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Profile: Justin Solondz
Justin Solondz was a participant or observer in the following events:
A scene from the UW Horticulture Center fire. [Source: Associated Press]Two college students set off a firebomb at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture that causes $7 million in damages. No one is injured in the blast, caused by several time-delayed fire bombs. Lacey Phillabaum and Jennifer Kolar are affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), which will take credit for the bombing. ELF’s plan was to target genetically-engineered poplar trees at the center, but the bomb also destroys other research projects, including wetlands restoration and endangered stickweed plants. Since 2000, ELF has targeted companies and government facilities involved in genetic engineering; a professor involved in the poplar project, Toby Bradshaw, received timber-industry funding for the research. ELF’s statement after the bombing calls the genetically engineered poplars “an ecological nightmare” for the diversity of native forests. Bradshaw will say that most of the damage he suffered was to his office; a greenhouse containing some 80 genetically-engineered poplars survives unscathed. “The truth is that we’re dealing with a bunch of misinformed… folks who don’t understand the research that was being carried out,” Bradshaw will say. “Even though I was the target, I am the one who was least affected.” Of charges that his “mutant” trees would damage the environment, Bradshaw says his work will almost certainly never “see the outside of a greenhouse.” The UW bombing is one of two planned for the day of May 21; a second bombing also occurs at a Clatskanie, Oregon, poplar farm owned by a timber firm, claiming two buildings and a dozen vehicles. Five years later, Phillabaum and Kolar will plead guilty to participating in the firebombing and other, lesser charges in return for their cooperation in a federal investigation into attacks mounted by ELF and its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). US Attorney John McKay will say, “These violent acts of destruction are not a valid form of political speech.” Both will receive significantly smaller prison terms than they may have received had they gone to trial and been convicted of all counts. Three other ELF members were at the scene: William C. Rodgers, a longtime ELF activist who will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in 2005 (see October 19, 1998); Justin Solondz, who helped assemble the bombs and is now a fugitive; and Briana Waters, who has been indicted for serving as a lookout for the UW bombing. [Los Angeles Times, 6/9/2001; Seattle Times, 10/5/2006]
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