TUSCON, Arizona—The “Green Scare” spread in February as the federal government returned three additional grand jury indictments against individuals allegedly involved in actions claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) between 1998 and 2003. Since December, 18 people have been indicted for more than a dozen crimes involving millions of dollars in damage to corporate and government property.
The nationwide crackdown, dubbed “Operation Backfire,” has been hailed by the FBI as a major blow to environmentalists and animal rights activists. However, many supporters of the accused suspect that the string of arrests falls in line with decades-long FBI covert intelligence operations aimed at disrupting and discrediting political movements.
Tucson environmental and indigenous activist Rod Coronado was arrested Feb. 22 at his workplace by agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). The arrest was in connection with a San Diego federal grand jury indictment charging Coronado with “teaching and demonstrating the making and use of a destructive device, with the intent that the device be used to commit arson” at a public gathering in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego on Aug. 1, 2003.
Three animal rights activists in San Diego were jailed last year for contempt of court for refusing to testify in the secret grand jury investigation. In Olympia, Wash., Nathan Fraser Block and Joyanna L. Zacher were arrested Feb. 23 on two separate 14-count indictments for the May 21, 2001, arson at Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Ore.
Block and Zacher join four other defendants already charged in connection with
Block and Zacher and the other 11 codefendants involved in the Eugene grand jury investigation are scheduled to go to trial Oct. 31. No one was injured in any of the ELF or ALF actions. Three of the Eugene co-defendants – Daniel McGowan, Jonathan Paul and
Suzanne Savoie – were granted bail and released on strict conditions at the end of January. Chelsea Gerlach and Darren Thurston are the only non-cooperating defendants yet to be released. Three other indicted individuals, Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker and Rebecca Rubin remain at large.
In a separate case in Sacramento, Lauren Weiner was also released on bail. Weiner was one of the three individuals arrested Jan. 16 on charges of conspiring to damage U.S. Forest Service property, mobile phone masts and power stations by explosive or fire. A warrant for their arrest reveals that a paid confidential source also had a role in the arrests.
A memorial service for Bill Rodgers was held Feb. 11 in Prescott, Arizona. Rodgers was arrested Dec. 7 and indicted on several arson actions, but reportedly took his own life on Dec. 21 while awaiting extradition to Washington. The Catalyst Info-shop, which Rodgers helped create, released a statement saying, “We mourn the passing of our dear friend and community member who worked tirelessly for the causes of social justice and environmental sustainability.”