to teach creative writing at Pelican Bay, which is a supermax. Some of my students were, I really think, okay guys who never caught a break. Some of them were okay guys who would be great neighbors if you kept them off drugs. But some of them, honestly, were sociopaths who need to be removed from society to protect others (I believe, as I say in The Culture of Make Believe, that there are things people can do that cause them to be removed from society—whether that removal is through segregating or killing them—but it’s also clear to me that the current system of so-called justice is deeply racist and classist: a not-very funny joke I tell in that book consists of two riddles: ‘Q: What do you get when you combine a long drug habit, a quick temper, and a gun? A: Two life terms for murder, earliest release date 2026. Now, Q: What do you get when you combine a large corporation, two nation states, 40 tons of poison, and at least 10,000 dead human beings? A: Retirement with full pay and benefits (Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide, culpable for Bhopal’)). In no way do I romanticize ‘lawbreakers.’ Just as in other categories of people, some are good, some are mediocre, and some are scum. And to the degree that police or anyone else protect me or those I love from sociopaths, I’m grateful.

“But police also break strikes and protect politicians, CEOs, and WTO representatives who sell out the people (and who, even from a straight-up, patriotic, ninth-grade civics perspective, are arguably committing treason, and should be hanged for their crimes). Why are police never sent in to force capitalists to come to terms with strikers? That’s a huge problem (and not a rhetorical question). The sociopaths the police arrest are for the most part sociopaths with no power, and especially with no political power. The sociopaths who cause the most harm are almost never arrested, and are certainly never imprisoned or otherwise punished commensurate with the harm they cause, in great measure because these most dangerous sociopaths run governments and corporations, with the direct assistance of the police. That’s another huge problem (or more accurately the same huge problem, restated).”

I continued, “I’ve known and been friends with really good policemen and policewomen. I was good friends with a parole officer in Spokane, who always said the big difference between him and the people whose parole he oversaw was that he grew up before he got caught doing stupid shit.

“My problem is not with police protecting individuals from harm by anti-social types. My problem is with police who blindly support the status quo, and who protect corporations which are killing the planet, killing communities, killing all of us. Why aren’t CEOs arrested? Why aren’t CEOs executed for murder? It is insane and despicable that they are not. That is my problem with police.

“And of course that doesn’t just apply to the police. I also object to writers who blindly support the status quo: I hate them, I really do, especially as a writer myself. I object to scientists who blindly support the status quo. I object to technicians who blindly support the status quo. I object to judges who blindly support the status quo. And so on.”

He also wrote, “Perhaps besides instigating and enabling an oppressive system one of the primary purposes of police is to serve as scapegoats, something to waste your energy on hating while the true perpetrators of misery continue to spread a corrosive civilization unscathed.”

He’s got a point. Cops have far less power than CEOs and politicians, and by themselves cause far less damage. But they’re still functionally separate parts of the same machine, ultimately serving the same ends. And part of the reason that cops are often more openly hated than CEOs and politicians is that police more visibly and directly have power over us than do CEOs and politicians—CEOs and politicians don’t normally walk around with guns, tasers, and nightsticks telling us what we may and may not do. Another way to say this is that CEOs and politicians wreak their damage indirectly, from a distance. CEOs and politicians don’t generally have the power to personally beat or arrest you. CEOs and politicians almost never harm you personally. Even the CEOs of the most polluting companies don’t personally poison you: they merely run these corporations, and then the activities of these corporations poison the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat. And ultimately these activities poison you. But the CEOs don’t poison you directly (much like a shotcaller for a criminal organization—or rather, for a different sort of criminal organization—who never bloodies his own hands, no matter how many deaths he orders). Instead CEOs pay politicians to pass laws making it legal for these corporations to poison the air, the water, the food, and you. Then when those being poisoned protest, police are sent to protect those who are poisoning us all. Given that CEOs and politicians hide behind the police—yet another way to say this is that the police do their dirty work; and yet one more way to say this is that police are the public face for the whole structure of state repression, but not where the real power lies—it’s no wonder that cops sometimes feel scapegoated for the activities of those they protect. I’m not, of course, saying that cops share no culpability; they could choose to not protect (but instead to bring to justice) the large-scale sociopaths who are poisoning us (and them, for that matter), but they do not do this.

I ended my response to his letter with: “The question becomes: if you and I agree on at least some of who are the true perpetrators of misery, what do we do about that? How do we work together?”

I never heard back, which in a sense didn’t surprise me: his note felt more like a defense of police with an acknowledgment of the obvious (that they support the status quo) than a real effort to reach out to form an alliance to stop the “true perpetrators of misery.”

All of this political analysis is important, but it neither explains nor deeply explores the visceral response of so many people to the police. Sure, I can philosophically hate them for protecting capitalists and for bashing the heads of protesters, and sure, I can philosophically hate them for what my (mainly but not exclusively non-white) friends have told me about how they’ve been treated, but none of it explains why my stomach knots up when I see a cop.

Now, finally, I have an answer. It’s a testament to the color of my skin that it took me this long to understand why I feel the way I do. I’ve known many African-Americans, Chicanos and Chicanas, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and so on who merely because of the color of their skin learned this lesson far more dramatically and painfully than I. I’ve known many very financially poor people who have learned this lesson more quickly and at greater loss than I. But I learned it. I finally learned it.

Oh sure, I’ve encountered asshole cops on power trips before. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. Like the time I rolled through a stop sign at a lonely country intersection in the middle of the night, with only one set of headlights visible in any direction, and those just barely, only to have that car follow me for miles and finally flash red and blue lights and give me a ticket. Or the guards at the prison who yelled at me just like they yelled at prisoners (and like I’m guessing they yell at their wives and children). Or the airport security officer who stuck her hand down my pants, and when I complained told me that if I really wanted to I could tell it to the nearby cops—clearly her friends—and go ahead and miss my flight. Or dozens of other stories like that. I’ve known people who’ve been beaten or killed by cops. Worse (if possible), I know very few people who don’t have story after story of police using their power to intimidate, humiliate, terrorize, threaten, or beat them.

Here is my most recent story, a story in many ways not extreme at all. But for me, this is the moment when I finally understood why so many people hate cops.


First the background. I was returning from Canada. The trip had been terrible in almost every way, starting with my flight out of Crescent City, which was delayed long enough that I missed my connection. Twenty-three hours later I finally arrived in Montreal. Unfortunately, my luggage never did.

That night I gave a talk. The audience was great (except one guy in the third row who kept shouting incomprehensible things like “Do you know Guy?” and “Talk about Africa”: after a few of these comments I started looking around to see if Eva Marie Saint was squirming uncomfortably next to James Mason and Martin Landau), and including Q and A we talked for four and a quarter hours.

At eleven the next morning I returned to the airport, to fly to Toronto for my next event. Unfortunately the crew failed to show, and so the flight was delayed. No matter, I thought, we’ve got plenty of time. The plane eventually took off, but as we began our descent we had to turn back to Montreal, because in the time it had taken the crew to arrive a storm had moved in.

Had they canceled the flight before take-off, I could have rented a car. But it was too late for that, which meant not only did I not get to do that talk, but I also obviously was not going to get paid for it.

I tried to fly home. No. Partway? No. Every flight to anywhere was sold out. I got a flight at 6:45 the next morning that, with several connections, would get me home. I got to the airport at 3:30 to find five hundred people ahead of me in line. Air Canada had only three stations open: one for the plebes and two for the ten people with business-class tickets. Finally my turn came, and I ran as fast as I could to customs, then security, then the plane. I made it. They were about to push back, but then canceled the flight because of snow. I returned through customs, called the airline, and found there was nothing available out of Montreal for three days. I asked if there were flights out of Toronto, and she booked me on one that night.

I rented a car—$400 one-way!—and arrived six hours early for my flight. This was good, because there were five hundred more people in line.
Several hours later, I got my boarding pass, and proceeded to customs.

This is when my trip to Canada took a bad turn.


I got pulled aside for a random check. The customs agent started rummaging through my backpack. No big deal, right? In the words of those who rationalize the Panopticon as well as any and all state repression: If I’ve got nothing to hide, I’ve got nothing to fear. Right? Right? The agent pulled my wallet from my backpack. Once again, no big deal. I kept repeating this to myself—This is no big deal, no big deal—in the hope that I might believe it. She pulled out my roll of toilet paper, and asked why I had that. I told her I have Crohn’s disease, an incurable, progressive disease that causes more or less incessant diarrhea, among many other health problems. She nodded sympathetically, then asked me to pull my dirty socks and underwear from my backpack (Where else was I supposed to put them? I’d been wearing the same clothes for several days, but had purchased some socks and underwear).

Then she found a small ziplock baggie of pills. The baggie had a faint label on it. She asked what those pills were.

That’s when I made my big mistake. I told a cop the truth (perhaps because I was sleep-deprived, perhaps because I’m too slow-witted to make up a convincing lie on the spot, perhaps because I’m fundamentally honest and expect the same from those around me): “I don’t know.”

“Where did you get them?”

“I don’t remember.” Truly, if I’d have remembered where I got them, I’d have remembered what they were.

The agent freaked out. She called other agents, who also freaked out. They collectively called their supervisor, who almost immediately started yelling at me: “You did something really stupid.”

“I didn’t do anything at all.”

Still shouting: “You’re going down for a long time.”

“For what?”

“You’re facing prison for smuggling heroin or cocaine.”

Of course I knew it wasn’t heroin or cocaine. I’ve never even seen heroin or cocaine.

But wait! Maybe. . . . Maybe the decision to search me wasn’t so random as I thought. What if they chose me because of my politics? What if the agent had used sleight of hand to slip this baggie into my backpack? What if someone snuck it into my pack when I was doing the talk? What if. . . . I’ve known people to whom this sort of thing has happened.

I started to get scared.

The movie reference that kept coming to me was Midnight Express.

The agents left to test the pills. Lots more cops arrived. They began Interrogation 101, saying things like, “Why do you have an American passport if you’re a Canadian citizen?”

“I’m not a Canadian citizen.”

“Then why did you tell the other agent that that you are?”

“I didn’t.”

“He says you did. He wouldn’t lie. Why did you?”

“I didn’t.”

“Are you calling him a liar?”

“I’m saying I never said that.”

“Where do you live?” she asked, holding my driver’s license and passport in her hand.

I had to tell her my address three or four times.

She turned on my computer, looked at documents, emails, photographs. She asked trick questions. She asked when was my last time in Canada. I told her the year before. She looked more on my computer, said, “Who’s this person? Did you meet him in Toronto last month?”

“I wasn’t in Toronto last month.”

“Then where did you meet him?”


“Maine, United States; or Maine, Canada?”

I never even knew there was a Maine, Canada.

And on and on.
Yet another cop arrived. She led me to an interrogation room. She was nice, not like the other cops. She didn’t yell at me. She told me that everyone else was quite concerned about the pills, but that she wasn’t worried at all. She said she was sure that with my help we’d be able to clear things up very quickly. And the best way to clear things up, she said, is to cooperate.

I said sure.

She said, “And the best place to start is for you to try to see this from our perspective.”

Her voice was soft, inviting.

She said, kindly, gently, “You have some unidentified pills. . . .”

I saw it. I saw it from their perspective. Yes. I was unshaven, disheveled. I had some pills in a baggie. When I looked at it their way, it did seem pretty suspicious. I wished I knew what the pills were, so I could just tell her, and she could clear this all up. She seemed nice enough that even if the pills were illegal, I’m sure she’d help me minimize the damage. Talking to her made the whole thing seem so easy. I just needed to do my part.

She said, “They’ve determined that the pills weren’t narcotics.”

She was kind enough to tell me how they did the test. One agent put some on his finger (and no, they don’t taste it like in the movies), then watched to see if it melted. Evidently narcotics melt with the moisture of your skin.

She hadn’t needed to tell me any of that: she was clearly on my side. She asked where I got the pills.

This gave me an idea. I told her that sometimes I carry pills for my mom, and sometimes my mom gives me some of her painkillers or sleeping pills. I suggested she call my mom. She might know what they were.

She made the call.

I was glad. This woman seemed nice, but that supervisor still scared me. Now someone would know where I was, and if my mom didn’t hear from me again soon I knew she had phone numbers of people in Toronto she could call to get me an attorney. Or if I disappeared altogether at least she would know where I was last seen.

I feel weird including that last sentence, but the current political climate makes it a very real concern. It also makes me glad I’m not of Middle Eastern descent, or it would be of even greater concern.

I heard only the Toronto end of the conversation. The policewoman began by reassuring my mom that I was fine—wasn’t that nice of her?—but that I was in custody at customs because of some unidentified medicine. She asked if my mom had given me any tablets.

“They were capsules,” I said.

She waved me off, said into the phone, “Did you give him any blue tablets?”

“They were white capsules.”

She frowned at me, mouthed I know.

Why was she trying to trick my mom?

The cop wrote down all the pills my mom has. Nothing matched.

Evidently my mom asked what this was all about, because the policewoman said, “We were concerned at first that it might be heroin or cocaine, but now we know it’s not.”

Something on the other end.

Then she said, “Now we’re concerned it might be anthrax.”

More on the other end.

The policewoman: “Anthrax is nothing to laugh at, Mrs. Jensen.”

They spoke a while longer. At one point the policewoman said that none of this would have happened had the pills been in a normal bottle. It occurred to me that the only drug or anthrax smugglers they must catch are the ones too stupid to put the pills in regulation bottles, and too stupid to have backstories concocted as to what the pills are.

She got off the phone. We were no closer to figuring out what was going on than before the call. Except that someone now knew where I was.

She said to me, again and again, “Can’t you see this from our perspective?” This was her soft, inviting mantra. She started asking me if I had various medical conditions.

I said yes to the ones I have, and no to the ones I don’t. When I told her I have Crohn’s, she said she has relatives with that, and that I didn’t need to explain it.
Then she began listing drugs, saying about each one, “If that’s all it is, just tell us. It will be okay.”

I wanted to tell her it was one of those drugs. Then everything would be fine. But I didn’t want to lie. I also noticed that some of the drugs she mentioned were illegal. I began to wonder if she were trying to trick me, as she’d tried to trick my mom.

She kept pushing, however softly.

I stuck to my story, because it was true.

As I said yet again that I didn’t know where I got the pills, she rolled her eyes at me.

I said, “That’s not helpful. I’m being honest with you, and it doesn’t help for you to make gestures like that.”

Her response was interesting: “I’m trying to help you remember, and if rolling my eyes makes you angry enough to remember, then I’m going to do that.”
That was the point her good cop routine fell apart for me. She was admitting that she was consciously manipulating me (although I don’t believe to help me remember, but rather to get me to admit to something illegal).

Finally I said, “Why don’t you read the label on the baggie and see what it says?”

“It has a label?”

She left the room. Finally she came back. She asked, “What conditions does your mother have?”

I listed them.

She left again.

After five minutes she came back, said, “The label says ‘Generic Bextra’. We looked it up on the internet and it’s used for arthritis. Do you know anyone with arthritis?”

“I’ve got bad arthritis.”

“Why didn’t you tell us this before?”

“When I started to explain what Crohn’s disease is, you stopped me. My arthritis is a side-effect of Crohn’s, and since you know the disease, I figured you’d know about the arthritis.”

She rolled her eyes again, shook her head, and said to the other cops who had gathered, “Let him go.”

The supervisor—the one who yelled at me—was nowhere to be seen. Someone went to pass the bad news to him that his drug bust was a bust. The good cop suggested I get rid of the pills—which I now vaguely remembered as having been given to me by a friend months before; and I also remembered that they hadn’t helped me so I’d forgotten about them—so nobody else gets mad at me for them. At that point they could have been made of gold and diamonds and I would have flushed them down the toilet.

Another cop came up to me and said, “You’re lucky this happened in this country. In some countries they’d have locked you up and done the test in a year.”

I thought, but of course didn’t say, “In some countries they might believe someone when he says he doesn’t know what the pills are, and in some countries they might actually read the label, and then ask if he has arthritis.” Had I said this, I would now be sitting in a jail in Toronto.

Someone found the supervisor, talked to him, came back, said, “We can’t release him. He needs to be interrogated more.”

So I sat there waiting. A customs agents who’d been nice—honestly nice, not good cop nice: she’d come up to me early on and whispered when no one was looking, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not going to be a big deal”—came back in the room, and said to someone, “Why is he still here?” They said something I didn’t hear, and she said, “I’m going to go talk to him.” She left the room to find the supervisor. Finally she returned, and this time wouldn’t look at me.

Still I sat.

Finally a bunch of other cops came in. They started talking, occasionally looking at me. They continued to chat and laugh for another half hour, until they decided that their power trip had gone on long enough: they couldn’t of course, just let me leave when they found out they’d been wrong: they had to keep me there another hour so they could win. They sauntered over to me (corncobs up their butts) and told me I could go. I made my flight by about five minutes.


On the flight I started to get angry. I can’t blame them for wanting to figure out what the pills were, but they could have done so respectfully. They could have read the label. They could have done the narcotics test without yelling at me, without intimidating me, without manipulating me, without lying to me. But they immediately presumed I was guilty, and worse, presumed it’s okay to manipulate someone they presume is guilty.

And that’s what they do.

This leads to the reason I got so angry that night on the plane. It has to do with the good cop’s mantra: can’t you see this from our perspective?

While of course that phrase can be used sincerely, it is also the mantra of all abusers, all exploiters. In order for any oppressive or exploitative situation to sustain over the long term, it’s imperative that oppressors get the oppressed to see things from the oppressor’s (warped) perspective. Sure, oppressors—including individual bullies, abusers, capitalists, the civilized, most males within a patriarchy, or any other oppressors—can and do simply use violence to take whatever it is to which they feel entitled, and sure, the threat of violence always underlies oppressors’ every action (had a normal person started yelling at me because I couldn’t identify a baggie of pills in my backpack, I would have briefly stared in disbelief before walking away shaking my head: of course had I done that in this circumstance the cops would have physically assaulted me to hold me in place), but oppression always flows more smoothly when the oppressed police themselves, or even better, agree with the oppressors and need no policing at all. It’s as Steven Biko said, “The most powerful tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

And that’s why I got so pissed off. Because the truth is that unless you’re really paranoid and hostile and abusive, the situation at customs looked like what it was: someone who had spent 48 of the last 90 hours in airports; someone who was sleep-deprived; someone with an incurable, progressive disease who has to take more pills than he can keep straight; someone who simply got confused.
The truth is that the perspective the police wanted me to take on—the perspective they themselves evidently had—is really fucked up. Combine their paranoid, hostile perspective with the fact that they do not mind intentionally, consciously manipulating those with whom they come into contact—indeed, they are trained to intentionally, consciously manipulate those with whom they come into contact—and combine all of that with the fact that they have guns and we generally do not, and combine that with the fact that they have the full power of the state behind them to use those guns in ways that would cause the rest of us to be killed or imprisoned forever, and it becomes pretty damn clear why so many people hate cops: it’s not very fun to have someone hold power over you, especially when that person quite possibly does not have your best interests at heart, when that person has been trained to manipulate you, when that person can detain you or worse over misunderstandings, when that person, in larger cases, can destroy your life.


It’s a month later. I’ve shared my story with a number of friends, shared with them my realizations about the oppressed taking on the oppressors’ perspective, shared with them my understanding about why so many people hate cops.

My friends make appropriately disgusted sounds at appropriate moments in the story. They tell me that my experience and analysis matches their own. And most important, they tell me stories from their own lives of why they hate the police.

A deaf woman tells me that someone attempting to harass her called a suicide hotline pretending to be her. A fully-armored SWAT team burst into her home and held her at gunpoint (Feeling a little depressed? A little down? How’s this for a pick-me-up: have a bunch of angry cops point guns at you. Just what the doctor ordered). She said to me: “If hearing people have it hard communicating with cops, imagine how hard it is for someone who is Deaf. This immense cop—he’s probably six feet five inches—demanded to know if I lipread. I signed ‘I am Deaf, please write.’ He yelled at me again, as though the louder he yelled the better I’d understand. I gestured wait and turned around to get paper and pen. They all lurched forward simultaneously yelling NO! and pointing the rifles in my face. I almost peed in my pants with fright and shock. Again the idiot barked lipread? Lipread? Finally one of them whipped out a pen, and we could communicate. They grilled me as to whether I wanted to commit suicide. I told them no. They didn’t believe me. As if they know better than I whether I’m suicidal. Finally I convinced them that someone had made a harassing call about me, and do you know how they responded? They started to laugh at me. When they were done laughing they gestured that I could go back to my evening. They left, giving me no apology, no explanation, nothing.”

Another friend says, “Two people I’ve known have been killed by cops. One was a promising artist named Jim. We participated together in an anti-war art show, and he made the music for my student film. He was so excited about his first solo art exhibit. He was beaten to death by an off-duty cop when he got into an argument about traffic. The other was a Puerto Rican gang leader in Florida named Carlos. I was working with him to organize an anti-police-brutality event in his neighborhood when he was shot by a cop who’d terrorized his family for years: the cop had chained Carlos’s father to a radiator and raped his mother while Carlos, a child then, hid in the bathroom. That same cop continued to patrol their neighborhood—and continued to terrorize their family—in all the years until he killed Carlos. Both of those men—Jim and Carlos—had difficult lives but were using their anger and political consciousness to fight back, and then they were murdered.”

A third friend tells me, “We’re having another scandal right now in Junction City, just like the one in Eugene a few years ago where the two cops raped more than twenty women. In that case, if you recall, Eugene hired an ‘independent’ firm (and paid so much money it seemed more a bribe than a bill) to do an analysis and make up a formal report. The findings were—no big surprise—that the department had acted appropriately by not investigating the allegations of so many women (as well as female officers) for so long because the charges were—I shit you not—so ‘unbelievable’ it was determined they simply couldn’t be valid.”

“What’s happening in Junction City?”

“A friend’s daughter is the key witness. She’s a female officer, which means maybe ‘whistleblower’ is the correct term. She’s been harassed and threatened by the other officers, even the ones who didn’t rape anyone. It’s another cop rape spree. I swear, I’m more likely to get raped if I call the cops than if I leave my doors unlocked.”

A fourth friend says he has a good friend whose brother is training to be a cop. “As you might imagine,” he says, “my friend and his brother often disagree. The surprising thing is that his brother used to be more ‘liberal’ in his views, but after he began the indoctrination to be a cop, his views became much more severe and legalistic. For example, before, he might occasionally smoke marijuana, but now he berates anyone who doesn’t agree that marijuana is 100 percent evil and that anyone who smokes it should receive a long prison sentence.”

He continues, “My friend’s brother wanted to be a cop for altruistic reasons, but once you start the training there’s only one way to think and act. The One Cop Way. So, you have this impressionable young man confronted with men he wishes to be like. They in turn exploit both his ego and insecurities and create another clone.”

Story after story after story they come in.

I talk to yet another friend, who also has stories of her own. I tell her about the One Cop Way.

She says, “I used to think that the police are basically a big gang—the most violent gang around, certainly.”

I respond, “I know in the United States, between four and six people die every day because they encounter police. That’s through beatings, shootings, high speed chases, and medical neglect in jails and prisons.”

She continues, “But I’m not sure that’s what I think anymore.”


“Now I think they’re a cult.”

“Cult?” I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far.

She says, “Think about the One Cop Way. And think about some of the major characteristics of cults.”

We’re on the phone. I hear her shuffling through some papers.

She says, “It’s interesting you bring this up right now. I’ve just been writing an essay on cults, and I hadn’t thought to talk about the police, but now I will.” More shuffling, and then she says, “Ah, my list of characteristics, modified from one I found on the Internet. Ready?”

I nod, but of course she can’t see that.

She says, “The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.”

I interrupt: “Who is the leader?”

“That’s one of the brilliant things about this particular cult: not only is the word of the leader seen as law, but the leader is not even a person, the leader is the law itself, or I suppose we should say the capital L Law. But the real point is that what any cop says, that becomes the law, merely by the cop saying it.”
I start to object.

She says, “The cop says you’re smuggling: you’re treated as a smuggler. How much were your words worth in that exchange?”

I don’t say anything.

She says, “Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.”
We don’t need to talk about that one. We all know about the infamous police code of silence. We know what happens to people like Serpico, to people like the whistleblower in Junction City.

She says, “Next, the group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leaders, and members. Do we need to talk about that one?”
I don’t say anything.

She says, “The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which can cause conflict with the larger society.”

“Jesus,” I say.

“No,” she says. “They don’t need Jesus. They’re already cops. That’s good enough, close enough to being a god right there.”


She continues, “The leader is not accountable.”

I respond, “That one is true for all cops.”

She says, “The group teaches or implies that its ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.”

I say, “Like manipulating people they don’t know.”

She responds, “Like killing people.”

I take a deep breath, say, “That’s really it, isn’t it?”

She doesn’t say anything for a very long time. At last she says, “But I think in some ways your question—why do so many people hate the police—is much simpler than either you or I are saying.”

“How so?”

“I think a lot of people hate the police because the police hate us first.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Think about the stories you just told me. Think about how the cops treated you. Think about their perspective on you that they kept trying to get you to see? What is it about that perspective? What are they feeling toward you? Think about all the cop shows you see. What do the cops feel toward those they encounter? Contempt, at best. More likely hatred. Think about the looks on cops’ faces when they walk up to give you a ticket. Think about all the stories you have ever heard about the police. Yes, we all have a good story here or there involving police treating us well, but think about your experience and the experiences of those you know. What do all of those stories have in common? Think about the question you asked: why do so many people hate the police? I think the answer is staring us in the face, especially when it is cops who are doing the staring. I think a lot of people hate the police because the police hate us first.”

I think a moment, and sadly, find I cannot disagree.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Darren Thurston Sentencing Report

by Gumby Cascadia


Darren Thurston Sentencing

Government Arguments

Darren plead guilt to one count of Conspiracy in Oregon,
and one count of Arson in the Eastern District of
California for the Litchfield Wild Horse Corral action.

Asst. US Atty Stephen Peiffer opened the government's
arguments by recalling Thurston's history as a radical
environmentalist, saying that at age 20 he became involved
in the radical animal rights movement and remained active
till his arrest at age 36. Pieffer said that in 1991, he
was involved in the burning of three trucks at a fish
company, and a cat liberation (with David Barbarash) at the
U. of Alberta. Pieffer said that in 1994, he went illegally
to an Earth First! gathering in California where he met
Jonathan Paul and Kevin Tubbs, and that in 1996 he met with
Paul at an anti-fur protest in Seattle. He said that during
that time, he also met Gina Lynn, whom he called an "animal
rights extremist", and that the two did reconnaissance on
fur farms in Oregon, Washington and California. That year,
Thurston also published the first edition of "The Final
Nail" , which Pieffer referred to as the "Bible" for animal
rights "extremists", (which Thurston said he'd researched
for 500 hours to produce) and which listed fur farms in the
US and Canada. He said that Thurston also posted
instructions for incendiary devices on the internet and
updated the site with new fur farms, with help from Joseph

Pieffer went on to say that Thurston did recon and planning
for the 1997 BioDevices beagle liberation in Orange,
California, and helped plan an arson at a San Diego
taxidermist and meat company that was called off because
the team was sighted by a homeless person. In 1998,
Thurston was arrested and deported to Canada. In 1999, he
became official spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front,
where, until he passed the job on in 2001, he publicized
100-200 communiques which Peiffer said was relevant to his
conspiracy charge.

He said in 2005, Thurston hosted a website on security and
"dead drops" (the sharing of unsent emails through a common
account), and that he authored "ALF: A Guide to Direct
Action and the ALF" and "Arson Around with Auntie ALF", a
manual on how to commit arson, which he distributed widely
and posted on the internet, encouraging future arsons.
Thurston began planning arsons with Craig Rosebraugh,
including US Forest Industries, and worked together to
finalize the press release on the Vail action. Pieffer said
Thurston mediated the dispute over the Jefferson Poplar
communique, and met Chelsea Gerlach at that time (see
Chelsea's sentencing notes for details).

As to Thurston's role in the Litchfield arson, Peiffer said
that Joseph Dibee contacted Thurston and Rebecca Rubin
about the action. He said that Thurston was also interested
in Chelsea Gerlach, and thought maybe they'd meet again for
the action. Thurston and Rubin illegally crossed the border
and were picked up by Jennifer Kolar and brought to meet
with Dibee to discuss the arson. Thurston expressed that he
only wanted to be involved in the horse releases, and not
the arsons themselves. He helped prepare for the action,
setting up clean rooms to do so, and during the act itself,
cut the fences and tried the herd the horses outside the
fence, but had difficulty getting them to leave the corral.
Peiffer said that Thurston aided and abetted the arson, and
that the communique was coercive toward the BLM, and so the
government was seeking the terrorism enhancement for the

In 2005, he was arrested with Gerlach, with whom he was
"romantically and criminally" involved. Pieffer said that
he had been involved in numerous crimes prior to his
arrest: selling drugs, illegal border crossings and
illegally dwelling in the US. He said the Thurston and
Gerlach had lived in San Francisco and Portland together,
and that Gerlach had purchased firearms for Thurston at gun
shows. He acquired fraudulent IDs from Tubbs and lived
under the name Ian Holiday, and used a stolen credit card
to purchase a computer. In 2003, he helped plan an action
against a predator research center in Utah, and buried a
cache of weapons with Gerlach. Pieffer then recounted how
Thurston had been involved in demonstrating the use of HMTD
(explosive) to a representative of the Zapatistas in
Redway, CA.

Peiffer then said the government was asking for Thurston to
he sentenced to 37 months, after conferring with the
District of California prosecutor in the Ted Kaczinski case
who agreed that the sentence, although appearing low, was
just in a case where the defendant had cooperated so
extensively. He said that Thurston was offered a
substantial reduction for his minor role, and because he
was only interested in releasing horses and being there for
Chelsea. He said that Thurston had provided information
about a "whole array of activities and other people",
beyond what was called for in this investigation. The
government's sentencing recommendation offered a 4 point
downward departure for "minimum role". Judge Aiken
interjected that Peiffer didn't need to argue that the
sentence was just... that Thurston was lucky it did not
depart upwards. Pretrial had asked that Thurston only be
offered a downward departure of 2 points for "minor role",
instead of the 4 point downward the government had

Defense Arguments

Defense attorney Dan Feiner started his argument by asking
the court to remove the government's categorization of
Thurston as a "white supremacist", mistakenly added by the
government who do not know the distinction between Aryans
and Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, of which Thurston
had been a part during a protest against Aryan Nation
founder Metzger. The judge ruled that she would take it
under advisement with regards to the sentencing

Feiner argued against the terrorism enhancement as ex post
facto (that the enhancement was amended with the predicate
crimes after the date of the conspiracy in 2001). He showed
a photo of the Litchfield corral, that was really no more
than "a hay barn in the desert" and pointed out where
Thurston had cut the fences. He then addressed why Darren
took a little while to cooperate, and explained that at the
time of his arrest, he was only charged with INS
violations, and didn't know if he was being charged with
Litchfield. When Gerlach began cooperating and informed
Thurston that she had spilled the beans on him, Thurston
asked his attorney to pass along the message to Gerlach
through her attorney that he understood and was okay with
it even though it was detrimental to him. Feiner went on to
describe the "moving" meeting between Gerlach and Thurston,
who were never allowed a private conversation but were able
to hold hands. Feiner said that Gerlach's urging him
doesn't negate Thurston's decision to cooperate. He said
the decision was drastic change of life for Thurston, that
he had removed himself from all ties with the ALF/ELF, and
would never be allowed to reintegrate because of his
cooperation. Fiener said Thurston's role as "senior
statesman" for the movement was over, and that he had
withdrawn and resigned in all ways. He described Thurston's
lawful activist roles, citing his involvement with Bear
Watch in Canada, his teaching of computer skills to
children, and his part in The Compassion Club in British
Columbia working with terminally ill people. He said that
since his arrest, Thurston has been studying for a vocation
and wants to give back what he took from society. He looks
forward to returning to Canada.
Feiner then read a letter from supporter Elaine Budlong who
has been a weekly visitor of Thurston's since his arrest.
In it, she wrote about how age makes you see things in
other than "black and white". Feiner ended by saying that
he wouldn't ask for a further reduction in sentence than
the government's recommended 37 months, and that his client
had been treated with respect.

Thurston then read his statement to the court, in which he
commented to the judge that she had often used the phrase
"actions speak louder than words" in these hearings, which
was an axiom he had "lived by" for many years. He said that
he did not blame others for his actions, and that all his
actions had always been informed by the belief that all
life is sacred. He said he realized arson created a danger
for firefighters and that he has resigned from the ALF/ELF
with no intent to ever go back in the future. He described
his life experience: creating programs for kids, being a
librarian, working on behalf of dolphins, and against
trophy hunting and poaching. He said he had worked on
behalf of the forests, against racism and bigotry, and on
behalf of the poor and terminally ill. He said that his
actions with the ALF/ELF had diminished all the positive
work he had done. He promised that when released from
prison, he would continue to act for social change, but in
legal ways.

Judge Aiken responded by saying that no words he could say
would change the agreed upon resolution. She said he was
"gifted and bright", but that he had "squandered his impact
as a leader". She said he had been sidetracked and "lured"
into other activities, that he didn't pursue his education.
She referred to the letter from Elaine Budlong, agreeing
with her assessment that the world is much more complicated
in the full context. She then said, "You're a CANADIAN.
Aren't there any problems up there? Why come here to start
problems? Take care of your OWN place, first. Don't be
coming down here to start problems in OUR neck of the
woods." She said "you're getting a sweet deal" and she
hopes he gets a "do-over". She then read a passage from
Thurgood Marshall's "A Defiant Life", whose message was
that we are a "nation of laws" and that if laws are unjust,
in a democracy there are legal means to go about changing
them. She bemoaned the use of the Boston Tea Party as an
analogy to the crimes of property destruction, asserting
that the Boston Tea Party was about "taxation without
REPRESENTATION" and said, "Ya'll HAD representation and
could have worked through the government. None of you
bothered to study this. While you were out releasing
animals, Marshall was out freeing humans," she said. [No
mention of the Underground Railroad... I'm just sayin'...]
She said she would hold him accountable for all his
unlawful actions to date, and that it was tragic to hold
Thurston as "anything but a courageous person". As to his
cooperation, she said that "those who truly love you will
be there when you get out", and that it took time for him
to cooperate because he had a lot of "terrible family
secrets" to let go of. She then listed the sentencing
calculations and said that she would entertain no downward
departures because of his "scary past".

Judge Aiken sentenced Darren Thurston to 37 months, and did
not apply the terrorism enhancement due to the remote
location of the horse corral.

Canadian sentenced to 37 months for burning wild horse corrals

May 29, 2007

The Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A Canadian animal rights activist was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Tuesday for helping a cell of the Animal Liberation Front set fire to federal wild horse corrals in Northern California.
Darren Todd Thurston, 37, was the fourth of 10 radical environmentalists to be sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy and arson charges for his part in a five-year string of fires across five states in the West by a Eugene group known as The Family.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Thurston to 37 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson in the 2001 fire at the Litchfield, Calif., U.S. Bureau of Land Management wild horse corrals.
In the name of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, The Family set more than 20 fires in five Western states that did a total of $40 million in damage. Targets included the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado, forest ranger stations, meat packing plants, wild horse corrals, an SUV dealer, a tree farm and research laboratories.
At the time of his arrest, Thurston was living with fellow defendant Chelsea Gerlach in Portland.
Gerlach was sentenced to nine years in prison for her part in the arsons after evidence was presented that she persuaded Thurston to plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation rather than become a martyr.
A Canadian court document from 1994 identifies Thurston as a "member and leader of the Animal Liberation Front." He was convicted of setting fire to trucks belonging to a fish company in 1991 in Edmonton, Alberta, according to news accounts.
Thurston was also convicted of breaking into and trashing a research lab at the University of Alberta in 1992 and freeing 29 cats.

ProLibertad/Jericho Events

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign and
ProLibertad Hotline: 718-601-4751


ProLibertad is calling on all our allies to join us ‘Rican Weekend (June
9th-10th) as we hand out literature on Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican
Political Prisoners!!

Thousands of Boricuas are waiting to learn more about the Puerto Rican
Indpendence movement!!


SATURDAY June 9th, 2007 at 10am El Barrio Festival Meet
ProLibertad at 339 e116th St.
(btwn. 1st-2nd Aves.) Light Blue Building

SUNDAY June 10th, 2007 at 10am
National Puerto Rican Day Parade
Meet us on the corner of e45th St. and 3rd Avenue. Look for the ProLibertad

LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE GOING TO JOIN US: Call ProLibertad at 718-601-4751 or

FREE PUERTO RICO: End Colonialism NOW!!

Thurs. June 14, 2007 at 6:30pm at Hunter College West Building 2nd Floor
Room 217
E68th St. and Lexington Avenue (Take the #6 train to E68th St.)

Donation: $10 or your best offer (no one will be turned away)

Join the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign for our annual Reception/Forum for the
Puerto Rico Delegation of the United Nations De-Colonization Committee

Every year a Delegation from Puerto Rico comes to the United Nations to
testify to the U.N. De-Colonization Committee; to make the case for the
liberation of Puerto Rico, Vieques and the release of the Puerto Rican
Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War.

This delegation is made up of various activists from the different
organizations throughout Puerto Rico that fight for the independence of
Puerto Rico.

This reception/forum is an opportunity for allies of the Puerto Rican
independence movement in NYC to converse with activists from Puerto Rico!!

Come hear updates on: Economic Crisis in Puerto Rico, Labor Struggle in
Puerto Rico, FBI Repression of the Independence Movement

The following organizations and individuals are invited: El Frente
Socialista, The Island of Vieques, ProLibertad, El Partido Nacionalista
Puertorriqueño, and many other organizations from New York and Puerto

Join NYC Jericho & Friends for an evening dedicated to Struggles for the
Land at The Brecht Forum 451 West Street (West Side Highway, between Bank &
Bethune Streets)

Friday, June 15, 2007
7 to 10 p.m.

Screening of the film
Un Granito de Arena (A Grain of Sand)

For over 20 years, global economic forces have been dismantling public
education in Mexico, but always in the constant shadow of popular
resistance. Granito de Arena is the story of that resistance, the story of
hundreds of thousands of public schoolteachers whose grassroots, non-violent
movement took Mexico by surprise, and who have endured brutal repression and
incarceration in their 25-year struggle for social and economic justice in
Mexico’s public schools.

Speakers will include:
Ismael Guadalupe Ortiz

Vieques Land Struggle Activist

Report from Chiapas

Invited speakers on the Oaxaca struggle

Light refreshments will be served

For more information, call the Brecht Forum at (212) 242-4201 or
NYC Jericho at (718) 853-0893

A, C, E or L to 14th Street & 8th Ave, walk down 8th Ave. to Bethune, turn
right, walk west to the river, turn left. 1, 2, 3 or 9 to 14th Street & 7th
Ave, get off at south end of station, walk west on 12th Street to 8th Ave,
left to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the river, turn left. PATH Train
to Christopher Street, north on Greenwich St to Bank Street, left to the

Sponsored by NYC Jericho:;

Monday, May 28, 2007

Update on sentencings in Daniel McGowan's case

Family + Friends of Daniel McG May 28, 2007

This past week, three people indicted along with Daniel have been sentenced. There has been a plethora of media coverage.

Below are some links to these articles as well as well written opinion pieces. Many have written asking us what they can do in light of these decisions and we have asked that people engage their community and write letters and opinion pieces to the media. We have provided more information on this below.

Thank you everyone for checking in and seeing how we are doing. Daniel will be sentenced on June 4th. More on that coming soon.
Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan

Weigh in on the Register Guard blog entry entitled "Eco-sabotage: Terrorism or activism"
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken has begun sentencing 10 environmental activists involved in arsons and other acts of sabotage that spanned several years. Operation Backfire is the largest ever prosecution of radical underground environmental activists in the U.S. So far, federal prosecutors have successfully argued that the “terrorism” label should apply to at least some of the actions.
Do you agree? Is this terrorism? Activism run amok? Vandalism? What is an appropriate punishment for those involved?

Recent sentencing articles:

Chelsea Gerlach's sentencing
Earth Liberation Front arsonist sentenced to nine years
By Jeff Barnard, The Associated Press, 5/25/2007

Kevin Tubbs' sentencing:
Second arsonist labeled `terrorist', By Bill Bishop, The Register-Guard,5/25/07

Stanislas Meyerhoff's sentencing
Arson attacks ruled terrorism, By Bill Bishop, The Register-Guard, 5/24/07

Opinion pieces,1,6114701.story?track=rss
My brother, the 'terrorist': The government is distorting the word to get more notches in its gun. By Caroline Paul, Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2007
For justice, the label must befit the crime, by Bron Taylor, The Oregonian,Thursday, May 24, 2007

Write letters to the editors

If you would like to write letters to the editors, we have compiled contact information below.

News Publications:

The Oregonian:
We invite your letters to the editor. Send them to: Letters to the editor, The Oregonian, 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, Or., 97201, or They may also be faxed to (503)294-4193.Please limit letters to 150 words. Please include your full address and daytime phone number, for verification only. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Register Guard
PO Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440-2188.
The Register-Guard welcomes letters on topics of general interest. Our length limit is 250 words; all letters are subject to condensation. Writers are limited to one letter per calendar month.

Eugene Weekly
1251 Lincoln, Eugene OR 97401.
Letters to the Editor (to be published in the paper) should be clearly labeled as such, be no more than 250 words and must include your full name, address and phone number.

Seattle times
Letters, not exceeding 200 words, must include your full name, address and telephone numbers for verification. Letters become the property of The Times and may be edited for publication. High volume prevents our acknowledging receipt of submissions. Email to
Letters Editor, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 , Fax: (206) 382-6760

Portland Mercury
605 NE 21st Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97232.

Salem Statesmen Journal
Letters to the Editor are a popular feature of the Statesman Journal. Letters should be 200 words or fewer. All submissions are subject to editing, including for clarity, accuracy, grammar, length and libel concerns. The form below requires you to input your name, address, and day and evening telephone numbers. The addresses and telephone numbers are for verifying the letters; we will publish your name and town.

Willamette Week
822 SW 10th Avenue, Portland, OR 97205.

Previous letters to the Editor

Terrorist terminology will have bad outcome
May 20, 2007
The attempt of the prosecution in the trial of the Earth Liberation Front defendants to classify them as terrorists will have a telling effect on what remains of "justice" for the people of the U.S. in the future.

The guilt of the defendants is not an issue here. But, if they are classified as "terrorists," this case will be used as a legal precedent for any type of corporatist/ government legal or military action against any type of protest or gathering that they are afraid of and/or deem against their interests.

Since the Reagan presidency, the strategy of the corporatists (Republicans and Democrats alike) has been an incremental chipping away of people's rights and establishing a basis (in law) for suppression of dissent and population control.
This case represents a very large step in the direction of totalitarian corporate control. It has been under-reported by the media (only 88 hits on Google).
When will the population at large wake up and see that they are being turned into steaks on the table by choice and consent? If we have the power to choose -- then they have a menu for us. Put on the feedbag -- all work and no play make for a strong, healthy economy.
-- Michael Anderson, Salem

Punishment shows values
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The comparison between radical environmental/animal rights activists and the Ku Klux Klan made by prosecutors in the "Operation Backfire" case ("Sentencing hinges on defining terror," May 16) is appalling and stupid.

The fact that Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front are considered the nation's top domestic terrorist threat when they have never injured a single person is just one more example of how the government has its priorities wrong.

Resources have been diverted away from investigating right-wing terrorists, al-Qaida and corporate criminals -- all who have the blood of innocents on their hands -- and instead used to go after misguided idealists who destroy the property of companies that are poisoning and destroying the natural environment we all depend on for our survival.

When Jeff Luers was sentenced to 22-plus years in prison for burning three sport utility vehicles, the message I got was that local authorities are more concerned with activists destroying property than criminals harming people. Why else would they give somebody a prison sentence longer than most rapists, child molesters and other violent offenders?


Arson is a reprehensible and inexcusable act, and the people who commit it should be dealt with harshly. Your editorial about the so-called "eco-saboteurs" ("Spreading fear with fire," May 23) hammers that point home.

On page C4, however, there was a small story about Matthew Jay Stutzman, who was sentenced to two years in prison for causing the death of a man he knew had a bad heart ("Beaverton man gets two years in fatal fistfight," May 23).

I'm not saying the arsonists should be treated lightly, but perhaps our justice system should value the life of humans at least as much as a car lot of sport utility vehicles.
Southwest Portland


May 23, 2007

Dear Friends,

So embarrassing to have to write a letter like this. However, the Lynne Stewart Organization (formerly the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee) is having severe financial problems. Our work which is completely outreach–using the casee and its many issues, and my legal/political career to organize people and keep supporters informed in these days of mounting political discontent. Perhaps we were too ambitious after the euphoria surrounding our sentence victory, but at this moment we are without funds to even pay Pat Levasseur for her dedicated and ongoing work.

As you may know, I am now disbarred and have not worked since 2004. Ralph and I scrape by with Social Security and direct gifts from family and supporters. (If you remember, Judge Koeltl described me as ╲destitute╡!! Not true, but close!!) I am able to carry out a rigorous personal appearance schedule only because the LS Organization pays the expenses. So, if I do a fund raiser for WBAI(the local Pacifica radio station) on Central Park West in New York, there is still the cost of transportation and parking etc. So far in 2007, I have been in Boston on 3 occasions, Philadelphia 4x, Washington DC, Chicago, California ,Oregon Florida, Washington and local (NY) appearances and speeches too numerous to mention. While we fund raise when appropriate, the vast majority of my speaking engagements are not compensated, because I am there for other worthy causes (Leonard Peltier, Mumia, Anti War, Immigrant Rights, Muslim Anti Discrimination, Political Prisoners, Death Penalty, etc) Not to whine, but it all costs and we find ourselves at the bottom of the proverbial financial barrel.

If you are able, please send something to get us through the next few months. We are putting together fund raisers for the fall and hope to be able to bring news of the issues on my appeal at that time. But Now is Urgent. Please send donations to Lynne Stewart Organization, Suite 700, 350 Broadway, NY NY, 10013. You can do it by credit card via Paypal at our website ( Checks can be made out to Lynne Stewart Organization or to National Lawyers Guild Foundation, memo LS Organization for a tax deduction. All mailed to above address.

The work is there to be done and I want to do it but we need a little (pardon the analogy) gas for our engine.

Love Struggle,

Lynne Stewart

Support Cuban 5!!


The Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5,
Free the Cuban 5 Hotline: 718-601-4751


Wed. May 30th, 2007 at 5pm
The New York Times Building
229 West 43rd St.
(btwn. Broadway and 8th Ave.)


We CANNOT allow the New York Times to CONTINUE to ignore the Cuban 5!!

Over 650 people have signed petitions and sent letters demanding that the
New York Times publish an article on the Cuban 5, yet we have seen nothing!!

We have picketed and protested and have been ignored!! It is time to go back
downtown and knock on their doors AGAIN!!


If the Washington Post, USA Today, The LA Times and the Daily News can cover
the Cuban 5, then so can they!!

For more info. contact The Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5:
718-601-4751 or For more information on the
project visit our website:


Saturday June 2nd, 2007 1-3 pm
Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
208 West 13th Street Manhattan

More than 1,000 lesbian, gay, bi, trans (LGBT) and other activists fighting
oppression based on sex, gender and sexuality have already signed on to the
call for Rainbow Solidarity for the Cuban Five.

These U.S.-held political prisoners, in the order they appear above—Fernando
González, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández and René
González—were jailed merely for having infi ltrated CIA-backed right-wing
terrorist commando organizations to monitor and stop attacks on Cuba from
U.S. soil.

The struggle to win their freedom has galvanized a broad united front among
those who battle oppression based on their gender expression and/or sex and
who they love. Individuals and organizations have signed on from 45
countries, from every continent and from virtually every state in the
continental U.S. For more information, visit: or

Speakers will include; Teresa Gutierrez, Joan Gibbs, Leslie Feinberg and

Signers include:
Angela Davis, Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE!, Pro-Gay Philippines, Leslie
Cagan, Barbara Smith, Margo Okazawa-Rey, Imani Henry, LeiLani Dowell,
Stephen Funk, Alison Bechdel, Holly Hughes, QUIT!(Queers Undermining Israeli
Terrorism), Trans Action Canada, LAGAI-Queer Insurrection, Stonewall
Warriors, Boston, Queers Without Borders, Bev Tang, Lani Ka'ahumanu, BiNET
USA, Moonhawk River Stone, Jesse Lokahi Heiwa, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Sarah
Schulman, Laura Whitehorn, Linda Evans

For complete list, see:
To add your name and/or the name of your organization to the call for
Rainbow Solidarity, and for more information, visit:

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Activists Demand Action from Al Gore for Jeff Luers - Imprisoned Climate Activist

May 26, 2007 Portland Indymedia

Activists attending Gore's book-signing held a banner and distributed fliers to call attention to climate change and the incarceration of a young activist, Jeffrey Luers. Hundreds of Al Gore fans lined up at Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan to hear the former Vice President speak out against the growing detachment of American culture.

All attendees of the events learned about Jeffrey Luers, the incarcerated climate activist. In June 2001, the 23 year-old forest defense activist was sentenced to 22 years and 8 months in prison for actions in Eugene, Oregon. His stated purpose was to raise awareness about global warming and the role that SUVs play in that process. No one was hurt in this action nor was that the intent. However, despite the fact that this action hurt no one, Jeff was sent to prison for a sentence considerably longer than those convicted of murder, kidnapping and rape in Oregon state. Even the City Human Rights Commission stated "...We found that similar crimes have not been met with such harsh sentences, and we are concerned about the length of Mr. Luers' sentence".

Reminder: June 9, 2007 is the International DAY OF SOLIDARITY With JEFFREY LUERS.

Derrick Jensen's letter printed in Oregonian

What eco 'terrorism'? Oregonian
As someone who wrote a book that details the history of the Ku Klux Klan ("The Culture of Make Believe"), I was both appalled and not surprised to see a prosecuting attorney compare the [eco-saboteur] defendants to the KKK ("Sentencing hinges on defining terror," May 16). I was appalled because the comparison is both absurd and utterly false.
The KKK murdered tens of thousands of people. In the weeks preceding the presidential election of 1868, at least 2,000 people were killed or wounded by Klan violence just in Louisiana. This violence carried right on into the 20th century.
Contrast that with the defendants in this case, who [committed] nothing more serious than property destruction [see "Arsonist gets 13-year sentence in terror acts," May 24]. They injured no person. They destroyed only corporate and government property. This in no way compares with the terrorism of the Klan (or any other terrorism, for that matter).
I am not, however, surprised to see a prosecutor in this case make this absurd and inflammatory comparison, since from the beginning this case has been more about public relations than substance: Even the term "eco-terrorism" is a public relations term coined by a corporate propagandist.
Even to call for a terrorism enhancement in this case is to devalue the very real suffering of real victims of terrorism the world over.
DERRICK JENSEN Crescent City, Calif.

June 14th-Free Puerto Rico UN Reception

The ProLibertad Freedom Campaign and
ProLibertad Hotline: 718-601-4751


ProLibertad is calling on all our allies to join us ‘Rican Weekend (June
9th-10th) as we hand out literature on Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican
Political Prisoners!!

Thousands of Boricuas are waiting to learn more about the Puerto Rican
Indpendence movement!!


SATURDAY June 9th, 2007 at 10am El Barrio Festival Meet
ProLibertad at 339 e116th St.
(btwn. 1st-2nd Aves.) Light Blue Building

SUNDAY June 10th, 2007 at 10am
National Puerto Rican Day Parade
Meet us on the corner of e45th St. and 3rd Avenue. Look for the ProLibertad

LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE GOING TO JOIN US: Call ProLibertad at 718-601-4751 or

FREE PUERTO RICO: End Colonialism NOW!!

Thurs. June 14, 2007 at 6:30pm at Hunter College West Building 2nd
Floor Room 217
E68th St. and Lexington Avenue (Take the #6 train to E68th St.)

Donation: $10 or your best offer (no one will be turned away)

Join the ProLibertad Freedom Campaign for our annual Reception/Forum
for the Puerto Rico Delegation of the United Nations De-Colonization
Committee Hearings!!

Every year a Delegation from Puerto Rico comes to the United Nations
to testify to the U.N. De-Colonization Committee; to make the case
for the liberation of Puerto Rico, Vieques and the release of the
Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War.

This delegation is made up of various activists from the different
organizations throughout Puerto Rico that fight for the independence
of Puerto Rico.

This reception/forum is an opportunity for allies of the Puerto Rican
independence movement in NYC to converse with activists from Puerto

Come hear updates on: Economic Crisis in Puerto Rico, Labor Struggle
in Puerto Rico, FBI Repression of the Independence Movement

The following organizations and individuals are invited: El Frente
Socialista, The Island of Vieques, ProLibertad, El Partido
Nacionalista Puertorriqueño, and many other organizations from New
York and Puerto Rico...

Eugene, OR: "Green is the New Red" Event June 1st

The Government's Attack on the Environmental Movement and Your Civil Rights

On the 10th Anniversary of the 1997 Broadway-Charnelton Pepper Spraying

Speakers: Will Potter, Lauren Regan and Jim Flynn

Featuring: Video footage of June 1 EPD brutality and citizen resistance

Will Potter is an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C.,
who focuses on how the War on Terrorism affects civil liberties.

Lauren Regan is the executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense
Center and an outspoken civil rights attorney.

Jim Flynn is one the people who were pepper sprayed and arrested on June
1, 1997, for attempting to stop the removal of 40 heritage trees downtown.

The event is being held at the Wandering Goat Coffee Co. at 268 Madison
in Eugene. The presentation is FREE and will start at 7 pm.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The World says: “Hands Off John Bowden!”

26th May 2007

Friday 25th May marked the first International Day of Solidarity in
support of John Bowden and in defence of the ABC. John is a long-term
prison resister, who has spent more than a quarter of a Century fighting
for prisoners’ rights, and is now being kept in jail because of his
politics rather than because of his original conviction.

Until very recently John was in an open prison at Castle Huntly in
Scotland. He had spent two years working unsupervised in the outside
community as a volunteer on projects for the mentally ill and socially
vulnerable, and had qualified as a literacy tutor for people with learning
difficulties. For almost a year he had also been allowed frequent home
leaves, and was not regarded as any form of risk to the public. All this
changed however, when Matt Stillman, a right-wing American social-worker
(who for example, insists on calling Irish people ‘Micks’), accused John
of having links with a ‘paramilitary’ and ‘terrorist’ organisation –
namely the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), in reality a legitimate prisoner
support organisation that can trace its history back to Tsarist Russia.
This easily refuted lie was used as an excuse to move John to a maximum
security prison at Glenochil, and damaging allegations (Stillman’s lies)
hang over him, which we believe are specifically designed to prejudice the
parole board and prevent John’s release.

Since Stillman launched his smear against the ABC, eagerly taken up by the
Scottish Prison Service (SPS), who ‘ghosted John to Glenochil, a campaign
has been launched to demand ‘Hands Off John Bowden!’ And to defend the
good name of the ABC.

The focus of yesterday’s International Day of Solidarity was the Scottish
Parliament in Edinburgh, where more than 25 of John’s supporters
demonstrated for nearly 2 hours, demanding a full and swift investigation
and an apology for the lies that have been told. Supporters came from
various parts of Scotland and England to attend the demonstration, and
from as far as the Basque country. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed
in support of John, with placards and a large banner demanding an end to
the harassment he is enduring and to the vilification of the ABC.

A statement, specially written by John Bowden for the demonstration reads:
“I am currently isolated in a maximum security prison and being denied
release because of my association with the Anarchist Black Cross movement.
That movement has been labelled as “terrorist” by an employee of the
Scottish Prison Service, which represents an attempt by the state to evoke
a mood of outright repression against the ABC and a policy of indefinite
imprisonment against me. I am grateful for the support and solidarity
shown by people attending this demonstration and am with you there in

As part of the ongoing support campaign, a large stack of postcards were
delivered to the headquarters of the Scottish Prison Service, and these
flooded in by post from all over the world, as did faxes, telephone calls,
and e-mails. Glenochil prison had to set up a special system to divert
incoming calls in support of John Bowden, and the SPS closed their
headquarters early at 4.00pm.

Around the world, from Japan to the USA, supporters of John picketed
British consulates and embassies, organised phone and fax blockades, and
held info meetings and mass card signings.

In the coming weeks, until the Scottish Prison Service withdraw the
allegations against John Bowden and the ABC, we urge supporters to show
their solidarity and continue to put pressure on the SPS liars. Please
publicise your actions and events.

In London there will be a solidarity demonstration on the 8th June in
support of John Bowden’s parole application.

Thank you to everyone who has seen through the state’s lies to support
John Bowden and defend the Anarchist Black Cross.

Some Ways You Can Help:

Find out more at:

Send a postcard reading ‘Hands Off John Bowden!’ to Scottish Prison
Service HQ, Communications Branch, Room 338, Calton House, 5 Redheughs
Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9HW. You can also e-mail them at Phone them on 01259 760471. Or fax them at 01259

Write to Glenochil prison, where John is being held: Audrey Parks,
Governor, HMP Glenochil, King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire,
FK10 3AD. Telephone: 01259 760471. Fax: 01259 762003.

Complain to the Care Commission about the lies being told by Matt
Stillman, who is employed by Perthshire Social Services: The Care
Commission, Headquarters, Compass House, 11 Riverside Drive, Dundee, DD1
4NY. Telephone: 01382 207100. Fax: 01382 207289.

Send John a card or letter of support: John Bowden, 6729, HMP Glenochil,
King O' Muir Road, Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, FK10 3AD.

Become involved in the support campaign for John by e-mailing