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CCR challenges the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act as a Violation of Free Speech
CCR challenges the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act as a Violation of Free
Last week, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a complaint challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of free speech. http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=TcOQbkXh8Mi3u68DcSF8%2FL7bvj7S1Adx (PDF)
Pushed through Congress by powerful lobbyists for the fur and meat industries, and corporations and institutions that profit from animal research, the AETA criminalizes a broad swath of constitutionally-protected speech and activity. Since passed in 2006, the AETA has cast a chill over the animal rights community, leading many advocates to censor themselves and refrain from speech that is protected by the First Amendment. Further, the broad language of the AETA could potentially punish any political activist, from labor picketers to Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Blum v. Holder http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=QGEKtV3E369gKhznQOfD8L7bvj7S1Adx was filed in support of animal rights activists who argue that they are being silenced from lawful advocacy because they fear that their work will subject them to prosecution as terrorists under the AETA. This filing coincides with CCR's ongoing commitment to support activists who have been targeted in what has come to be known as the "Green Scare."
Learn more about the case and the stories of each of the plaintiffs, and about the AETA at http://abolishtheaeta.org/web/ . http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=VOaPcdDNykQk2otctgkB%2Br7bvj7S1Adx
"Attention AETA Act"
Email: email@example.com - subject line "AETA"
Coalition to Abolish the AETA
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 27, 2006. The law was pushed through Congress by wealthy biomedical & agri-business industry groups such as the Animal Enterprise Protection Coalition (AEPC), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), with bipartisan support from legislators like Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative James Sensenbrenner. The new law replaced its predecessor, the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), which had become law in 1992.
The AEPA was put on the books in 1992 by well-funded industries that exploit animals. Proponents of the AEPA argued that the number of violent attacks committed by so-called animal rights extremists on farming and research facilities was escalating, and that the AEPA was necessary to protect these facilities. They claimed that (1) existing state & federal laws had failed to curtail such acts, and (2) these attacks disrupted vital services relied on by millions of Americans. Despite these assertions, the language of the AEPA swept up constitutionally-protected free speech activities, even though legislators believed they had struck a balance between the right to protest and the need to provide additional criminal penalties for violent acts. Despite the claims of the corporate interests that this law was vital, the law has only been used twice during the last 16 years.
Fast forward to 2006, the proponents of the AETA repeated these same arguments again in support of this new law. Citing some recent activities, the proponents asserted that existing law had not provided a sufficient deterrent, and that animal rights extremists were using new tactics such as making threats and targeting anyone affiliated with animal enterprises. Therefore, the federal law had to be expanded to address such acts. Yet in actuality, the language of the AETA covers many First Amendment activities, such as picketing, boycotts and undercover investigations if they 'interfere' with an animal enterprise by causing a loss of profits. So in effect, The AETA silences the peaceful and lawful protest activities of animal and environmental advocates.
AETA supporters claim the bill contains language to protect free speech activities. In fact, some Democratic legislators mistakenly came out in favor of the AETA because of its supposed First Amendment protections. For example, Senator Leahy, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported the bill because he believed it had been amended to remove penalties for nonviolent activities as well as actions that might cause a loss of profits. Representative Scott, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, asserted that the AETA excluded First Amendment activity and acts of peaceful civil disobedience in announcing his support of the bill.
In late September 2006, the bill was introduced and amended in the Senate by Senators Feinstein and Inhofe, and was passed out of the Senate by Unanimous Consent. Once on the House side, Representative Sensenbrenner placed the bill on suspension calendar, propelling the bill to the House Floor. Representative Dennis Kucinich was the only member who opposed the AETA in the room, arguing that it was inappropriate to vote out the bill in this manner. Speaking out against the bill on its merits, he emphasized that:
* Existing federal laws are adequate;
* The bill created a special class of crimes for a specific type of protest, and;
* Such a broad terrorist label will chill free speech. He also urged Congress to pay more attention to the issues raised by the millions of Americans concerned about the humane treatment of animals, and to consider legislation in response to those concerns.
Yet the bill was pushed through late at night, with inadequate notice, and with only a fraction of Congresspersons present to vote on it.
9 things you can do to abolish the AETA
The AETA was passed and signed into law because powerful lobbyists representing companies, universities and research agencies in every state were pressuring Congress to act in their favor. The only way to undo the AETA is to build vibrant and active movements in every state and for citizens, workers and consumers to pressure their elected officials, employers and the companies from which they buy things.
Here's what you can do today:
1. Educate the people around you. Download our resources about the AETA
and share with your community. Contact us if you would like us to send you a
packet of materials or for more information.
US v. Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC 7)...
United States v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty ('SHAC7') The SHAC7 were
convicted under the precursor statute to the AETA, the Animal Enterprise
Protection Act, for website postings and organizing demonstrations. CCR
filed four amicus briefs in support of the SHAC7, including an amicus in
support of their petition for review of their convictions in front of the
Supreme Court. That request was denied in 2011. Learn more:
AETA Analysis by Will Potter http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/wp-content/Images/aeta-analysis-109th.pdf
Animal Enterprise Terrorism 101 by Will Potter
National Lawyers Guild Statement http://abolishtheaeta.org/web/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/nlg-aeta-talking-points.pdf
NYC Bar Association Statement http://abolishtheaeta.org/web/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/nycbaranimalscomm_aeta_comments_v11.pdf
The ACLU letter to Congress
Supporters and Allies
Attorneys for Animals
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
Compassion for Animals, Inc.
Compassion Over Killing
Earth Island Institute
Food Empowerment Project
Friendly Farms Rabbit Rescue
Green is the New Red
Last Chance for Animals
Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition
Rainforest Action Network
Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center
Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
-- Copyright 2011 Coalition to Abolish the AETA. All rights reserved.