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Context of 'March 2004: Environmental, Animal Rights Activists Attempt to Stop Arizona Officials from Killing Mountain Lions'

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A number of small, loosely affiliated “ecoterrorist” groups begin to form, mostly in California and West Coast areas of the United States, though their operations are evident throughout the nation. Some of the more prominent groups include: the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976); Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997); and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998). Generally, the groups’ ideology embraces the concept of using property damage to hinder or stop the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the environment. These organizations usually target the operations of companies in related industries, or sometimes terrorize executives and employees of these firms. The companies usually targeted include automobile dealerships, housing developments, forestry companies, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, restaurants, and fur farms. As of 2005, no one will have been injured in these attacks, though the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will predict that the steady escalation of violence from the groups may result in injury or even death. The groups will cause millions of dollars in damage to property and items, usually through arson, bombings, and vandalism. The “ecoterrorist” groups tend to be small, and made up of environmental and animal rights activists on the “fringes” of the mainstream movements who have become frustrated with the slow pace of change. Some members are also affiliated with one or another of the various “anarchist” groups. The ADL will contrast the typical “ecoterrorist” group with racist and white supremacist groups, noting that their organizational structure tends to be extremely egalitarian and sometimes almost nonexistent: “Unlike racial hate groups with established hierarchies and membership requirements, for example, an activist can become a member of the ecoterror movement simply by carrying out an illegal action on its behalf.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The term “ecoterrorism” does not gain widespread usage until after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will note that “members of Congress, conservative commentators, and the FBI [will join] in a chorus decrying the acts as ‘ecoterrorism.’” Charles Muscoplat, the dean of agriculture at the University of Minnesota—a targeted site—says: “These are clearly terroristic acts. Someone could get hurt or killed in a big fire like we had.” ALF spokesman David Barbarash (see 1998) says in response: “I mean, what was the Boston Tea Party if not a massive act of property destruction?… Property damage is a legitimate political tool called economic sabotage, and it’s meant to attack businesses and corporations who are profiting from the exploitation, murder, and torture of either humans or animals, or the planet.… [T]o call those acts terrorism is ludicrous.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: David Barbarash, Animal Liberation Front, Anti-Defamation League, Charles Muscoplat, Southern Poverty Law Center, Earth Liberation Front, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front.A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front. [Source: Animal Liberation Front]The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) forms. It is widely considered the US’s most active “ecoterrorist” movement (see 1970s) and focuses primarily on attacking companies that perpetuate cruelty to animals, often in the form of animal experimentation. It is very loosely organized, and composed of anonymous underground cells that mount operations to rescue animals from what it calls “places of abuse” and, it says, to “inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.” ALF traces its origins to a group of British activists in the late 1960s called the Hunt Saboteurs Association, whose prime goal was to disrupt fox hunts. In 1972, according to the anonymously published “ALF Primer,” “after effectively ending a number of traditional hunting events across England, members of the Hunt Saboteurs decided more militant action was needed, and thus began the Band of Mercy.” The Band of Mercy went farther than its parent organization, and in 1974 two of its members, Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, were jailed for firebombing a vivisection research center in Great Britain (see 1974). When Lee is released from prison in 1976, he and some of his Band of Mercy colleagues found the ALF. The organization first begins operations in Great Britain, but quickly moves to America and begins escalating events. Its first known operation will be in 1979, when ALF activists break into a medical school and release animals being used for research (see 1979). Before it establishes a small press office in 1991, ALF’s activities will be publicized and praised by a somewhat more mainstream animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The ALF primer explains the “leaderless resistance” model followed by the group: “Due to the illegal nature of ALF activities, activists work anonymously, and there is no formal organization to the ALF. There is no office, no leaders, no newsletter, and no official membership. Anyone who carries out direct action according to ALF guidelines is a member of the ALF.” The primer states the following as ALF guidelines:
bullet To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. fur farms, laboratories, factory farms, etc. and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives free from suffering.
bullet To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
bullet To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations.
bullet To take all necessary precautions against hurting any animal, human and nonhuman.
The primer states: “In the third section it is important to note the ALF does not, in any way, condone violence against any animal, human or non-human. Any action involving violence is by its definition not an ALF action, any person involved not an ALF member. The fourth section must be strictly adhered to. In over 20 years, and thousands of actions, nobody has ever been injured or killed in an ALF action.” [Animal Liberation Front, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hunt Saboteurs Association, Cliff Goodman, Band of Mercy, Ronnie Lee, Animal Liberation Front, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

In 1993, the Departments of Justice and Agriculture report to Congress that over 313 “animal release” incidents have occurred, usually involving activists breaking into university or private research facilities and releasing animals being used for research and vivisection (see 1979 and 1992). The most active group behind these releases, or “liberations” as the activists term them, is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). Investigators call the ALF the most significant “radical fringe” animal rights group currently operating in the US. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Animal Liberation Front, US Department of Justice, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

1980 and After: Earth First! Formed

Original Earth First! logo, featuring a crossed tomahawk and wrench.Original Earth First! logo, featuring a crossed tomahawk and wrench. [Source: Feelnumb (.com)]Dave Foreman, a former lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, and several other environmental activists form Earth First!, an organization established, in its words, “in response to a lethargic, compromising, and increasingly corporate environmental community.” Earth First! combines environmental activism with a form of spirituality called “deep ecology.” Activists for the group carry out such actions as tree-sitting (sitting in or near a tree to prevent loggers from cutting it down) and tree spiking, which involves hammering a long nail that can create shrapnel injuries when cut by logging tools such as a chainsaw. In his 1985 book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, Foreman describes in detail a number of sabotage methodologies, from disabling logging and earthmoving equipment to the proper way to spike a tree. (“Monkeywrenching” is a term borrowed from the 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey, which depicts characters destroying machinery and burning billboards across the Southwest; Abbey will contribute an introduction to a later edition of Foreman’s book.) Foreman leaves the group in 1989 after being arrested for conspiracy to sabotage a nuclear plant. As of 2005, Earth First! is still active, but operates mainly through its publication, the Earth First! Journal, which publicizes other radical environmental and animal rights groups. After the group begins using more moderate actions to protest environmental depredations, activists who prefer more direct action will gravitate to the Earth Liberation Front (see 1997). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Earth First!, Dave Foreman, Wilderness Society, Edward Abbey, Earth Liberation Front

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Thomas Mosser.Thomas Mosser. [Source: Washington Post]In North Caldwell, New Jersey, advertising executive Thomas Mosser opens a package mailed to his home. Mosser is in his kitchen. His family is in another part of the house; they are preparing to go buy a Christmas tree. When Mosser opens the package, it explodes, tearing his torso open and spilling his entrails onto the kitchen floor. As his horrified wife attempts to staunch the flow with a baby blanket, Mosser dies. Months later, the “Unabomber,” later identified as Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996), takes responsibility for the bombing, claiming that Mosser was targeted for the public relations work his firm did for Exxon; in a letter to the New York Times, Kaczynski will reference the wreck of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez and the subsequent massive oil spill as justification for Mosser’s murder (see April 24, 1995). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1998; Washington Post, 5/5/1998] Friends and co-workers are initially perplexed by Mosser’s murder. “We’re all perplexed,” says Kathy Hyett, who worked with Mosser at Burson-Marstellar. “Why? Why?” Some of his colleagues wonder, presciently as it turns out, if any of the clients of Mosser’s firms might have triggered the attack. A college friend of Mosser’s, John Hanchette, says, “The idea of Tom’s death this way is so foreign to me that I thought, ‘It must be another Tom Mosser.’” [New York Times, 12/13/1994] Mosser is a senior executive at Young & Rubicam Inc., the parent company of public relations firm Burson-Marstellar, one of New York’s most successful PR agencies. Kaczynski will write that Burson-Marstellar represents everything that is wrong with corporate America. In his letter, Kaczynski will write, “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston-Marsteller executive.” (Kaczynski misrepresents himself as one of a group of anarchists he calls “FC,” later found to stand for “Freedom Club.”) Kaczynski will blame Burson-Marstellar for helping Exxon “clean up its public image” after the Exxon Valdez oil spill and, more broadly, for “manipulating people’s attitudes.” The firm has received negative publicity, largely in the more radical environmental press, and has been listed in articles in “No Sweat News” and “Earth First!” as representing a number of firms that are involved in damaging the environment. The Earth First! (see 1980 and After) article blames Burson-Marstellar and other PR firms for attempting to make the public believe that there is no serious environmental crisis. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1/23/1998] Burson-Marstellar will deny any involvement with Exxon during the Valdez crisis, though Exxon later asked the firm to critique the way its officials had handled the case. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1/23/1998] Kaczynski, who misspells Burson-Marstellar in the same way that it was misspelled in the Earth First! Journal article, did not know that Earth First!‘s information was incorrect; as the firm will claim, Burson-Marstellar never worked for Exxon to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Southern Poverty Law Center will observe, “Thanks to incorrect information from EarthFirst!, Mosser was killed for something his company never did.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002] After Kaczynski’s arrest, Jake Kreilik of the Native Forest Network will say, “It is obvious if you read the Unabomber’s manifesto that there is a heavy emphasis against technology and a lot of the other things that Earth First Journal focuses on in terms of the radical end of environmental politics.” Burston-Marstellar has been the focus of pro-environmental protests in the last several months, a fact of which Kaczynski may have been aware. [New York Times, 4/8/1996]

Entity Tags: John Hanchette, Kathy Hyett, Southern Poverty Law Center, Jake Kreilik, Young & Rubicam Inc, Earth First!, ExxonMobil, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Burson-Marstellar, Thomas J. Mosser

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Rod Coronado.Rod Coronado. [Source: Fur Commission (.com)]Rod Coronado, an animal rights advocate affiliated with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and a Vancouver organization, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is jailed for his roles in a 1987 arson at a University of California-Davis veterinary laboratory and a 1992 firebombing at an animal research laboratory at Michigan State University. The UC-D bombing caused over $3.5 million in property damage. Coronado will serve three and a half years in prison. He will become one of ALF’s public representatives, lecturing around the country on behalf of ALF and other extremist animal rights and environmentalist groups (see 1970s). Coronado will tell a Michigan State University reporter, “I wish I could do it again,” referring to the MSU bombing. “I have absolutely no regrets, and I hope the same thing continues to happen at MSU and every other college campus that does animal research.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The third edition of the ALF Primer will quote an anti-vivisection activist in defense of Coronado. Susan Paris, the president of the above-ground organization Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) will say: “Because of terrorist acts by animal activists like Coronado, crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young scientists are rejecting careers in research. Top-notch researchers are getting out of the field.” A 1993 report to Congress (see 1979-1993) made a similar observation, stating, “Where the direct, collateral, and indirect effects of incidents such as this are factored together, ALF’s professed tactic of economic sabotage can be considered successful, and its objectives, at least towards the victimized facility, fulfilled.” [Animal Liberation Front, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rod Coronado, Americans for Medical Progress, Animal Liberation Front, Michigan State University, University of California-Davis, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Susan Paris

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The original Earth Liberation First logo.The original Earth Liberation First logo. [Source: Original ELF (.com)]The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an extremist offshoot of Earth First! (see 1980 and After) founded in Britain in 1992, steps up the vandalism and violence of its parent organization. It consciously models itself after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) in having little to no hierarchical organization, and consists of what it calls “autonomous groups of people” who are “anonymous not only to the public but also to one another.” The ELF writes that it exists to “inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment,” and “to reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the earth and all species that populate it.” In a promotional video, “Igniting the Revolution,” ELF says it now knows “that to be successful in the struggle to protect the Earth, more extreme tactics must be utilized. Thus the Earth Liberation Front was born.” It first garners major US public attention in 1997, when ELF activists burn down a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) horse corral in Oregon (see 1997). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Bureau of Land Management, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Earth First!

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Vail resort in flames.The Vail resort in flames. [Source: Mark Mobley / Colorado Independent]Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activists set fire to a Vail, Colorado, ski resort, causing $12 million in damage. At the time, the Vail attack is the costliest ecoterrorist attack in US history. The attack consists of seven separate fires, which destroy three buildings, including the “spectacular” Two Elk restaurant, and damage four chairlifts. In a press release, the ELF says: “[P]utting profits ahead of Colorado’s wildlife will not be tolerated.… We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Resort Threatens Lynx Habitat - The ELF justifies the bombing by claiming that the resort encroaches on the natural habitat of Canada lynx in the area, an endangered species; an 885-acre planned expansion would, the group claims, virtually destroy the habitat. The resort and other construction have virtually eliminated all lynx from the area. [Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Activist Says ELF Not a Terrorist Group - In a 2007 jailhouse interview, one of the activists, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, will discuss her role in the bombing. An activist since her mid-teens, she began by getting involved with “above ground” protests with Earth First! (see 1980 and After), a less overtly militant environmental organization, and became disillusioned when she saw how little effect such protests had on corporate depredations. She will say that she and her colleagues were extremely careful about buying the materials for the firebombs, not wanting to raise suspicions. They built the actual devices in a Utah motel room, with group leader William C. Rodgers, whom Gerlach and the others call “Avalon,” doing the bulk of the work. After performing a final reconnaisance of the lodge, some of the ELF members decide the bombing cannot be done, and return to Oregon. Rodgers actually plants the devices and sets them off; Gerlach, who accompanies Rodgers and others to the resort, later emails the statements released under the ELF rubric. Gerlach will say: “We weren’t arsonists. Many of our actions didn’t involve fires at all, and none of us fit the profile of a pyromaniac. I guess ‘eco-saboteur’ works. To call us terrorists, as the federal government did, is stretching the bounds of credibility. I got involved at a time when a right-winger had just bombed the Oklahoma City federal building—killing 168 people—(see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and anti-abortionists were murdering doctors (see March 10, 1993 and July 29, 1994). But the government characterized the ELF as a top domestic terrorism threat because we burned down unoccupied buildings in the middle of the night. It shows their priorities.” [Outside, 9/2007]
Apprehensions, Convictions - The Vail firebombing focuses national attention on the organization, as well as on other “ecoterror” groups that use vandalism, arson, and other destructive methods to further their agendas. In December 2006, Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff will plead guilty to federal arson charges. Gerlach and Meyerhoff have already pled guilty to other arsons committed between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based ELF cell known as the Family, which disbanded in 2001. (Gerlach will say that the Family took great pains to ensure that while property was destroyed, no one was injured; “In Eugene in the late nineties, more than a couple of timber company offices were saved by the proximity of neighboring homes.”) The FBI learned about them from an informant who enticed friends of the two to speak about the crimes in surreptitiously recorded conversations. Both are sentenced to lengthy jail terms and assessed multi-million dollar restitution fines. Two others indicted in the arson, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin, who do not directly participate in the Vail firebombing, remain at large. Rodgers will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in December 2005 after being apprehended. Several others will later be arrested and convicted for their roles in the assault. [Associated Press, 12/14/2006; Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Firebombing Detrimental to Local Activism - Gerlach will later say that the Vail firebombing was actually detrimental to local environmental activism. [Outside, 9/2007] In 2008, Ryan Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild, will agree. He will say that the fires damaged the trust the community once had in the environmental activist movement, and will add that the federal government used the fires to demonize the entire environmental movement. “I don’t think it really changed the Bush administration agenda, but it probably made their job easier by lumping those actions onto the broad umbrella of terrorism over the last decade,” Bidwell will say. “I don’t think that’s been effective at all, but every time that someone lumps groups here in Colorado under the same umbrella as ELF it’s really disingenuous. In places like Vail that have a history it’s made it more important for the conservation community to communicate what its objectives are.” [Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]

Entity Tags: Rebecca J. Rubin, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Earth First!, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Earth Liberation Front, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Wild, Bush administration (43), Ryan Bidwell, William C. Rodgers, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Earth First! (see 1980 and After) activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cheney are acquitted of charges resulting from a pipe-bomb detonation in Bari’s Subaru station wagon. Bari and Cheney were driving to an Earth First! rally in 1990 when the pipe bomb exploded in Bari’s car. FBI agents charged them with conspiring to plant the bomb, but Bari and Cheney consistently denied any such plans or any knowledge of the bomb, saying they had been falsely painted as “ecoterrorists” (see 1970s) and in fact had been the targets of an assassination attempt. The jury finds that FBI and other law enforcement agents violated their civil rights, and frees them. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Judi Bari, Darryl Cheney, Earth First!

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Rod Coronado displays a jug of gasoline and oil that can be used as an incendiary device.Rod Coronado displays a jug of gasoline and oil that can be used as an incendiary device. [Source: Fur Commission]Environmental and animal rights activist Rod Coronado (see 1995 and March 2004), a convicted arsonist and member of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), gives a speech urging activists to commit arson and telling them how to build an incendiary device. Coronado’s speech comes on the heels of the firebombing of a San Diego condominium complex in which an ELF banner was left behind (see August 1, 2003). Coronado gave a similar presentation to a conference in January, where he displayed a milk jug filled with gasoline and oil, and told listeners: “Here’s a little model I’m going to show you here. I didn’t have any incense, but—this is a crude incendiary device. It is a simple plastic jug, which you fill with gasoline and oil. You put in a sponge, which is soaked also in flammable liquid.… You put the incense stick in here, light it, place it—underneath the ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ light the incense stick—sandalwood works nice—and you destroy the profits that are brought about through animal and earth abuse. That’s about two dollars.” In February 2006, Coronado will be indicted for charges stemming from the August 2003 speech. [Los Angeles Times, 2/23/2006; Fur Commission, 2010]

Entity Tags: Rod Coronado, Earth Liberation Front

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Environmental and animal rights activist Rod Coronado, long affiliated with both the Earth First! (see 1980 and After) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) organizations (see 1995), and another activist, Earth First! member Matthew Crozier, attempt to prevent officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department from capturing and killing mountain lions in Sabino Canyon near Tucson. Both will be charged with attempting to impede or injure an officer. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Earth First!, Animal Liberation Front, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Rod Coronado, Matthew Crozier

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism


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