Animal Protection > ALF Foes

FBI Green scare continues more arrests this week
Feb. 25, 2006

    The "green scare" intensifies across the nation this week as eighteen people have now been indicted for more than a dozen actions of property damage and one incident of "teaching and demonstrating."

In what has been dubbed the "green scare" by environmentalists across the nation, the U.S. government returned three additional federal grand jury indictments this week for individuals allegedly involved in actions claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) between 1998 and 2003. In the more than two months of intense attention from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), eighteen people have now been indicted for more than a dozen actions of property damage.

In Olympia, Washington, Nathan Fraser Block and Joyanna L. Zacher were arrested February 23 on two separate 14-county indictments for the May 21, 2001 arson at Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Oregon. Block and Zacher join four other defendants already charged in connection with the action.

Tucson environmental and indigenous activist Rod Coronado was arrested February 22 at his workplace in Tucson, Arizona, by agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). The arrest was in connection with a San Diego federal grand jury indictment charging Coronado with "teaching and demonstrating the making and use of a destructive device, with the intent that the device be used to commit arson" at a public gathering in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego on August 1, 2003. Coronado is not charged with setting a fire 15 hours before his lecture that caused $50 million in damages and destroyed a large apartment complex under construction in the University Towne Center area of San Diego. Three animal rights activists in San Diego were jailed in contempt of court for refusing to testify in the secret Grand Jury investigation and were released at the end of last year.

Block and Zacher join the other 11 co-defendants involved in the Eugene grand jury investigation, all which are scheduled to go to trial October 31, 2006. The trial is expected to last between five and ten weeks. No one was injured in any of the ELF or ALF actions.

Three of the Eugene co-defendants were granted bail and released on strict conditions at the end of January including Daniel McGowan, Jonathan Paul, and Suzanne Savoie. Chelsea Gerlach and Darren Thurston are the only non-cooperating defendants yet to be released. Three other indicted individuals, Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker, and Rebecca Rubin remain at large.

During the bail hearing for NYCís McGowan, Officer Harvey of the Eugene Police Department stated, under oath, that co-defender Kevin Tubbs had cooperated with them in their investigation against McGowan. In the testimony for Paulís bail hearing, his lawyer Stu Sugarman stated that his arrest was based on the testimony of Jen Kolar, an individual not charged in any of the incidents.

In the separate federal grand jury indictments in Sacramento, Lauren Weiner was also released on bail. Weiner was of the three individuals arrested January 16 on charges of conspiring of planning to damage the property of the U.S. Forest Service, mobile phone masts and power stations by explosive or fire. The government reported that a paid confidential source also had a role in the arrests.

A memorial service for Bill Rodgers was held February 11 in Prescott, Arizona. Rodgers was arrested December 7 and indicted on several arson actions, but reportedly took his own life on the Winter Solstice while waiting extrication to Washington. The Catalyst Info-shop, in which Rodgers helped create, released a statement saying, "We mourn the passing of our dear friend and community member who worked tirelessly for the causes of social justice and environmental sustainability."

The nation-wide sweep of arrests, dubbed "Operation Backfire", has been declared by the FBI as a major hit to environmentalists and animal rights activists who engage in destruction of property as a means to defend wilderness and lives of animals. However, many suspect that the string of arrests falls in line with decades-long FBI covert intelligence operations aimed at disrupting and discrediting political movements. Part of COINTELPRO and other intelligence agendas, the FBI has been engaged in domestic surveillance activities and have been falsely targeting political activists since the 1960s. In 2002, a federal jury found the FBI and the Oakland Police guilty of violating Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney's first amendment rights by framing them as terrorists following an assassination attempt made on Bari and Cherney in order to discredit Earth First!

Operation Backfire was announced as the Bush Administration currently attempts to defend its domestic spying program, in which many from both sides of the political spectrum have alleged unconstitutional. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales claim that "eco-terrorism" is the number one domestic terrorism threat in the U.S. Gonzales stated in January that, "Investigating and preventing animal rights and environmental extremism is one of the FBIís highest domestic priorities."

The governmentís response to the more than 1,200 actions claimed by the ELF and ALF highlight the intensifying battle between defenders of nature and those protecting profit and property. Center for Consumer Freedom Director of Research David Martosko commented about Coronadoís arrest, "Federal agents should be congratulated for taking a dangerous animal-rights militant off the streets. Hopefully, the rest of the animal liberation movementís violent underground will continue to get this sort of scrutiny from law enforcement. And that must include a close look at the Ďmainstreamí activist groups, including PETA, that have given people like Rod Coronado aid and comfort