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The Environmentalist Witch Hunt 2005

Recently (Dec 2005) approximately 6 people were arrested in connection with alleged arsons and environmental activism (resulting in property damage) in the Pacific NW (portland.indymedia.org). I have said we needed to “support� them, and people have written me asking why I am asking people support “terrorists.� The media and the government have used the word “eco-terrorist� to brand these people, throwing out that touted but rarely used maxim of “innocent until proven guilty.� These people who are charged with these crimes, themselves, do not call themselves, or identify as, “eco-terrorists.� I do not know why or who started this concept that using inflammatory words in the mainstream media was “impartiality in reporting� or even blind justice, but I find the use of “eco-terrorists� in the coverage of this case to be very egregious, and frankly, irresponsible.
The Environmentalist Witch Hunt 2005
By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com)

Recently (Dec 2005) approximately 6 people were arrested in connection with alleged arsons and environmental activism (resulting in property damage) in the Pacific NW (portland.indymedia.org). I have said we needed to “support� them, and people have written me asking why I am asking people support “terrorists.� The media and the government have used the word “eco-terrorist� to brand these people, throwing out that touted but rarely used maxim of “innocent until proven guilty.� These people who are charged with these crimes, themselves, do not call themselves, or identify as, “eco-terrorists.� I do not know why or who started this concept that using inflammatory words in the mainstream media was “impartiality in reporting� or even blind justice, but I find the use of “eco-terrorists� in the coverage of this case to be very egregious, and frankly, irresponsible.

So, why would I say something like “support� these folks who are being charged with these crimes on the federal level in an organized sting? And the reasons, oddly, have little to do with the individual cases themselves, or the crimes they supposedly committed. My biggest concern is that the current justice system does not provide fair hearings. Just by labeling these people “eco-terrorists� in all the media and court papers, it sets up a terrible slant on the outcomes they face. For the reasons of wishing for integrity within our justice system, I wish that these people were not flung with slander at the get go by the very government supposedly offering them a fair trial venue. That, right there, is alarming to me and makes me think we need to “support� them on a purely legal level.

Next, I have problems with the way the criminal justice system uses plea bargains to bully and coerce confessions out of people. It seems to me that what is going on is the government charges someone with incredibly serious crimes, puffing the charges up as much as possible, then they scare the plaintiffs to death, and then say, if you say you are guilty, we will reduce the crimes we are charging you with. How is that fair or uncoerced? That is coercion in the worst sense! In some cases, people are literally trading their life for that guilty plea, bargaining down to a manslaughter and/or life in prison sentence, rather than a death penalty sentencing. The only way a guilty plea could be believable is if the charges they plead guilty to were the same ones they were charged with originally.

I am also worried about those charged who will need to rely on public defenders. The public defender system is overworked and understaffed, as well as underfunded. And the tension from that spills over onto the clients daily. Many a person has gone to jail and never really understood what just happened, or what the crime they actually were charged with was! The criminal law system funds prosecutors at twice the level they fund the public defenders in most places and that is another unfair playing field that makes me seriously worry about the right to a fair trial these people are supposedly entitled to. Support can be in the way of helping people understand the charges against them, and many legal aid groups try very hard to help advocate around some of this mess. But I dread anyone new going into that mess.

I also think prisons don’t work. I am not even sure what their goal is. Especially when they start using prisoners for slave labor, that starts getting very close to/is an outright violation of the U.S. Constitution which bans forced servitude. I am not sure what the point of warehousing people in jails is. Prisons do not benefit anyone, it seems. Yes, certain folks are out of control and we really need to deal with them. Such as sexual predators, child molesters, wife beaters, violent thieves, etc. But it seems like prisons just make people who were violent, more violent. And just putting a bandaid on the violence, rather than talking about what that is a symptom of, is getting us nowhere fast. It just seems like a ticking time bomb to have all these really explosively angry and hopeless men locked up behind bars like that. It just seems at this late stage in society we could figure out a more healthy and safe solution to some of these issues. Because the people charged this week did no bodily damage to anyone, which seems to be the standard practice of these environmentalist groups, it seems the use of the word “eco-terrorist� is used for some kind of dramatic effect and that is irresponsible behavior for a government and the media, in my opinion.

I also have trouble blindly accepting the U.S. government when they throw around terms like “eco-terrorist� in light of the whole Judi Bari/Darryl Cherney case (www.darrylcherney.com). This is from Darryl’s website: “Darryl Cherney has written scores of songs about the actions he and his friends have taken defending the environment, fighting for civil rights, and protesting and mocking the political status quo...He has worked with Earth First!...successfully protecting…portions of the Cahto Wilderness, Trout Creek (both in Mendocino County, CA), Luna (where Julia Butterfly sat for two years in Humboldt County, CA), and even some individual trees (in California and Ohio). And he worked alongside his political organizing partner Judi Bari at building alliances between loggers, steelworkers and environmentalists. All the while writing and singing songs about it.�

“While touring universities and organizing for a large, prototypical campaign called Redwood Summer, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were car bombed in Oakland, California. (www.judibari.org). The FBI and Oakland Police blamed the two (falsely) for bombing themselves and had them arrested. Judi was almost killed while Darryl was only slightly injured. Redwood Summer carried on regardless and serves to this day as a model for political campaigns nationwide. Judi and Darryl went on to sue the FBI and Oakland Police agents for violations of the United States Constitution. Tragically, Judi died from cancer in 1997. Darryl along with Judi's estate and their team of veteran civil rights attorneys took the FBI and OPD to trial in the Spring of 2002. A jury unanimously awarded $4.4 million for violations of Judi and Darryl's freedom of speech and their right to be free from unlawful arrest and illegal search and seizure.�
And Judi Bari’s site says, “(revised 6/19/02)On June 11, a federal jury returned a stunning verdict in favor of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney in their landmark civil rights lawsuit against four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers. The jury clearly found that six of the seven FBI and OPD defendants framed Judi and Darryl in an effort to crush Earth First! and chill participation in Redwood Summer. That was evident in the fact that 80% of the $4.4 million total damage award was for violation of their First Amendment rights to speak out and organize politically in defense of the forests. "The jury exonerated us," said Darryl Cherney. "They found the FBI to be the ones in violation of the law. The American public needs to understand that the FBI can't be trusted. Ten jurors got a good, hard look at the FBI and they didn't like what they saw."

"It's really beyond our wildest dreams," said Darlene Comingore, Judi Bari's friend and executor of her estate who stood in for her as co-plaintiff in this suit. "We hope the FBI and Oakland and all the police forces out there that think they can violate people's rights and get away with it are listening because the people of the state of California and Oakland today said, 'No, you can't. You can't get away with it.' Lead attorney Dennis Cunningham said the message he hopes the verdict sends is that: "Ashcroft is doing precisely the wrong thing to abandon the (Levi) guidelines and let the FBI go after dissent with a free hand. It's clear that their intention is not about fighting terrorism, it's about suppressing dissent. That's what the FBI has always been about. Hopefully it will make Congress think twice about giving them a free hand."

That post above is circa 2002, but it is amazing how much that sounds like today. Another reason I worry and feel I need to support these people right now is that American spying history past, on its own citizens, is littered with flaws. In 1962, a national security “watch list,� issued by the FBI, red-flagged all materials coming from Puerto Rico of an anti-American or pro-Soviet nature, peace groups going from the U.S. to the Soviet Union, and any American interacting on a regular basis with students in Moscow, or with the U.S.S.R. By 1972, the FBI’s “watch list� expanded to include the previous groups with Puerto Rican or Soviet Union connections, plus U.S. protest and peace groups, including Women Strike for Peace, and also “extremist� groups, which included the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Progressive Labor Party. Persons sympathetic to North Korea, North Vietnam, Red China, and pro-Cuban individuals were now added to the list also. The FBI also maintained a list of “suspicious� people, who were to be rounded up in the event of a national emergency, as they were in positions to influence others “against the national interests,� “due to their subversive associations and ideology. � This FBI roundup list included a) professors, teachers, or leaders, b) labor union organizers and leaders, c) writers, lecturers, newsmen, entertainers, and others in the mass media field, d) lawyers, doctors, and scientists, e) other potentially influential persons on a local or national level, f) individuals who could potentially furnish material financial aid.� In 1962, MLKing, Jr. was added to this index. The NYTimes recently reported the FBI is again profiling political protesters in America, and included “anarchists� as an additional target group this time around.

As we moved through the 1960’s and 1970’s, American national security agents were confused as to who they should be spying on, who the enemy was, and what the status quo was they were protecting. At one point in the 1960’s, black children trying to attend public school in the South were attacked by police as the enemy! In the 1970’s, police thought non-violent anti-war student protesters at Kent State University were the enemy, and opened fire on them, on an American campus! Terms like “communists,� and “extremists,� came under more and more scrutiny, the more liberally they were applied across society in the 1950’s – 1970’s. In the 1960’s, the line blurred between average citizens and government critics, politicians, professors, feminists, environmentalists, farm workers, students, journalists, hell, the Nightly News, were openly questioning the U.S. policy in Vietnam and Nixon’s reign as president. So we are back to that place again. Where our government feels backed against the wall by the people and they are now nervous and uneasy and, frankly, armed and dangerous.

President Bush is anything but “eco-friendly,� thus I can see how he would immediately exaggerate the threats from people who *are* eco-friendly. He is a pro-oil, pro-gas-engine-car president, which is nuts in this day and age. He will not move off the track that pays his family money: oil. He is friendly to miners who leave arsenic pits in the open to kill nearby wildlife when miners leave town. He is friendly to all kinds of corporate agendas that RUIN our environment. Certainly GWBush’s environmental policies have done more damage (or “eco-terrorism,� if you will) to the environment, internationally, than all of the environmentalists arrested this week.

Those are some of the problems I am having with all this labeling and the government’s actions this week. As you can see, my reasons have very little to do with these individual cases, or the details of their cases. My reasons are more policy-based, revolving around my desire to see justice work, and to not see innocent people labeled before they are tried in court. Just as I was one of those who argued in law school that the worst child murderer in the land needs the most top quality attorney/public defender to make sure something that serious is represented in a fair trial, I also argue that no matter what the crime, we have some serious problems with the criminal law system in the U.S. But even more frightening is we have a serious problem with the Federal Homeland Security Department. It is very possible they are using these environmentalists to deflect from the concept that they failed in New Orleans and that no one is sure what they do with all their funding anymore. I am concerned with the problems in the criminal law system, but I am especially concerned when people are punished for politics, not crimes.

In the cases of other environmentalist activists of late, in Oregon, no less, sentencing guidelines were thrown out the window and excessive sentences were handed out based on politics, not the crimes. I fear that environmentalists are being profiled, much like racial profiling, and are particularly prone to being exploited by the justice system right now because there is a strange use of these sentencings as a political symbol. It feels like the courts are trying to make these excessive charges and sentencings to scare people from defending the environment from corporations doing things like logging old growth forests which cannot be replaced. I just do not like it when the courts make political sentencings, on the right or the left. The concept of “blind justice� is an ideal for a reason. And America should try to live up to that ideal.

I guess I have gotten to a point where I just simply cannot trust my government, which makes the innocence of my youth look far away. I do not trust that they can get the names straight on their “terror� lists, I do not have faith cops can investigate things properly, I do not have faith in our Dept of Homeland Security and their new or old Cointelpro programs. I do not like the lack of transparency in these grand jury indictments either. What are they hiding? I do not have faith in public defenders or in plea bargains. I have suspicions about the agenda GWBush’s government is pushing as a very environmentally unfriendly cabinet. I am very suspicious and uncomfortable with the corporate agenda in America, which sacrifices air, water, land…for private profits, often unchecked. And I worry about the corporate power over the U.S. judicial system. But mostly, I worry that a bunch of people who could have contributed wholly in society will lose their freedom behind bars, for mistakes and flaws in the American justice system. That is pretty much what haunts me to say we need to support these people during this period. Too many people have been charged, or just held with no charges in this “terrorist� net, then released later, as innocent, for me to just believe someone is guilty of a crime just because they are accused or charged with crimes by the U.S. government. People *do* slip through the system, wrongly accused, all the time. With a justice system so riddled with flaws, one becomes sad at the human losses those flaws envelope daily. And with a track record like the U.S. has, regarding political prisoners past and present, it is very hard to “support� them in all this. Which leaves me to the support of those charged. Honestly, it doesn't matter what your stand on environmentalism is, these arrests are about political freedoms in my perception, and political harassment and profiling, not about whichever individual actions evoked this wrath.
 
 


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Support for Political Prisoners

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Support for Political Prisoners
http://indymedia.us/en/topic/prisonissues/archive.shtml

There are many sites that provide useful information about political prisoners needing support. Incarceration for espousing one's beliefs has been happening in this country and around the globe throughout history. Some ways folks on the outside can be supporting prisoners is by writing them letters that don't jeopardize cases/appeals, that don't use nicknames, by sending them reading material, joining/starting a Books To Prisoners or other prisoner support group, and networking with existing support groups.

If you were the one who was locked up, it would mean a lot to know that others were out here for you. If we aren't in this together then we are in this alone.

Political Prisoner Resources: Earth Liberation Prisoners, PrisonActivist.org, prisonsucks.com, breakthechains.net, freedomarchives.org, The Jericho Movement, Books To Prisoners Projects/Prison Legal News

Eco-defense Prisoner Support: fbiwitchhunt.org, Portland IMC Prisons Page, North American Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network

Prison and Prisoner related features from IMCs in the US: Prisons & Prisoners page on Indymedia.us

No one is free when others are oppressed...

A movement that doesn't support it's political internees is a movement destined to fail.
 

Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar

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Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar
www.certaindays.org/

Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organisers in Montreal and NYC, and 3 Political Prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons in New York state. The initial project was suggested by Political Prisoner Herman Bell, and has been shaped throughout the process by all of our ideas, discussions, and analysis. The outside collectives compile, edit and produce the calendar; and throughout the process, we seek the input and guidance of the 3 Political Prisoners: Robert Seth Hayes, Herman Bell, and David Gilbert. All of the members of the outside collectives are involved in day-to-day organising work other than the calendar, on issues ranging from Palestinian solidarity to gender-based violence to prisoner justice. We work from an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer and trans positive position.

Click here for more about the prisoners’ history and current political organising on the bios page

Click here for more on the outside collectives working on Certain Days

Certain Days
In 2005, the calendar was named "Certain Days" to express our feelings of hope and inspiration about the struggles the calendar documents. Though some days it may be hard not to feel beat down and tired, we are certain that better days lay just ahead. These days of certainty are the promise of a near horizon that draws us through the year to the future we know is possible.

The context
Today’s anti-war, anti-globalisation, and anti-colonial movements are rooted in the history of earlier struggles for justice, including the mass movements of the 60s and 70s. Many of the Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War featured in this calendar were organisers during that period: members of the Black Panther Party, or the American Indian Movement; Puerto Ricans fighting for their homeland, or white anti-racist allies working in solidarity with oppressed peoples. Many of the Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War featured in this calendar have been in prison SINCE THAT TIME – 30 years or more. Yet these prisoners are not relics of past movements, they are still active in their political work, and despite the hardships of organising in prison, they continue to organise for justice in the present day; justice behind bars and justice on the streets. This calendar is our tribute to them.

Free all Political Prisoners!
Free all Prisoners of War!

Click here to contact the Certain Days calendar crew
 

Re: The Environmentalist Witch Hunt 2005

Everything That You need to Know About the World:
Death to the Capitol of Capital (710 words)

1. A few million evil rich people have set up an economic system that supports about a billion people well while it dooms the other 5 billion and the whole ecology of a planet to misery, lies and death.

2. Billions of people are rising up in the Arab and Moslem worlds; in Latin America and in other regions.

3. Everyone is learning fast, but most leaders and even radical governments hold the people back from moving too quickly to war. These leaders wait for the people to learn, to organize and prepare. The leaders and many activists hope that a crisis of capitalism or of the environment will bring down (or fully discredit ) the rich – or weaken them enough that war will not be necessary.

4. These "go-slow" leaders are probably wrong. The USA/capitalist elite are much stronger and more ruthless than imaginable – they could kill off half of the planet in a week and hardly blink. And they will unless we strike them and the infrastructure of their system very hard right before the first signs of collapse. Few writers understand time and without time, timing is more difficult to grasp or execute – yet still most important.

5. In the West (USA-EU Empire(s)) the times of education and debate about the What we are fighting for have ended. Words are deaf and our ears can't hear anything useful above the crash of so many things and dreams and hopes. The time of recruiting warriors and their support groups is almost over. The final planning for how to fight is finishing up. All that is left to do from within the West is Guerillaism – a desperate struggle to stop the rich and their hundreds of millions of supporters from chocking off and crushing the people of the South who are determined to rise up and to be free. A fight to the death commences against the Hella USA! – a military and surveillance domination machine more fearsome than all previous evils combined. The Rules of War (and the lessons) are much different than the game of activism and safe civil disobedience.

6. Nation States no longer exist (under the WTO regime, among most indigenous leaders’ views or in our understanding of how the final struggle will unfold). An important effort for activists everywhere is to help people see the need to reject materialism and consumer fads because they are not sustainable and lead to wars and expectations of ever more consumption. The future is either one global Wall Mart or one where basic goods are sold in small open markets. Through communiqués in the West and demonstration projects in liberated zones, activists can explain how building community, regional cooperation and eco-social security are much more important – and fun! – than greed.

7. In the poor countries the masses will line up firmly behind THE REVOLUTION, but not in the wealthy countries. In the USA the vast majority of people will line up behind fascist programs: domestic and international as they do now and have always done – only this time it will be much worse for all of us... Much worse

8. Wherever THE REVOLUTON wins, wherever people fighting the USA hold the land in solidarity, a great rejuvenation of the human spirit will explode all fears away. Never again need we fear totalitarianism from the Left – or ultimately from fundamentalist Islam either. Once free and empowered the people everywhere will express themselves sincerely and petty arguments will no longer hold them back or confuse. People power will for once be real and invincible for many of us sense that this is the Final Big War – the rich against the poor – and so we will all make the best of a hard won and difficult victory. Overcrowding, the ecological crisis and the impossibility of governing people will make decentralization a fact.

9. A general warning: If you live near an ocean, you must plan to relocate inland to areas at least 50 feet above sea level – 100 feet in stormy areas. Plan to move to areas that are not near coastal mega-cities or in the path of their relocation areas. Littorals are also high priority targets for the imperialist invader forces.
 

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