Monday, March 27, 2006

Eco-terrorism Campaign

Karen Pickett | The Green Scare

On January 20th, eleven people were indicted in Oregon by a grand jury investigating acts of sabotage linked to the underground Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The actions, going back nearly a decade, include a number of arsons - with such targets as a ski resort expansion into endangered lynx habitat and a facility for rounding up wild horses for dog food. There were no injuries in any of the actions, but the FBI claims over $25 million in damage to property.

Some of those indicted had been arrested in December, including one person who died in custody in Arizona. Shock waves have been reverberating through the environmental activist community, and the situation is still unfolding. Two more people were arrested in Olympia, Washington, on February 23, and the day before, outspoken Native American and animal rights activist Rod Coronado was arrested in Tucson, Arizona, on charges sent down by a grand jury in San Diego. In addition, there is a grand jury investigating Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activities in San Francisco.

But those being rounded up are not only being charged with crimes associated with the acts the FBI and grand juries allege - they are also being labeled as terrorists. . . . .

The agenda is criminalization of dissent, long within the purview of the FBI, but the less recognized agenda is also protection of wealth and private property. It seems ALEC would put damage to property on par with threat or actual harm to life. Nowhere, in the FBI's pronouncements of how heinous these acts they call terrorism are, is a body count or even a litany of injuries. The "injury" is defined in millions of dollars to corporations who are in the business of building multi-million dollar developments on endangered species habitat.

If property destruction is put on par with threat to life, the question must be asked whether the next step will be increased prosecution for the revered tradition of non-violent civil disobedience or vilification of the successful market campaigns carried out by the likes of Rainforest Action Network, because after all, those activities, as well as boycotts and strikes, put a dent in the bottom line of profit margin. In fact, attacks disguised as IRS investigations and other back door strategies are already on the rise against organizations that carry out civil disobedience and market campaigns.

"Eco-terrorism," a term trumpeted in the media, was invented in the early 1990s by public relations firm Hill and Knowlton, in the employ of corporations in the extractive industries. It was then put into popular use by right-wing ideologues like Ron Arnold, long known as a vehement anti-environmentalist whose self-professed goal is to destroy the environmental movement.

Property destruction is sabotage, not terrorism. Call it what it is, and then debate appropriate prosecution and penalties.


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