A Message from Tim Hitchins:
…And while a year of my personal hell has finally concluded, I only wish I could be so positive about the thousands of animals still trapped and awaiting their senseless demise inside Huntingdon Life Sciences. For now all I can do is reflect upon the vortex of emotions, thoughts, and repression I have experienced in this period and offer it as some sort of strengthening tool for all of those who wish to achieve animal liberation some day.
In late December of 2004, three activists were arrested for a demonstration inside the Juno Beach, Florida office of Seaboard Securities, former market maker for the notorious HLS. The activists chose Seaboard as their focus because of the inconsequential effect international call-in days and non-confrontational tactics were having on the company’s willingness to continue trading the LSRI ticker symbol. The demonstration was to bring nothing more than a human element to the campaign and hopefully coerce Seaboard into dropping HLS forever. It was just another demo! But what the activists frustratingly were not aware of was that just a few hours before, the Animal Liberation Front had successfully raided the Tequesta offices of Seaboard just a few miles down the road. No media had reported this fact yet and a communiqué had not been posted until almost two days later. It was this bittersweet coincidence that would turn simple demonstration arrests into a sensational witch hunt that would change these activist’s lives forever. It would also offer some extremely valuable lessons to the animal liberation movement.
October - December 2004: A newly formed collective grassroots anti-vivisection organization decides to focus on animals in labs. No other AR organization in the area was spending significant time on confronting the growing bio-tech industry in South Florida or the numerous pillars of HLS. It was time to shed light on the vile process of animal testing and add some stimulation to the stagnant Florida AR movement.
December 29: Late in the evening, the Animal Liberation Front raids the Tequesta offices of Seaboard Securities. 19 computer monitors were smashed and a note was left "ALF DROP HLS!" http://www.directaction.info/news_dec31_04.htm
December 30: Activists enter the Juno Beach office of Seaboard with leaflets, signs and a bullhorn. Almost instantly the demonstration becomes violent. Heather and Mo are arrested. My car is impounded as Mo had the keys.
December 31: Heather’s house is raided by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, and FDLE. The assholes take anything they can find. It is believed that at this time everyone’s phones are tapped if they weren’t already.
January 7, 2005: I turn myself in, as the evidence from others arrested provokes a warrant for my arrest. All the activists are outlandishly charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors.
January 15: The first ridiculous article is printed. People all over begin the dangerous act of gossiping and speculating the real truth. http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/media_coverage/2005-01-18_seaboardaction_sunsentinel.htm
January 18: It’s time for South Florida’s tabloid TV news industry to take a guess on the events. http://www.wpecnews12.com/engine.pl?station=wpec&id=13001&template=breakouttopstory.html
February – July: All the activists have numerous court appearances even though the state has not formally charged them. The FBI does everything it can to link the ALF action to the protest and waits six months until it realizes it has nothing. Formal charges are filed. Heather and Mo have made their choice to cooperate with the prosecution. They receive lesser charges and will likely plead guilty to them. This makes defending myself in a trial nearly impossible and probably causes severe anxiety for the other activists involved in the demo who were not arrested.
August 17: After Heather’s court appearance, where she pleads guilty to three misdemeanors, her attorney spins the facts of the demo and gets them published in a second newspaper article. http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/media_coverage/2005-08-17_FLsnitch_sunsentinel.htm
The article blasts me, but fortunately there are people who still believed in me. Thank you! http://www.war-online.org/HeatherSnitch.htm
August – January: Heather and Mo get their sentencing. After many nights of lost sleep and conversations with my attorney, I realize that going to trial will put me in jail for two years if I loose. I decide that only a plea deal will keep me out of jail. My attorney begins working on it. After a few months, the prosecutor offers me a three year probation deal on a felony burglary conviction, adjudication withheld. She also says she will close the case on everybody involved. Although prosecutors are not very trustworthy, this is still good news.
January 9, 2006: I plead guilty to 3º felony burglary and receive three years probation. I hear the prosecutor say to my attorney that Seaboard is pissed. A third article is written. http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/media_coverage/2006-01-10_junobeachplead_sunsentinel.htm
LESSONS FOR A STRENGTHENING MOVEMENT:
If an activist wishes to remain silent in the public forum during the progression of his case, that choice must be respected, especially when there is still a possibility for more arrests. When you know your phones are tapped and that government thugs will do anything they can to arrest other activists, it is only stupid to open up your activist networks to careful scrutiny. There is no need to say more than what needs to be said!
Our animal liberation movement politics often do nothing more than hinder progress. If you wish to speculate about the facts of someone else’s case in public, DON’T!! While it’s easy to make judgments when you are not the one being persecuted, misinformation only creates rumors and puts others at risk. Don’t waste your time gossiping. The animals are the ones who need your focus.
This one is very important! If you plan on doing an office demo, only enter through the main entrance. Even if the side entrance is open, entering through it can constitute a burglary. Anybody can handle a trespassing arrest, but not a burglary arrest. This crucial fact provoked unjustified charges for all the activists.
The anti-HLS movement is an intelligent campaign that builds cyclically from public and underground actions. ALF actions fuel public campaigns. However due to the lag time between actions and the posting of a communiqués, it is possible for public actions to unknowingly cross paths with the underground. For these activists, this fact turned a simple demo into total chaos and aggravated the prosecution into elevating trespassing charges into burglary charges.
No matter how well you know somebody and how well you think they will react to serious charges, you don’t. Attorney, family, and monetary pressures can make even the most respectable activists turn their back on you in order to save themselves. Enduring a case like this will shed light on true companionship and exhibit those who will relentlessly support and defend you.
Hopefully this synopsis will provide some crucial advice to those wishing to achieve total liberation. I also hope it will provide enough information about the facts of the case so that no more needless speculation will occur.
Most of all, thank you to those of you who supported me during the past year. My gratitude to you is impossible to define. It was your advice, letters, money, food cards, web pages, and complete support that made the harsh reality of persecution so bearable. It was also you that made me realize this case was never about me, it was about the 500 animals slated to die today in the death chamber that is Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Good Luck to the SHAC 7,
Good Bye Seaboard,