Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Activist repression at the hands of the government and corporations is what I most looked forward to at AR2008, partly because I'm intrigued by spy games and partly because Will Potter would be speaking about it. If you couldn't tell already from my blog, I love Potter and think he's brilliant.
Since I already wrote about corporate threats, this post will discuss the government's tactics in silencing our movement (and others).
I liked that several people alluded to the surveillance by both animal abusers and by law enforcement. Steve Hindi of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), which focuses on cruelty at rodeos, began his speech about "Applying Direct Action" by asking, "Is there anyone here who is not an animal activist? And we'll leave the FBI out of this -- they don't have to raise their hands."
Dawn Moncrief of FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement), the organization that puts on the national animal-rights conference every year, was talking about how everyone is welcome regardless of their ability to pay, and she paused and said something like, "Well, except for that guy from [the Center for] Consumer Freedom. We kind of gave him a nudge."
It's not that we're paranoid; it's that the FBI and animal-abuse groups have infiltrated AR conferences in the past.
During the session about the "History of Activist Repression," Heidi Boghosian, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, said government repression goes back a long way in the United States. The Sedition Act of 1798 prohibited criticizing the government. The Pinkerton Detective Agency, a private police agency, began after World War I. The FBI's counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO, operated from the late '50s to the '70s, and it's goals were to discredit, disrupt, infiltrate and provoke movements that the government didn't like.
Potter discussed three tiers of the current Green Scare:
1) Legal -- criminal court cases
2) Legislative -- making new laws
3) Extra-legal -- PR, smearing, scaremongering
He said the State Department created a document to help companies deal with animal-rights activists. He also said we're in the midst of a turning point for environmentalism and animal rights in this country.
pattrice jones (another person whom, I believe, likes her name lowercase) has been involved with several movements, including animal rights and gay/lesbian rights. She said activist repression is a sign of progress and that governments exist to protect private property.
When an audience member said grand juries are sometimes convened to get background for provocateurs to fit in with groups, jones also said the grand juries are used to scare people, to have a chilling effect.
In the session on "Current Activist Repression" Boghosian said that conspiracy is easier for prosecutors to prove than an actual act.
I was surprised to learn that former corporate attorney Odette Wilkens founded the Equal Justice Alliance after she heard Potter talk about the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act at AR2006. The mission of the EJA is to get that law repealed.
Wilkens said the AETA is vague. It's terms are undefined, and its penalities inflated. She also said 36 states have an AETA-type law, 33 of which are on par with or more severe than AETA.
She said a California bill had been "virtually shelved" but was brought back "with a vengence" and in a more egregious form after the Santa Cruz firebombings. Despite what the press is touting as true, Potter doesn't think the firebombings were the work of animal-rights activists.
At Thursday night's plenary Camille Hankins, an outspoken opponent of vivesection, said that the SHAC campaign globally have experienced government surveillance. Three different SHAC groups in Great Britain are in jail, and as one group gets arrested, another group takes its place.
At the end of an anti-vivesection session, a girl approached Hankins and told her she was suspicious of the guy who sat next to her. And the girl may have been right. At least one proponent of vivesection did indeed attend the conference.
(Image courtesy of indymedia.org.uk.)