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On the Recent Wave of Repression

February 11, 2006

From the first issue of “The Warrior Wind”

On December 7th, 2005, one of the largest roundups of environmental and animal liberation activists in American history began. That day the FBI arrested six people in four different states and issued Grand Jury subpoenas to others not then taken into custody. While details became clearer about federal law enforcement’s “Operation Backfire” against the environmental movement, the Bush administration was busy dealing with scandals regarding its newly revealed, and widespread, domestic spying programs through the National Security Agency and other entities. In this context, the revelation that “antiterrorist” spying is conducted against environmental and animal activists ought to surprise no one. Furthermore, the latest attacks on our movements should be described as what they really are, counter-insurgency operations, not “neutral” policing-as-usual.

The State has always used surveillance and repression against those it considers threats or competition. For the past decade, earth and animal liberationists have faced an escalation of such surveillance and repression. When Jeff “Free” Luers was sentenced in 2001 to over 22 years for vandalizing SUVs, many felt his sentence was an exception or anomaly. Now almost all eco-prisoners are facing similar sentences (Earth Liberation Front prisoner Chris McIntosh was facing a 30 year minimum before taking a plea deal for eight years), and the sentences prisoners face are only climbing higher. To give one example: activists with Arizona Earth First!, recently convicted merely of charges relating to interference with a mountain-lion hunt, are being threatened with sentences of over seven years at their March hearing!

Federal law enforcement alleges that those arrested on December 7th, two individuals arrested since then, three people named in indictments but not apprehended, as well as unknown others, are all members of a large “eco-terror network” responsible for a series of actions in the northwest from 1996-2001. The actions in question included attacks against genetic engineering, various wilderness “management” programs, meat and lumber companies, as well as ecocidal development in general. The Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front used communiqués to claim responsibility for some of the actions cited in the government’s indictment. None of these actions caused physical injury to a single human being, although the amount of economic damage caused to government and industry remains impressive.

The FBI’s “evidence” rests on the testimony of informants, whose credibility is questionable at best. The FBI’s primary informant, Jacob Ferguson, for example, is a notorious junkie “has-been,” living in the community of Eugene, Oregon. Another informant, Stanislas Meyerhoff, was arrested in Charlottesville, Virginia, on December 7th. Not long thereafter, he made public statements such as: “I hope, I pray the courts will be merciful with those who renounced these crimes and moved on to be students and professionals,” and proclaimed his willingness to inform against others. Statements such as Meyerhoff’s say little about real acts in the outside world, but say a lot about how the FBI “leans” on people in custody. Unfortunately, even more snitches seem to have followed, two allegedly on the inside and one on the outside. The words of informants are not accurate information; they are the utterances of desperate, broken, and bribed individuals.

No matter how many paid-off informants the federal government can bring forth to say otherwise, the “eco-terror network” is a work of pure fiction. The State would rather create a mythical organization to prosecute than admit that dozens of acts of sabotage and arson committed each year across the country, are done by autonomous individuals and small groups of affinity (those in power cannot conceive of an enemy that does not operate within their logic). The defendants are united only in that they are all victims of a wider conspiracy by local and federal law enforcement against those who fight environmental destruction. Recent national controversies about domestic spying, with its sinister methods of operation, only seem to confirm this impression.

Those arrested on December 7th were Daniel McGowan, Chelsea Gerlach, Darren Thurston, Sarah Harvey, Kevin Tubbs, Stanislas Meyerhoff and Bill Rodgers. Of these, Meyerhoff’s recent role has already been stated. Unfortunately, there are others arrested on Dec. 7th who now also appear to have acted with ignominy. At the time of writing, the integrity of Daniel McGowan, Chelsea Gerlach, Darren Thurston, and, tragically, Bill Rodgers, appear without a doubt.

Early on the 22nd of December, Bill Rodgers was found dead in his Flagstaff, AZ, cell. According to the official account, Rodgers placed a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself. In the current atmosphere of war and reaction, we can never be completely certain of the events that led to Rodger’s death. However, supporters of Rodgers did post a written statement from Bill (who, it seems, was also known as “Avalon”) allegedly from his last evening on this earth:

“To my friends and supporters to help them make sense of all these events that have happened so quickly: Certain human cultures have been waging war against the Earth for millennia. I chose to fight on the side of bears, mountain lions, skunks, bats, saguaros, cliff rose and all things wild. I am just the most recent casualty in that war. But tonight I have made a jail break—I am returning home, to the Earth, to the place of my origins. Bill, 12/21/05 (the winter solstice).”

Even this statement links the reality of Rodger’s confinement, and his “suicide.” We understand that Rodgers was a strong-willed, strong-hearted man, and we believe that he was capable of making choices up to the very end. We also understand, regardless of the precise facts surrounding December 21st, that, as with all who die while incarcerated, the state was the real murderer.

During the almost two months since the first public manifestation of the FBI’s “Operation Backfire,” charges have changed and arrests have grown. At first, those arrested were indicted separately, and some of the people arrested faced numerous trials. Now, federal charges against eleven people, some not having been arrested, are consolidated into a single, 65-count indictment (superceding previous indictments). The 83-page document features many claims that had previously been leaked to the media before any charges had been filed. For example, Chelsea Gerlach, three other defendants, and Bill Rodgers, are all named in the indictment for their alleged involvement with the 1998 arson against a ski lodge development in Vail, Colorado, which caused approximately $12 million in property to be destroyed. The state tactic of “trial by media,” in which blame is placed on defendants well in advance of charges being filed, is just another aspect of a wider government conspiracy against the defendants and environmental activists in general. After creating a fictional network (now referred to in the indictment as “The Family”), and claiming all those indicted as “members,” the State is able to blame these individuals for any and all actions taken to attack environmental destruction.

The January 19th indictment contains charges against certain defendants that could lead to sentences in excess of “life,” if convicted on all counts. Trial is currently scheduled to begin October 31, 2006.

In what now appears as part of the run-up for the January 19th indictment, ecological activist Jonathan Paul was arrested on January 17th, while Suzanne Savoie was also named as being sought by the authorities. She turned herself in the following day. Both Paul and Savoie had in December been subpoenaed as targets by a Grand Jury in Eugene, Oregon. Both are now named in connection with a multiplicity of charges in the Jan. 19th indictment. These individuals deserve full support, in whatever manner is requested and appropriate.

On Wednesday, January 25th, Daniel McGowan was granted bail of $1.6 million. The following day, during detention hearings, bail was also set for defendants Jonathan Paul and Suzanne Savoie. On or around the time these hearings took place, the positive news of these three defendants actually receiving conditional pretrial release, was somewhat tempered by more disturbing news. We quote directly from the Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network (ELP) information bulletin of 1/28/06:

“Kevin Tubbs—On the 25th of January 2006, at the bail hearing of Daniel McGowan, Officer Harvey of the EPD, stated, under oath, that Kevin Tubbs had cooperated with them in their investigation against Daniel McGowan. ELP does not know the extent of the cooperation Tubbs has given the police (Officer Harvey did not disclose that) but as a precaution, pending further investigation, we are removing Kevin Tubbs from our prisoner list.

“Sarah Harvey—On the 24th of January 2005, at the bail hearing of Sarah Harvey, the Prosecutor (Engdal) stated that Harvey should be released on bail because “She has accepted responsibility for her actions, and is cooperating.” Again ELP does not know the full extent of this cooperation and we are investigating the matter further. Earlier this month Harvey distanced herself from the radical environmental movement and asked to be removed from ELP’s prisoner list.

“Jen Kolar—Kolar is a woman who has never been charged with any offence in relation to the on-going investigation against the eleven people accused of illegal activity in the State of Oregon, however it has been widely believed for a while that Kolar has been cooperating with the police in their investigation. This suspicion was confirmed when the well known Earth First! lawyer, Stu Sugarman, stated, in court, that Jonathan Paul’s arrest was based on the testimony of Jen Kolar.”

It is unsurprising that the state continues to further its prosecution with the creation of more informants and lying snitches (which is not to say that we have more information than the ELP about the extent of the most recent snitchery). Beyond the sniveling behavior of others, and media scare stories about a fictional “eco-terror network,” the state has nothing, after all. Unfortunately, without our strong efforts, the myth of “The Family” may prove powerful. In Italy from 1997 onwards, the government there used a similar pretext—a chase after the non-existent “Revolutionary Anarchist Insurrectionalist Organization”—to lock up anarchist comrades. The Italian state now regularly charges radicals with “subversive association for the purpose of terrorism,” and blatantly attempts to wipe out the will to revolt altogether. While the US government currently proceeds somewhat differently than the Italian state of 2006, this does not mean that we ought to hold any illusions about the “Land of the Free,” or the direction it is heading in. Rather, from Lecce, Italy to Eugene, Oregon, we must put effort into immediate and thought-out responses to repression, and most importantly, to turn from the defensive to the attack.

Protest and appeals to those in power may succeed in freeing or reducing the sentence of a few prisoners, but the destruction of prisons can only come through direct action and collective struggle against the ruling social order. Around the world there have already been acts of solidarity with the imprisoned anarchists of Italy, from the wrecking of genetically engineered trees to street demonstrations and actions at Italian embassies throughout Europe. Solidarity must also be diverse and global for the recent arrestees in the US, in memory of Bill Rodgers and also for all those locked in prisons and detention camps. Our acts of solidarity do not need to take a “militant” form, but they do need to occur. Let there be no illusions: the state has declared war on any who would oppose this society’s forced march to extinction. We must fight for those arrested, but the fight is also for our own lives.

The first issue of “The Warrior Wind,” a newsletter against our society of confinement, is out now. It is available as a .pdf file, to print out and distribute locally, from either of the following two locations:

The February newsletter contents include: “On the Recent Wave of Repression,” a look at the Northwest “eco-crime” cases; dispatches from eco-defense prisoner Jeff “Free” Luers; other repression and resistance news (grand juries, Auburn arrests, SHAC 7 trial, Chuk’shon Earth First! activists face sentencing, and “Belgium: Solidarity Against All Borders!”); information about the newsletter project itself; and finally a reprint of Ralph Chaplin’s poem “The Warrior Wind.”
We encourage you to make this project your own, not only through making copies and circulating the information within, but also by offering us your feedback and writing for future issues.

As repression increases, we believe that it has become more, not less, important for radicals to raise their voices. “The Warrior Wind” newsletter is one small gesture towards the sort of fight-back we desire.

Our first issue is dedicated to the memory of Bill Rodgers.

For a better world—
TWW editors

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