FUR COMMISSION USA ANNOUNCEMENT, JANUARY 7, 2002
FCUSA on National Public Radio
Teresa Platt of Fur Commission USA was a guest Jan. 7 on National Public Radio (NPR) for a one-hour discussion on “Civil Disobedience after 9-11” (a discussion of PATRIOT, is the government going too far? etc. “)
- Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, DC.
- Teresa Platt, executive director, Fur Commission USA.
- Andrea Durbin, National Campaign Director for Greenpeace.
- Dave Barbarash, spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front.
Eco-vandals condemned as domestic terrorists; But activists say all groups being tarred with extremist brush, by Robert Schlesinger, Boston Globe, for the San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 8, 2002.
FCUSA press kit special feature: Safe Farms Campaign
Tolerance.org Fighting hate and promoting tolerance.
“Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski links:
- Guilty plea (court document) indicating the influence on Unabomber’s acts of Earth First! Sacramento, California. (January 22, 1998)
- Sentencing document, Sacramento, California. (May 4, 1998)
- Unabomber chronology compiled by BBC News Online
- Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber By Alston Chase, author of Playing God in Yellowstone (1986) and In a Dark Wood (1995). Outside link to the Atlantic Monthly (June 2000)
- Trial transcripts Outside link to Court TV.
- Unabomber Index Outside link to The Truth Is Redacted website.
- Unabomber Later Explosive Devices Outside link to The Truth Is Redacted website.
- Affidavit of Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Unabom Investigation, Terry D. Turchie, FBI Outside link to The Truth Is Redacted website.
- Unabomber Various resources from the Sacramento Bee.
“The Future of Eco-Tactics”
Host: Dick Gordon
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of Partnership for Civil Justice
Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA
Andrea Durbin, National Campaign Director for Greenpeace
David Barbarash, spokesperson for Animal Liberation Front
Host: I’m Dick Gordon. This is The Connection. America has always had a tradition of dissent. The Boston Tea Party is still celebrated, as are the Underground Railroad and 1950s lunch counter occupations. And protest always involves making noise, whether it is main street marches or sidewalk sit-ins. Ruffling feathers is par for the course often essential in demanding change, but the concept and maybe even the cachet of civil disobedience is changing in the wake of September 11th. With the birth of the Patriot Act, free speech and political action could be facing higher stakes. Look at the environmental movement – when eco tactics go beyond bumper stickers for saving whales and into the burning of ski resorts, the line between activism and what is called eco-terrorism blurs. Tomorrow Greenpeace activists are in court, facing up to six years in prison each for protesting the US missile defense system. Greenpeace says it’s concerned that it may not be possible to have a fair trial with America’s new war on terror. So, Connection listeners, how do you see the debate changing over civil disobedience, saving the forest, freeing the mink and uprooting experimental crops? When is making a point just making a mess?
Call us at 1-800-423-8255. That’s 1-800-423-TALK.
With me today is Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. She is attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, DC. Teresa Platt is executive director for Fur Commission USA. And Andrea Durbin is the National Campaign Director for Greenpeace. Andrea, I’ll begin with you because the Greenpeace protestors are due in court in California tomorrow. Your people have been saying the trial of the “Star Wars 17” will be something of a showcase for the state of civil liberties in the United States. Why do you look at it that way?
Andrea: Well we look at it that way, Dick, because this is the first time that Greenpeace activists have ever faced such serious charges, felony charges. Greenpeace has a history, thirty years in fact, of peaceful non-violent protest — and that’s exactly what these activists and the two free-lance journalists that were part of this group participated in. They protested peacefully outside the Vandenburg Air Force Base during a missile defense test last July and the repercussions have been quite serious. They were quickly arrested by the FBI and charged with felony charges that could, if enforced, could bring them up to six years of imprisonment.
Host: But all this happened before September 11th. Right?
Andrea: That’s right, which is why we are even more concerned, after September 11th, that the right to protest peacefully be protected and honored.
Host: I want to bring Mara Verheyden-Hilliard into the conversation. Mara, your organization gives advice to environmental groups like Greenpeace. Do you see the trial as some kind of key indicator of what has changed?
Mara: We do. We see this trial of the “Star Wars 17” as being an indicator of the growing government efforts to disrupt and shut down protest in the United States which was occurring before September 11th. After September 11th there has been something of a political “land grab” in an effort to equate the horrific events of September 11th – which we all would recognize as being violent terrorist acts – with acts that come nothing close to that, simply for political purposes.
Host: With … The Patriot Act, which would, or could in fact make it possible for environmental protestors to be charged, isn’t really part of the equation of this trial, right? Because, they were charged prior to the introduction of the legislation.
Mara: That’s correct. The Patriot Act which was enacted quickly and swiftly, without the usual debate and discussion, and put into law at the end of October of 2001, is not applicable to the activists who are on trial in California.
Host: Teresa Platt, you speak for mink farmers, fishermen, other farmers who see their own business as being affected by people who are protesting against various aspects. I’m curious to know, in your view whether or not you see things having changed since September 11th. Teresa?
Teresa: You should … Can you hear me?
Host: Yes I can. Go ahead Teresa.
Teresa: You should make it very clear that nobody is talking about legal protest here. We are talking about when protestors embrace illegal actions. So, I don’t think anybody in the United States is being arrested for legal protest, that’s, you know, operating with a permit, holding your signs, not interfering with anybody else’s business or life but making your point. Legally. It’s when they cross the line to illegal actions that include trespassing, property damage and arson, eventually someone will be killed and the government has been cracking down on those actions.
Host: But when we talk using the word eco-terrorism, nobody has been killed, and so in effect what we’re talking about is the destruction of property. I’m interested in hearing from you whether or not you see these …
Teresa: I would … I would disagree. People have been hurt by bombs and people have been killed. The Unabomber showing up on “eco-terrorist prisoners” lists …
Host: Okay, but let’s talk about the large group of people who may choose to join a protest, whether or not it is in favor of stopping the logging in this particular area which means blocking a road, or people who want to chain themselves to the gates of a chemical company, or something like that. I mean, really, that’s what involves the largest number of people on this issue, Teresa.
Teresa: So you’re saying the ones that occasionally cross the line and go a little bit too far? I don’t think government priorities will be going after those people. People who systematically target people for elimination, sending them threats, bombs in the mail, destroying their property, burning down their buildings, these people will definitely be chased down because they are criminals. They are called eco-terrorists not eco-protestors.
Host: Mara, you’re saying that that difference isn’t in fact all that clear.
Mara: Well actually, using the term “eco-terrorism” itself is a misnomer. That’s a term that is adopted by folks in the, you know, industries that wish to use land for profit and are focused on opening up public lands for profit and fighting environmental justice movements. So that’s a term itself that I would disagree with. I think that many people would say that “eco-terrorism” would really be more applicable to companies such as, you know, Monsanto, which is going to trial for having massively poisoned entire areas in Alabama for decades. But, with regard to the issue of protestors and when they are getting arrested we in fact have seen protestors being arrested illegally and falsely arrested who have done nothing illegal. But for protestors that risk arrest and act in such classic traditions as civil disobedience, I wonder whether or not Ms. Platt would suggest that Dr. King would fall into that category of person who should be subject to these kinds of penalties. And there’s been historically a recognition that there is a mechanism of protest that includes risking arrest which is non-violent civil disobedience, which is also what Greenpeace has historically been involved often.
Teresa: And on that note we go all the way back to Gandhi who, as I remember, went on his own hunger strike when his followers started rioting. He didn’t call it non-violent civil disobedience when they started burning down buildings and throwing bricks through windows like what we saw at the WTO. He simply called that rioting and he went on a hunger strike to stop them and pull them back to the center – which is non-violence, no property damage – and I wish Greenpeace would take a stronger stand on that particular position, because I think they blur the line.
Andrea: Well, if I could just respond to that, to Ms. Platt’s accusations. Greenpeace has a thirty-year record of standing very clearly on the line, committed to non-violent protest. We do not have a history of destroying property. We do break laws. In this case, in California, the law that we broke was trespass, which is … generally the repercussion for that is a misdemeanor, and Greenpeace is always willing to face those kinds of charges. What we are concerned about in this particular case is that, for the first time in our history, and in fact for the first time in the history of protest at this Air Force base, they sought felony charges and we think that that was extreme. We are willing to face the music but we are also very careful about the way that we do our work and it is always peaceful.
Teresa: There is … Recently Greenpeace’s leadership destroyed crops over in the United Kingdom under this “civil disobedience” concept, that you can take it as far as destroying property. And that was research that was being done to determine if the crops were safe for everybody, and they went out and destroyed it as part of their actions. Greenpeace has recently destroyed property as far as the protestors went. I mean, I went on the Internet very quickly and found that you didn’t just do a misdemeanor trespassing, you trespassed on Federal property in a safety zone for a military test. That was pushing it a little bit. You’re facing Federal charges because you broke Federal trespassing laws … like, if you went onto an Air Force base, or a nuclear zone, or anything like that, these charges go up. It’s not as simple as blocking a driveway when you interfere with military maneuvers.
Host: See, this is in part where I want to try and take the conversation. And, Mara, I’ll ask you whether or not in your advice to environmental groups you’re saying that now you can’t go to an Air Force base, you couldn’t go beyond blocking a driveway under circumstances of the Patriot Act in existence. Specifically, what are you telling people?
Mara: Well, I wouldn’t get into the advice that I give to anyone individually or as an organization, but certainly to discuss the ramifications of the Patriot Act. It is important to have the context of what has been going on in the United States and the government’s response to a very strong, growing social justice movement that also involves respect and fighting for the environment. And what we’ve seen over the last two years is increased, essentially, state repression and increased incidents of police coming out in mass-riot gear, attacking peaceful demonstrators, injuring and brutalizing demonstrators, mass false arrests of persons who are doing nothing illegal whatsoever, and …
Host: But Mara, this has nothing to do with September 11th. You’re saying that those changes were happening already.
Mara: Exactly. And that’s why it’s important to recognize what’s happening with the Patriot Act in that context. So that, when we have this ratcheting-up and, following on that, the July arrest of the Greenpeace activists who were charged with felony charges in what should have been basic misdemeanor charges. Now we have the Patriot Act. And the Patriot Act came in on the heels of passion and fear after September 11th – and the Patriot Act now has a new crime of “domestic terrorism.” And the crime of domestic terrorism is so broadly written that it encompasses non-violent actions. And one has to question why the administration would seek to criminalize, as terrorist, non-violent actions. It includes actions, and its definition is so broad that it includes actions that violate any state or Federal law, any crime, any state or Federal crimes that are potentially dangerous to human life and that are intended to influence the policy of a government. Which means that any …
Teresa: “Potentially dangerous to human life.” There’s the key term. I don’t think …
Mara: Which would mean that anyone that was blocking a street, for example, could be charged with taking an action that was dangerous to human life because blocking that street could potentially be dangerous to their life, or to blocking …
Teresa: That’s really stretching it. But it certainly brings in arson …
Mara: But that’s exactly what we are talking about. We believe that that is stretching it. We believe that that is an extremely dangerous over-broad criminalization of political conduct. The definition there becomes “political” conduct. Now we wouldn’t worry about that if we hadn’t seen over the past two years the Federal government and local prosecutors routinely over-charging demonstrators or falsely charging demonstrators. We’ve seen demonstrators charged with felonies who’ve taken no violent acts and often no illegal acts whatsoever, at demonstrations across the country. If we didn’t have that kind of problem we would not have to worry about the extremity of this bill, but in fact this bill follows on the heels of that kind of government conduct.
Host: Quickly to you, Teresa.
Teresa: Well, I think it’s interesting because, resource people out there who have been on the receiving end of attacks, you know, property damage, window breaking, locks being glued, our feed mills being burned down, our animals being released … I mean overwhelmingly we’re saying we are not seeing any arrests and consistently the privacy protections and the free speech protections are overwhelming. “Patriot” goes into pages of protections for citizens and focuses mostly on keeping aliens out who have already been put on special international terrorist lists.
Host: Connection listeners, we are interested in your thoughts on this. When is free speech going beyond the line? 1-800-423-8255 to be part of this conversation. My name is Dick Gordon. You’re listening to The Connection on National Public Radio.
Host: You’re listening to The Connection on National Public Radio. My name is Dick Gordon. My guests include Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. She’s attorney and co-founder of Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, DC. Teresa Platt is on the line. She’s executive director for the Fur Commission USA. And Andrea Durbin’s with us. She’s the National Campaign Director for Greenpeace. Andrea, I am going to let you go – but I do want to know, before I do – there’s talk that the Greenpeace protestors may in fact not end up in court tomorrow. There’s talk of some kind of plea-bargaining going on?
Andrea: That is right. We were approached by the U.S. Attorney’s office a couple of days ago, so we’re in discussions. We hope that we could work out a deal that recognizes that these activists are not felons but really, you know, concerned citizens who wanted to speak out against the Star Wars missile defense program.
Host: So does that give you some comfort? Just that that conversation’s taking place?
Andrea: It does. At the moment we are still scheduled to go to court tomorrow for the beginning of the trial but we are hopeful that we’ll be able to reach a deal. I think it is important though, in this time, for people to really recognize and differentiate. I’m concerned about Ms. Platt’s kind of generalization about activities, and generalizing about environmental organizations. It is really important for your listeners to recognize that some groups do use tactics that I think are questionable and tactics that even our … Greenpeace does not condone. Property damage has been used by some other groups, but that organizations like Greenpeace have been committed to non-violent direct action and have done so in a peaceful way and that’s really what we think that this country has been founded on – the ability to voice our dissent – and hope that that right is protected.
Host: Andrea, thanks for joining us.
Andrea: Thank you.
Host: Andrea Durbin is the National Campaign Director for Greenpeace, and she was just talking about protest groups which use tactics that Greenpeace would not. One of those is the Animal Liberation Front, which has taken credit for burning buildings and freeing animals. David Barbarash is a spokesperson for Animal Liberation Front and he’s joining us on the line. Hello David.
Host: Since September 11th, does your organization see the rules or things as having changed in any significant way?
David: Well, it’s … To start with it’s kind of hard to define what the ALF thinks, as an organization, because it is not really structured as an organization. But, from the actions that we’ve seen post-September-11th I can see that activists are continuing with their campaigns and continuing with their strategies and their tactics to oppose animal cruelty and animal torture. After September 11th I think … September 11th was kind of a demarcation point where we saw what terrorism really is and what terrorists are really capable of. And people like Teresa Platt, who are comparing activists within the Animal Liberation Front to Greenpeace or other protestors as terrorists are really way off the mark, because we’re people who explicitly use non-violent tactics. It’s in our guidelines, it’s in our actions, it’s in our history. There has never been a single case where any action has resulted in injury or death to, not only just to humans, but to animals. So we’re talking here about non-violent action.
Host: Teresa Platt?
Teresa: Well, I’ve got the dead mink to prove otherwise. Animal Liberation Front actions result in a lot of dead animals. Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front will never admit responsibility for injuring people; that press release will be done by another group, so there’s a compartmentalization of the structure of these terrorist groups.
David: Well Teresa, if you want to talk about compartmentalization, yes, you do have dead mink on your hands. You have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dead mink on your hands. It’s completely a hypocrisy for you to say, well, these mink died as a result of ALF activities, but they would have been not only killed, but they would have been tortured if the ALF hadn’t come in and tried to save them.
Teresa: Yes, every farm animal does have a life span, every single animal we raise in the country does. Let’s go back to civil disobedience, and where you draw the line, and when it becomes eco-terrorism. Does burning down a feed mill or burning down Vail Resort cross that line? And we say unequivocally, Yes. And so does the government.
David: Well, let’s talk about the definition of terrorism then. I mean, is it terrorism to go into a fur farm and release mink who are being tortured, being skinned alive, gassed, anally electrocuted …? Or is it terrorism for a fur farmer to terrorize sentient beings who do feel pain, who do suffer, who are terrorized?
Teresa: David is attempting to justify his actions. The actions he is for, basically, trespassing, stealing those animals and abandoning them into the wild, based on the fact that he doesn’t support natural fibers. He keeps supporting synthetics or alternatives, which is what the Animal Liberation Front supports, but, simply because you support synthetics doesn’t give you the right to start breaking windows, burning things down and attacking people’s farms. We’ve traditionally been tolerant of other opinions in the United States. We don’t tolerate violence no matter what you call it.
Host: Let me ask Mara to come back into the conversation because I’m interested, Mara, Andrea talked about it prior to … or a couple minutes ago … and I’m wondering if you, listening now, can make a distinction between groups like the ALF or the ELF and what the effect of their tactics is on the protestors like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club people who are activists with those organizations?
Mara: Well, I think the issue of effect on different groups’ tactics is not one group upon another but, more accurately, the effect of the use of law enforcement to shut down particular types of actions. I think that it is very important in this framework, when we are discussing terrorism, that we understand that terrorism is a politically-used term. We recognize terrorism as taking planes and driving them into buildings and killing people and yet many folks are reaching out now to use the word terrorism for political means and to define certain acts as terrorist acts. And, even in the context of terrorist acts, that are militarist acts, that gets defined politically. We need to recognize that terrorism becomes, when used by the government, terrorism is an act that is taken … that is in opposition to established policy. That’s how it becomes defined. It becomes defined as the “challenging” act. And here we see it being defined even frequently against non-violent acts. And that becomes increasingly, very increasingly worrisome for us.
Host: Let us …
Mara: I’d like to add that all the actions that anyone could talk about or that Ms. Platt seeks to identify, you know, very inflammatorily, are actions that, if they actually did happen, are actions that are already criminalized. So what is it that we are doing by adding the word terrorist to something? It inflames it and it creates added penalties and it reaches out to criminalize acts that were not violent.
Host: Our telephone number is 1-800-423-8255. Connection listeners, what are your definitions of words like terrorism, violence, protest? We are going to Ray who is joining us on the line from Raleigh, North Carolina. Hi Ray.
Caller 1: Good morning. Thanks for listening to us.
Host: Yeah, go ahead.
Caller 1: My position is that any action that leads to violence, whether it be destruction to property, destruction to people, whether it be committed by the Ku Klux Klan, Osama Bin Laden, [or] eco-terrorists, … is terrorist.
Host: So putting a little bit of sugar in the gas tank of a bulldozer. That’s terrorism?
Caller 1: Yes. It’s destruction of property. It can lead to death. You put it into a bulldozer, the bulldozer then starts to move, its engine stalls because of the sugar, and the driver is killed. That’s terrorism.
Caller 1: The fact that … Yes.
Teresa: Yeah, how about cutting the brake lines? Which has happened.
Caller 1: Yes.
Teresa: Or how about …
David: Well, let’s talk about real incidents of terrorism. Let’s talk about fur farmers who shoot animal liberators in the back, or take baseball bats to protestors’ mouths in front of a fur-store protest.
Teresa: Well, they would be prosecuted.
Host: Let’s let Ray back in. Ray?
Caller 1: They would be prosecuted. The violence … I think what it is …
David: But they’re not terrorists?
Host: Hang on, David.
Teresa: If they did it across the country in a methodical manner, if they promoted it on their web sites, if we had on our web site the sort of manuals that David Barbarash and ALF have – how to make an incendiary bomb, along with the home addresses of our farmers – I mean those sort of things definitely go over the top, but David acts like they’re business as usual. And I get worried that Greenpeace is so institutionalized with law-breaking that they look at it as standard operating procedure now.
Host: Let’s hear from David on this, because I suspect that the point of view that Ray has expressed is one that’s fairly widely held, and David, the issue of whether or not an organization like the Animal Liberation Front has support anywhere outside the group … Does that matter to you?
David: Well …
Host: I mean, are you chasing popularity headlines?
David: No. No. Not at all. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter to us at all. But the issue is one of property destruction, that seems to be the central issue here, and let’s look at the history of democracy in the United States. I mean, what was the Boston Tea Party, if not a massive act of property destruction? What about the people who destroyed Nazi concentration camps and gas ovens? Those were acts of property destruction. Are those terrorist acts now? I mean, property destruction is a legitimate political tool called economic sabotage, and it’s meant to attack businesses and corporations who are profiting from the exploitation, murder, and torture of either humans or animals, or the planet. And to call those acts terrorism is ludicrous.
Host: Ray, last word to you.
Caller: Any time one of those actions which results in damage to humans, and it can … and I think that hiding behind the fear of terrorism is a way of just excusing what they are doing. If people get injured, it is terrorism. They are terrorizing people.
Host: Thanks for your call, Ray. Our telephone number 1-800-423-8255. Ted’s joining us from Boston. Hi, Ted.
Caller 2: Hi. How are ya?
Host: Good thanks. Go ahead.
Caller 2: Good. I just wanted to make a comment that I agree with quite a bit of what’s being said today, but I think that in my view …
Host: By who?
Caller 2: Well, by the … In terms of the whole concept of … every great social movement in this country, whether it’s workers’ rights or women’s rights, has been based on, whether it’s some property destruction or certainly civil unrest, violent or non-violent … But, I think that the current administration is very much trying to make environmentalists look like a fringe element, when there are so many people like myself who aren’t out there chaining themselves to a fence but consider themselves an active environmentalist in terms of the daily actions they’re taking, and in the companies that they are supporting and so forth. I just think that the Republicans, to me it seems, that they are using this time when everyone is rallying around the flagpole and really thinking about, we have to be fearful and protect ourselves against future terrorism, which we do … But how far are we going to swing the pendulum to the other side, in terms of civil liberties?
Host: Well how would you judge that, Ted? Because part of what is happening in today’s conversation is this line between the type of tactics that the Animal Liberation Front will use in burning down buildings or aggressive destruction of property, versus the more gentle type of non-violent protest of groups like Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. Do you make a distinction on a case-by-case basis or do you have, sort of, no trouble separating one from the other?
Caller 2: I think that if you are burning down buildings, I think that’s definitely … it probably goes over the line.
Teresa: Well thank you.
Caller 2: If you’re chaining yourself to a gate or to a tree because someone is trying to, you know, on public land, or on land that they’re paying practically nothing, trying to take down a tree, which is hundreds of years old, because they are going to be made into toothpicks, for their sole profit. You’ve got to wonder, you know, where are our priorities as a country … are we going to allow businesses just to say, well, this is, you know… because of a short-term interest we really want to call the shots here. I think if you look at the whole way that the current administration has been moving, whether or not September 11th had … I think September 11th and the actions have been very convenient for them, in terms of rallying around what their direction was. But, I think all along they’ve been wanting to go in this direction of limiting the, sort of outcry of people who really have been one of the great traditions and certainly the hallmark of America.
Host: And Teresa Platt, you said in a release earlier this year from the Fur Commission that in fact September 11th allowed the government to push through the type of law that it would have … that it had tried before and failed.
Teresa: Yeah, the law enforcement had had quite a few tools on the table and they’ve been denied over privacy concerns. The key one was monitoring e-mails. They are allowed to tap phone lines if they can track it from the source of the crime outward, but they weren’t allowed to extend that to e-mails. And so everybody felt that, well, that’s pretty 17th-Century, lets move forward… They were denied it. They asked Congress for this. Now, I mean, I heard that if they had had that tool they could have infiltrated some of the e-mails that were out there from people who were actually already on international terrorist watch-lists. So, you know, they have been operating with antiquated tools and I’m glad they got them. I’m glad Congress finally jumped forward. I am absolutely saddened that it took all those people killed to make them act. We’ve been asking for these tools for years, absolutely years.
Host: Let’s move along here. Anthony or rather Ted, thank you for your call. To Greenville, North Carolina, Anthony’s on the line. Go head Anthony.
Caller 3: Hi. How are you doing today?
Host: Good. Thanks.
Caller 3: Okay, I’m just kind of curious about like, where you talk about terrorism, where you are defining it within a protest movement. I was out in Seattle during the WTO protest, and this doesn’t have a lot to do with September 11th — it just has to do with the general police mentality that has been exhibited toward any kind of protest. There has been a large buildup of police and prisons since the Clinton administration. I believe he signed the bill in ’96 that put an odd number, I think thirty-odd-thousand more police on the streets, and a severe increase in prison building, that they immediately used. So when you have these large demonstrations they have led to an incredible police presence. I think that’s already been mentioned on this show. The funny thing is, is that it doesn’t seem to have…I’m sorry I’ve lost my point, actually because…
Host: Okay, but you started by talking about terrorism and the use of that word and whether or not it can in any way be applied to environmental protest. Just briefly, do you believe that it can? Or that it should?
Caller 3: Well, it’s just very strange because a lot of groups have had terrorism practiced against them. And, I know that a lot of people don’t like to think about this, but in the past the environmental movement has led to a lot of protections and it has lead to a lot of policy making, and they have been the target of a lot of terrorism themselves. And, for instance, Greenpeace, when they had one of their ships sunk by French secret agents, and I think three or four people were killed. This was sunk in… a British registered ship. They were sunk in a British port and nothing was done about it.
Host: Okay, Anthony thanks for your call. I want to go to David, just briefly, on this whole notion of tactics and the use of the word “terrorism” because whether you embrace it or not, other people will use that word to criticize the type of things ELF and ALF will do. And though you say the group doesn’t have an organization and a structure that it speaks for, in your view do you think that the tactics of a group like ALF will or should change?
David: No, I don’t think so because they’ve proven to be effective. And the basic… the baseline of the tactics that the ALF and ALF use are non-violent tactics. It is explicitly written into the guidelines that all actions will be non-violent, will not harm or injure any life. And the ALF has been around in North America for over twenty-two years now, and those guidelines have never been breached.
Host: David, thanks for joining us.
David: Thank you.
Host: David Barbarash is a spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front. Connection listeners, we’d like to hear from you on the topics, or the aspects of the conversation that are coming up here: whether or not there is a line that environment groups can or should cross, in terms of the activity that society at large, or this administration will tolerate, and whether or not things have changed since September 11th. Our telephone number is 1-800-423-8255. That’s 1-800-423-TALK. You’re listening to The Connection from NPR.
Host: You’re listening to The Connection on National Public Radio. My name is Dick Gordon. We are talking about environmental tactics in a changed United States. My two guests: Teresa Platt… she’s executive director for Fur Commission USA, and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, DC. Mara, about a month ago Republican Congressmen from Colorado, Scott McInnis, sent a letter to mainstream environmental groups asking them whether or not they would, or would no,t disavow the sort of tactics used by groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the groups went, well, we don’t really want to get into that, but in a pretty unavoidable way it seems like there is this divide-and-conquer going on. Isn’t there?
Mara: I agree with that assessment. I mean that letter-writing campaign was really an opportunistic seizure. It’s seizing on the painful events of September 11th… and sending out these letters demanding that groups that certainly are not terrorists, who have done nothing that would even be slightly equated with September 11th somehow need to disavow terrorism, somehow suggests that they are, therefore, terrorists. And there is an ongoing effort to try to make the social justice movement point fingers at each other, to disavow different elements of the movement. And that’s not new. That’s something that’s historically been carried out. It was carried out in the civil rights era.
Host: But why not do it? In one sense why not do it? Why not say, “Look, tell me that you are going to be a non-violent protest group and that you actually don’t agree with the sort of tactics like arson and significant property damage”?
Mara: I guess to use a well often used phrase it’s an idea of keeping the eyes on the prize, in essence. It is important for people to define themselves and for groups to define themselves, and I believe that they do that, and I believe that the people here today have fairly and honestly defined themselves. The question then becomes, what is it that they are fighting for, and keeping the focus on what they are fighting for. When you start to take the bait and you go down this long path of pointing fingers at each other, you lose sight of what the issue is. And when you are talking about the issues of terrorism and harm and eco-terrorism, I mean for example… were a group to come in and poison the Hudson River and seed it with cancer-causing agents and do so for political reasons they would be defined as terrorists, and people would be terrified, and they’d be afraid, and they’d be shocked, and they’d be looking at all their waterways. But when GE does it, and they do it for profit, then that’s treated differently and we assess it differently. And it doesn’t inflame the passions, and it doesn’t cause that level of hysteria that we see.
Host: Connection listeners, our telephone number is 1-800-423-8255. And Glen is on the line from Boston. Hi, Glen.
Caller 4: Yes, hi. I would like to comment on an earlier speaker from the Animal Liberation Front, Dave, who… I’ve been peripherally listening to this conversation while working, and when he mentioned or when he equated the Holocaust and liberating concentration camps to what the Animal Liberation Front is doing, I just had to put down my mouse and think about this and call you. I think it’s an outrage that he would compare what he is doing to what happened in World War II, and to be proud about saying that. I mean, for one that was a war, and if he wants to declare war on the U.S. government, then he has to be willing to suffer the consequences. But, generally I’m sympathetic to the environmental cause and I engage in a lot of social justice issues myself, but I believe that openly this is a nation of laws and it’s very important that we maintain that because otherwise…
Host: But most cases of civil disobedience involve breaking a law. I mean, even occupying a lunch counter in the 1950s was breaking a law, so people are always in a position of saying, “I disagree with that law, therefore I will protest against it.”
Caller 4: And therefore the courts are a place to redress that, and when people break the law they have the opportunity in the courts of law to make their case. And very often they win their case, when they’re not done violently and… that… they are making a reasonable case. Certainly, in the civil rights movement there were many cases that were won in the courts and also he equated this to Martin Luther King, who was committed to non-violence. And because he was committed to non-violence, I believe, he was so successful. But as soon as those protests start turning violent… and I do believe that… bombings and fires is a violent act. I do not consider that non-violent acts even though, luckily, nobody has been killed or injured in those acts.
Host: Glen, I’m glad you put down your mouse and called us.
Glen: Okay. Thank you.
Host: Our number is 1-800-423-8255. Soso is on the line calling in from Kensington, New Hampshire. Hi Soso.
Caller 5: Hi. How ya doing?
Host: Fine thanks.
Caller 5: Yeah, I’d like to make a couple of comments here. First, I’d like to say to Teresa Platt, you’re doing a great job there. Also, it’s really funny — I always love it when the animal rights groups and the environmentalists or what-have-you compare themselves to great social movements, such as the civil rights movement and the women’s movement. Time will tell whether or not the environmental movement is a great social movement or not. I think it is rather arrogant to compare yourself to something, which has been ongoing, and continues to be ongoing to this very day. But, you know, for people from Greenpeace or groups like PETA to say, “well we’re just a happy little group of people and we have these beliefs and we do peaceful protesting,” well that’s one thing. But if you read the rhetoric and the media that they put out there in the magazines and what-have-you, I mean, it’s inflammatory. It’s intended to cause some people to step over the line and to, you know, commit acts of violence or break the laws in order to get their point across. And you know that the people from Greenpeace or PETA are probably going “Yaay!” I just have a funny feeling that’s what is going on.
Host: So is there anything that’s acceptable in your mind, Soso? I mean, if you think that the destruction of the rainforest is something that you don’t want to countenance… is the only tactic to boycott the companies that do that…? Or…
Caller 5: No. No. Peaceful protest is okay, if people have time to stand on a street corner and wave a sign around. But what really irritates me is that these groups like Greenpeace, PETA, etc. — I mean I know that there is a lot more of them — they are out there collecting millions and millions of dollars and they use it for legislative issues, to try to create new laws. They use that money to help… in court cases and judicial cases against people who might have broken the law for these particular causes. Why aren’t they taking that money and finding alternate solutions to present to people? I have yet to see anything. I just see a lot of protesting and complaining.
Host: Okay, but when, Soso, you say, you know, “it’s fine if they want to stand on a street corner and wave a sign around,” you’re saying it’s fine, and your tone of voice is saying it’s not going to make any difference. And that’s, in effect…
Caller 5: I mean it will get the message out there per se. Are you saying it’s better to send bombs through the mail or something, to make a point?
Caller 5: Ok.
Host: But, I mean Mara can probably make the case better than I can, in terms of where environmentalists, you know, how far one group or another group wants to go in order to make its point. Mara?
Mara: Well, I think maybe it’s instructive to think about Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail where he talked about the necessary tension that is created by the type of civil disobedience that many people were engaged in at the time. And that letter was written, importantly, to critics, to people who at that time were condemning Dr. King. It is always very easy, decades later, to look at any movement for social progressive change in the United States and say, “that was a wonderful movement,” when at the time, each and every one of the movements that has brought human rights and civil rights that we cherish today has been fought, has been brutalized, and has been ridiculed. And, you know, when we look at civil disobedience and violation of law in order to get a point across, and in order to stand up and fight for progressive rights, that, just even looking at the last century you can see it in the suffragists who chained themselves to the White House fence in those heavy long gowns, to the unions who were… the trade unionists who were having sit-down strikes, to freedom riders, to the massive May Day demonstrations and other demonstrations in Washington, DC where people were blocking traffic, to the anti-apartheid movement where folks were getting arrested at the South African embassy, to the challenges to U.S. policy in Latin America, and to U.S. intervention and murders in Latin America, to the ongoing demonstrations at School-of-Americas-Watch, where people of conscience go and challenge…
Host: Teresa, let me hear you on this.
Teresa: Well, you know, I’m listening to this long litany of social ills, and then of course we’ve had David Barbarash whose group works to limit human rights, and uses bombs and all kinds of incendiary materials to try to have that happen. I think there’s a difference between movements and industries. And I think we’ve got an industry out there – people are calling it the “conflict industry.” It makes millions and millions of dollars. It’s multinational. It is a multi-million dollar industry making money off of conflict, not solutions. And they’ve institutionalized protest to a fine art. We’ve now got civil disobedience for a photo-op, civil disobedience for column-inches. Greenpeace and PETA and these groups know that they will get more coverage if someone gets arrested. I’m wondering how many of their protesters actually participate in the democratic process, because I’ve hardly ever seen them there, instead of protesting all the time. Now, I’ve protested – I’ve never been arrested – I organized with a bunch of fishermen one of the biggest protests, in fact I think we hold the record, the biggest protest Greenpeace has ever been subjected to. We were not arrested. Protest is legal. Get out there and do it.
Host: But it really becomes a debate of extremes in one sense, though, Teresa. I mean, Soso raised the point that she objects to Mara’s use of the social battles of the ’60s to stand as an example, but in your own writing you make a direct link between Osama Bin Laden and the Animal Liberation Front. I mean, it cuts both ways, doesn’t it?
Teresa: Well, we were nervous about making that link. In fact, we didn’t make it. We went out and watched the media make it for us.
Host: And then you quoted it.
Teresa: And then we quoted them. I mean, we said “this is interesting,” you know? I mean, the Washington Timescalled it “an Eco-Al Queda.” And I thought it was a great term. There were activists who said that if they had done it on a Sunday, and simply destroyed the building, and hadn’t killed anyone, that would have been okay. And that’s sort of the David-Barbarash- Animal-Liberation-Front school of thought. If you burn down the building, if some mink are killed that’s okay – but as long as someone doesn’t get hurt, you haven’t crossed the line. If someone does get hurt, the Animal Liberation Front won’t take credit for it; another group called the Justice Department will. And the Justice Department is on record as saying they will kill people, and they have injured people.
Host: Soso, thanks for your call. I want to go to Kim who’s on the line from Boston. Hi, Kim.
Caller 6: Hello.
Host: Hi – go ahead please.
Caller 6: Thanks for taking my call. I guess the first thing I wanted to point out is, I mean, September 11th was definitely a terrorist act. I view what’s been happening with the ALF and ELF as, yes, property damage, but definitely not terrorism. I believe that violence is perpetrated on living things, and things have gotten so bad with the environment and our animals, and even the effects on human health, that these tactics are necessary. We have gone…
Host: So is ALF’s record just good luck? Or good judgment? I mean, if somebody, if a scientist were to be killed in the bombing of a lab, would that change your mind?
Caller 6; I guess, yeah. It would. It would, but the tactic itself – and I know nobody has so far…
Teresa: Well, rest in peace Gilbert Murray, who was the executive director of California Forestry Association, when he received a letter bomb from the Unabomber…
Host: Okay, but that’s from the Unabomber, who claimed to have been inspired by a number of fairly well…
Teresa: By Earth First!, Earth First!… a hit-list put out by Earth First!…
Host: It was the Unabomber, Teresa, let’s not put him necessarily in a…
Mara: That allegation has been completely discredited. It’s that kind of sloppy, factual use that really defeats the argument of the industry…
Teresa: It’s in… It’s in… the court… memorandum. It’s in the court memorandum. He admitted that his last two victims had been on Earth First!’s hit-list, that that was what inspired him. He killed an ad executive who he thought – because Earth First! thought – that that ad executive had represented Exxon. They were incorrect. That ad agency had nothing to do with it, but he sent the letter bomb there anyway, because it was on the Earth First! hit-list…
Mara: To me that’s not accurate…
Teresa: Rest in peace, Gilbert Murray…
Host: Well, Kim, you have… Kim, you’ve set the cat among the pigeons here. Thanks for your call. I want to just go to Mara on the issue of, again, what’s changed? Last Spring if a bunch of people had chained themselves to a tree saying, “don’t cut it down,” they could have expected a certain amount of sanction. If they did it today, would they expect a different sanction?
Mara: I think that remains to be seen. We fear that that is, in fact, what will happen. When you look at the Patriot Act, and what’s been put in there, I think it was a rather candid admission of Ms. Platt that these were methods and mechanisms that the Bush Administration sought, but did not feel they could get justification for, until after September 11th. So that September 11th has been used….for mass evisceration of civil rights…
Teresa: I said law enforcement, and it predates Bush…
Mara: That’s accurate, in fact. There are many who sought these types of… many in the industry and in the ultra-right in the United States who sought these types of eviscerations of civil rights and civil liberties, long before the Bush Administration, but they found a very welcome ear with the Bush Administration. And now the Patriot Act authorizes mass surveillance, eavesdropping, covert searches, and it is not – as Ms. Platt said – merely focused on non-citizens, though non-citizens are deeply penalized under this act…
Host: Mara, thanks very much for joining us.
Mara: We appreciate very much you having me here.
Host: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard is co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington, DC. Teresa, thank you.
Teresa: Thank you for having me.
Host: Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA. We talked earlier in the program with Andrea Durbin, National Campaign Director for Greenpeace, and David Barbarash, spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front. Connection listeners, please feel free to continue this conversation. Go to our web site at The-Connection-dot-O-R-G. The Connection’s Senior Producer is Graham Smith. I’m Dick Gordon. This is The Connection.