Government Sanctioned Repression at All Time High - Fight Back!
from No Compromise Issue 9
 

By Rod Coronado

As attention of the nation is on Kenneth Starr's abuse of the grand jury system and the 18 month imprisonment on contempt charges of Susan McDougal, a witness in the Whitewater investigation who has refused to testify, the animal liberation movement knows all too well what it's like to face the intense focus of a political witch hunt that can stretch on for years.

In the summer of 1991, following ALF actions in Oregon and Washington, federal grand juries began investigating not only the ALF, but the law-abiding activities of animal rights and Earth First! activists. An ex-girlfriend of one activist was used to gather information; the friend of another was offered paid tuition to the police academy he planned to attend; mothers of suspects were singled out for psychological intimidation; homes, workplaces and storage lockers were raided, physical and electronic surveillance were used against activists and their families; dozens were called to testify without attorneys present and 4 people went to jail for 6 months each rather than cooperate with grand jury inquisitors.

While President Clinton and Hillary squirm under the scrutiny usually reserved for their constituents, political commentators are quick to criticize what many agree is an abuse of the legal process in the Whitewater investigation which has kept alive the grand jury inquiry for over 4 years. Yet there was and is no rush to condemn the very same abuses when they are used against the animal liberation movement. Not that we should expect true justice from a legal system built on exploitation of others.

The federal investigation of the ALF in the early '90s failed to produce a single indictment for 3 years and only after 4 years of investigations and untold millions of taxpayer dollars wasted in the hunt, did they obtain a conviction of an ALF volunteer and then for only 4-1/2 years. This political manipulation of the legal system, which claimed only to be concerned with preventing violent crime, is even more preposterous when, in the convicted ALF volunteer's plea agreement, the U.S. government itself admits that in none of the investigated ALF actions were there any physical injuries or even a threat to humans as all the targets were unoccupied research labs, offices, fur farms and suppliers. Hardly much of a return on an investment from a justice system that is, with increasing frequency, being used to prosecute those who threaten big business and the government itself, rather than violent offenders targeting women, children and senior citizens.

Now, 7 years after that earlier grand jury began investigating the ALF for its anti-fur campaign, the Department of Justice has determined that Utah is the latest breeding ground for ALF activity. And once again, despite not one person having ever been injured or even threatened with injury as a result of ALF actions, a federal grand jury in Utah has produced another indictment that threatens to lock away 19 year-old ALF volunteer Josh Ellerman for over 30 years. To those who doubt there is a political motivation behind targeting the animal liberation movement for government harassment and prosecution, one need only look at the developments made toward fighting "domestic terrorism" since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

While the federal government's bureaucracy is supposedly its smallest size since early 1970s, according to the General Accounting Office, agencies responsible for combating terrorism have grown. The Department of Justice and the FBI (those federal agencies which have recently stated that the ALF is a serious domestic terrorist threat) have requested a record $725 million. That's four times as much money as they spent on counter-terrorism activities previous to the OKC bombing. Also the FBI now has 2,600 agents assigned to counter-terrorism, up from just 500 in 1995. This growth contradicts actual terrorist activity which in recent years has actually fallen to its lowest level since 1971 according to the State Department's reports. Then why all the hysteria about the terrorist threat in America?

With federal law-enforcement agencies - such as those which attempt to convince the public that groups like the ALF are a terrorist threat - battling to justify their growth and greater intrusion into our constitutionally protected civil rights, they have learned to capitalize on the emotional outrage expressed at the OKC bombing. By identifying "terrorist threats" under their jurisdiction, agencies like the FBI and ATF become eligible to receive the hundreds of millions (of dollars) being sanctioned by Congress to combat terrorism. In a recent USA Today report, Larry Johnson, a former State Department coordinator of counter-terrorism affairs acknowledged the concern that some federal agencies may be citing terrorism to justify larger budgets for themselves, "When you say 'terrorism,' it makes you relevant and when you're relevant you can justify added budget."

With the Cold War now over and thousands of law enforcement professionals seeking an enemy to vilify, it becomes a matter of their very survival that they should turn toward investigating and prosecuting movements such as the ALF, who threaten not human life, but corporate wealth and the government sponsorship of animal abuse and environmental destruction upon which they are built. Recent economic developments in the U.S. and other overdeveloped countries have seen the globalization of the world's marketplace with imperial-like forces pushing to override environmental regulations and squash domestic resistance to those who stand in their way. Whereas in the last 50 years U.S. political forces were behind the use of deadly repression to smash what they claimed was a communist threat, the very same forces now seem intent on using equally oppressive measures against any movement who oppose their "New World Order." And that is where the animal liberation movement comes in, according to the Department of Justice.

It is because of their desire for self-preservation and to protect its' fast growing globalized economic policy that we see the forces of the United States now actively targeting our movement of non-violent resistance to animal and earth abuse. This process of criminalization of our moral and political struggle is evident in statements made by Assistant U.S. District Attorney for Utah, Brooke Wells, when she stated during the 1997 sentencing of ALF volunteer Jacob Kennison that a message needed to be sent to animal rights activists that, "Violence in furtherance of a cause...is against the law and must be punished to the full extent of the law."

Kennison was given the maximum allowable sentence under federal guidelines of 16 months and still remains a suspect in other ALF investigations in Utah. In 1995, similar words were spoken by my sentencing judge when he stated that a "deterrent" had to be put in place against further ALF action by giving me the maximum allowable sentence. Rather than serving as a deterrent, federal officials need to realize that no amount of ALF volunteers in prison will prevent the growth of our movement as long as institutionalized animal abuse is given minimal consideration when profits are the objective.

The accusations of the government, industry and corporate media that we are terrorists are baseless. I am reminded of real acts of terrorism that took place during the last FBI/ATF investigation of the ALF in the early '90s. In 1993 both the FBI and ATF were responsible for burning to death 86 people including 26 children in Waco, Texas. The previous year, an FBI sharpshooter shot a suspect's wife in the face as she held her baby, killing her. The suspect, Randy Weaver was later acquitted of all charges, but the FBI sniper walks free.

And we aren't even beginning to address the terror that is committed by corporate and other government protected animal abusers behind locked laboratory doors, factory and fur farms or experienced by animals in leghold and other cruel traps. For me, separating the real terrorists from the freedom fighters is as easy as looking to see who has the blood on their hands. While sustaining the increased imprisonment of ALF volunteers and the animal nations, we must remember that we will gain nothing substantial for our nonhuman constituents without our own personal sacrifice. It is unfair, but such has been the fact for every great moral struggle in modern history. Unfortunately we don't make the rules - we just play the game. Only through the determination exemplified by our growing ranks when we refuse to buckle under government repression will our opposition eventually be forced to reckon with us in a civil manner. When every new animal abuse enterprise must factor into their prospective budgets the possibility that they might be targeted by our less passive forces, be they the ALF, demonstrators or boycott organizers, then and only then will they begin to see the need to change.

Until then, while others are willing to compromise for short-term victories, we in the grassroots animal liberation movement must remain undeterred by any price we are forced to pay for total animal liberation. In the meantime, as some journalists continue to feed from the bloody hands of corporate and government spin doctors intent on portraying our movement as one that is increasingly violent, we must remind them that most violent crimes committed by animal and earth abusing corporations and the government itself rarely ever are investigated with the vigor used to investigate those responsible for highlighting those atrocities. We know all too well what the consequence is of letting government sanctioned murderers walk free while investigating members of a movement innocent of a single loss of life or injury like ours.

While grand jury inquisitors, FBI and ATF agents busied themselves with chasing the ALF in the early '90s, U.S. service man, Timothy McVeigh was awarded with the Bronze Star for his role in killing Iraqi men, women and children. It continues though, that when we reveal the truth its called propaganda, but when government and private industries spread their lies its called the news.