Seven HLS Campaign Volunteers
No Compromise Issue 24
By Josh Harper
At 6:40 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26th I received a phone call. The FBI had just arrested three members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC USA) in Pinole, CA. They entered the house with guns drawn as Federal Air Marshals hovered outside in helicopters. Reports were also coming in that long-time activist Andy Stepanian had been arrested at his home earlier that morning and rumors were already spreading that others had been apprehended. My friend on the other end of the line warned me that I might be next.
Twenty minutes later there was a knock at my door. Members of the FBI’s domestic terrorism squad and the Office of Homeland Security were outside of my apartment. I was told that I was being arrested on an indictment out of New Jersey for conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). All told, the FBI made seven arrests that morning, sweeping activists out of their homes in four states. While some of those indicted, including myself, face only one count in the indictment, others face up to five felony charges each.
These arrests did not occur because animal liberation volunteers had gone from legal campaigning to terrorizing the general public. In fact, the indictment alleges very few illegal activities, and those it does allege are not attributed to any of the arrested activists themselves. Most of what the indictment mentions are legal forms of protest, like calling companies to complain about animal abuse or sending e-mails to HLS collaborators.
Even a conservative legal analyst from Fox News has expressed that she finds the indictment to be “reaching.” So why were we arrested?
Supposedly, the federal government feels that by reporting news from the campaign on a website, philosophically supporting direct action, and attending and organizing legal demonstrations, we were in actuality conspiring to make other people break the law. Legal activities such as letter writing are also being counted as part of an illegal campaign because the government proclaims that we conspired to create such a volume of letters as to interfere with interstate commerce.
Sounds absurd? It gets worse.
One part of the indictment actually makes mention of a “Top 20 Terror Tactics” post on the SHAC website. What the prosecutors fail to mention is that SHAC did not write the document, but re-posted it from a pro-vivisection website, which had written it to rally support against SHAC. In other words, people are facing jail sentences and millions of dollars in fines for placing our opposition’s writings on the SHAC webpage.
The political motivation of these indictments should be clear. SHAC and other groups campaigning against HLS have successfully interfered with the profiteering of powerful people for nearly five years. These rich and powerful people are now using their connected and influential friends (including Republican U.S. Senator Orin Hatch, who hopes to expand the AETA) in order to retaliate against us, and worse, to send a message to anyone else who would dare stand in the way of animal abuse and speciesism.
Let us send them a message in return by fighting these charges, supporting those arrested, and continuing to build an educated, unrelenting and militant movement against animal slavery.
On Behalf of the SHAC 7-- Darius Fulmer, John McGee, Jake Conroy, Lauren Gazzola, Andy Stepanian, Kevin Jonas, and myself-- let me be the first to say that there will be no surrender. Victory to the animals and to all of those fighting on their behalf! Please join the campaign against HLS, and consider contributing to the defense of those facing felonies.
For More Information on the SHAC 7 and how to get involved in their support, please visit http://www.shac7.com/