While the FBI knocks on environmentalists and animal rights’ activists doors and grand juries in three states continue to issue subpoenas and indictments, events are being planned in more than 40 cities worldwide this weekend to express opposition to the “Green Scare”, or the recent crackdown by the federal government on activists who fight to protect land and life.
In New York, there will be a night of films, discussion and letter writing to Green Scare detainees on Sat. June 10 at the Empty Vessel just south of the Carroll St. Bridge on 1st St. on the Gowanus Canal.
Since Dec. 7, 2005, nearly 20 individuals have been arrested and charged in connection to several acts of property destruction and sabotage in five states. In addition to the 15 indicted earlier this year, Briana Waters, a former Olympia resident, was taken into custody in Seattle, Washington on March 30. Waters is charged with the “use of a destructive device” in relation to the May 21, 2001 arson at a University of Washington horticulture laboratory. Two others ware also indicted in the incident including Justin Solondz, who has not been apprehended, and William Rodgers, who committed suicide while in custody in Arizona in December. If convicted, Waters and Solondz face a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years.
On May 18, a Denver grand jury indicted four people for the 1998 arson of the Vail ski resort. Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Stanislas Meyerhoff, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca Rubin are accused of setting the fire that cost more than $12 million. Overtaker and Rubin, who remain at large, had also been previously indicted earlier this year. Meyerhoff has been named by the FBI as a cooperating witness. Gerlach remains in prison in Eugene, Oregon.
Since March, three Pacific Northwest residents have been subpoenaed to appear before the Denver grand jury, the fourth federal grand jury to target green activists in the last 10 months. On May 18, Jeff Hogg was charged with contempt and jailed until further notice for refusing to answer questions related to the Vail fire. “I am being forced to choose between betraying social change movements or going to jail without committing a crime,” said Hogg, a first-year nursing student who works with autistic adults in Eugene. “I won’t be coerced by the government to give up my principles.”
Robert “Burke” Morris was also forced to appear in front of the grand jury May 18, and was expected to be asked about a list of people and subject matter that had been provided to his lawyer about the Vail arson. Morris said that he planned to refuse answering such questions, but was only asked minor questions, and then released. Camillo Stephenson had also been subpoenaed in Denver earlier in March. Lauren Regan, of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, said on May 18 that she believes the Denver grand jury is illegally using its power to gather evidence and witnesses for trials against persons already indicted prepare for trial.
A trial date of October 31, 2006 has been set for at least 13 of the eco-defendents.
A motion for release for Olympia residents Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher was denied May 30 after the federal judge suggesting they “posed a danger to the community.” Block and Zacher both face 47 arson charges relating to their alleged involvement in the second arson at Romania Chevrolet Truck Center in Eugene in 2001 and the arson at Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Oregon.
Lauren Weiner entered a plea agreement with the government on May 30, agreeing to cooperate with the government to receive a lesser sentence. Weiner, Eric McDavid, and Zachary Jenson were arrested Jan. 13 for conspiring to damage the property of the U.S. Forest Service, mobile phone masts and power stations by explosive or fire. The government reported that a paid confidential source also had a role in the arrests.
While the USA Patriot Act and the National Security Agency (NSA) spy program have provided federal officers with sweeping powers to harass, conduct surveillance, infiltrate, spy, raid homes, seize personal items such as computers, papers, and photographs, additional legislation continues to target environmental and animal liberation activists.
On May 23, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland held another legislative hearing on H.R. 4239, the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.” Introduced by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.), Nov. 4, 2005, the bill aims “To provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals committing animal enterprise terror.” Similar legislation, S. 1926, was also introduced in the U.S. Senate in October 2005.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Edward G. Rendell signed a bill on April 14 amending the state’s crimes code to include the offense of “ecoterrorism.” “Destroying property, intimidating Pennsylvania residents or illegally confiscating animals as a way of political protest will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania,” said Governor Rendell. “This state is putting measures in place to protect all of our citizens, as well as our natural resources. The legislation also includes a provision to provide for a civil action for a person aggrieved by an act of “ecoterrorism.”
This weekend’s actions against the Green Scare fall at a time normally set aside by radical environmentalists to show solidarity with Jeff “Free” Leurs, an Oregon-based environmental activist who received a 23-year sentence for setting three SUVs on fire to protest global warming, Luers requested that this year’s activities be held on behalf of all eco-prisoners.
“I ask that foremost in your mind be the thought that the state is trying to break this struggle with repressive and intimidating arrests and sentences,” Leurs wrote from prison. “I hope you understand that it’s not just those of us in prison being punished with these sentences; they are designed to be examples to you, to frighten you into compliance. This June I’m asking you to demonstrate that you can’t be intimidated.”
A wide array of events are being planned around the country including legal and security culture skillshares, music, lectures, critical mass bike rides, demonstrations, and eco-prisoner support.