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By Will Potter, March 11, 2009
The FBI labels the environmental and animal rights movements the
number one domestic terrorism threat. Those activists have never flown
planes into buildings, taken hostages or sent anthrax through the
mail. So how did they make it to the top of the government's list?
Here are 10 ways you can be labeled an eco-terrorist:
10.) Sabotage corporate property.
Underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth
Liberation Front have released animals from fur farms, vandalized
SUV's and, at the most extreme, set fire to empty buildings. Those
crimes have only harmed property, not people, but the government has
pushed for terrorism enhancement penalties in those cases. It may come
as a surprise that sabotage is the bottom of this list, but these
cases are actually only a very small focus of the bigger Green Scare.
9.) Fall in love with an FBI agent.
That's what happened to Eric McDavid. He didn't harm anyone or break
anything, but he was convicted of conspiring to sabotage federal
facilities in the name of defending the environment and sentenced to
20 years in prison. The entire case against him hinged on the work of
Anna, an FBI operative who provided the group with bomb-making
recipes; financed their transportation, food and housing; strung along
McDavid, who had the hopes of a romantic relationship; and poked and
prodded the group into action.
8.) Attend vegan potlucks.
While Al-Qaeda continues to release video communiques threatening
Americans, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces are using anti-
terrorism resources to attempt to infiltrate vegan potlucks.
7.) Protect your privacy.
The FBI and local law enforcement have been exposed for spying on
activists around the country, including peace activists in Maryland
and the HoneyBaked Hams protesters in Georgia. Understandably, many
activists don't want their faces in FBI files, so they often wear
bandanas at protests. And guess what? The government says THAT is
terrorism. Joint Terrorism Task Forces have arrested an animal rights
activist in Virginia for wearing a mask, and four California activists
are facing terrorism charges for the same.
6.) Beat the good ol' boys at their own game.
A Utah lawmaker is promising to introduce new eco-terrorism
legislation. His target? Not the Earth Liberation Front, Animal
Liberation Front, or some shadowy underground group. Hes openly,
proudly targeting mainstream environmentalists. Specifically, he has
his sights on Tim DeChristopher, the University of Utah student who
disrupted an oil and gas auction by bidding on parcels of land. The
state lawmaker says DeChristopher's auction bids are no different than
burning down a mans cattle operation eco-terrorism. DeChristopher took
millions of dollars away from us, and hes laughing at us. Its not
right. Its not fair.
5.) Stop the symbolism.
With the RNC coming to town, local organizers in the Twin Cities set
up a community infrastructure including housing, transportation, child
care and protest logistics. They worked with a wide range of
mainstream, lawful organizations. They were very public, vocal and
outspoken from the beginning about their intentions: We don't just
want a photo opportunity or a symbolic civil disobedience, were going
to disrupt business as usual. The government's response? Eight
organizers were arrested before the protests began for conspiring to
riot in the furtherance of terrorism.
4.) Be vocal and unapologetic.
The government hasn't made headway on the vast majority of crimes by
groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. So
they're targeting above-ground activists who vocally,
unsympathetically support the underground. In the SHAC 7 case, animal
rights activists were convicted of animal enterprise terrorism for
running a website that posted news of both legal and illegal actions
against a notorious laboratory, and vocally supporting all of it. The
government also uses grand juries like the recent one in Utah to
harass and intimidate activists, and force them to testify about their
political beliefs and political associations.
3.) Go after their money.
I'm not just talking about the kind of property destruction mentioned
in #10. Sweeping new legislation called the Animal Enterprise
Terrorism Act wraps up a wide range activity as terrorism, including
causing a loss of profits to an animal enterprise. Causing a loss of
profits is not terrorism: it is effective activism.
2.) Get to their root of the problem.
The government isn't going to label people as terrorists for recycling
or volunteering at an animal shelter. That's not because those things
aren't important, its because they aren't radical in the true sense of
the term: they don't get to the root of the problem. When activists go
deeper -- when they move beyond questioning the types of light bulbs we use to
questioning the entire, unsustainable economic system -- that's
when they truly become terrorists.
1.) Be effective.
More than anything else, this is the sure-fire way to be labeled a
terrorist. For instance, shortly after the historic victory of
Proposition 2 in California, a corporate front group bought a full-
page ad in the New York Times labeling the Humane Society of the
United States as terrorists. Whether its activists burning SUV's or
passing landmark legislation, the common thread between every activist
being labeled a terrorist is that they are successful. In this War on
Terrorism, the number one domestic terrorism threat includes any
environmental activist who is passionate, uncompromising and, above
all else, effective.
Will Potter is an award-winning independent journalist who focuses on
how lawmakers and corporations have labeled animal rights and
environmental activists as 'eco-terrorists.' Will has written for
publications including The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News
and Legal Affairs, and has testified before the U.S. Congress about
his reporting. He is the creator of GreenIsTheNewRed.com.