Solidarity is a Weapon: on the Recent Wave of Repression
On December 7, 2005, six people, Chelsea Gerlach, Bill Rodgers, Sarah Harvey, Kevin Tubbs, Daniel McGowan and Stanislas "Jack" Meyerhoff were arrested for allegedly taking part in a wide variety of attacks claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). On that very same day, several people across Oregon were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury to be convened in Eugene. One of those served with a subpoena, Darren Thurston (a Canadian citizen), was also arrested and is now facing charges related to false documents. Within days it was revealed that informants, including Jacob Ferguson, a lifelong friend of one of the accused, were used to gather information. It was also revealed that Meyerhoff had turned stateís witness.
In a terrible turn of events, on December 22, Bill Rodgers was found dead in his cell in Flagstaff, Arizona from an apparent suicide. Bill worked at the Catalyst Bookstore and Infoshop in Prescott, Arizona and was involved in ecological struggles for many years in different parts of the United States. According to those who were in contact with him and a news story, which interviewed one of his supporters, Bill was doing well despite the terrible circumstances. His death came as a shock to many, both to those who did not know him and especially to those who did. Billís passing is a loss to all of us and the loss of someone who cared immensely about people and the world in which we live. There is much more to be said about his life, and even more to be done about his death, but it is important to remember that we can honor his death by continuing to struggle.
On January 20, federal prosecutors and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced a 65-count indictment of 11 individuals related to 17 attacks in the northwest. In addition to the six people arrested on December 7, 2005, it also indicted Jonathan Paul, Suzanne Savoie, Joseph Dibee, Rebecca Rubin and Josephine Overaker. Paul and Savoie, who were originally subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, were both arrested in Oregon only days before the indictment was announced, and Dibee, Rubin and Overaker are luckily out of the country. In the weeks that followed five individuals were revealed as "confidential sources" for the government's case, and on February 23 two individuals in Olympia, Washington, Nathan Fraser Block and Joyanna L. Zacher, were arrested and indicted in connection with the May 2001 arson at a Clatskanie, Oregon tree farm. It has become painfully obvious that the government intends to bury each one of these people to set an example for anyone even thinking of taking action.
Strike One to Paralyze a Thousand
One of the main motivations behind the arrests and subpoenas is undoubtedly the state's need to halt the multitude of direct actions undertaken by the ELF. The FBI has labeled them, along with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the greatest domestic "terrorist" threat, and with good reason. What began as a few attacks in the late Ď90s, has blossomed into scores of direct actions across the U.S. against a wide variety of targets including suburban developments, car dealerships, genetic engineering labs and crops, logging sites, and more. Also many attacks claimed by the ELF overstepped the bounds of simply fighting ecological devastation, and were linked to situations of wider struggle such as the attack against an Army recruiting station in Alabama, an attempted arson of a water bottling plant in Michigan.
Many have come to recognize that the fight against ecological destruction has many fronts, and that striking the enemy, while dangerous, is quite simple. Radical participation in social struggles, attacking structures of power, and rejecting compromise and reconciliation with those who are destroying our lives and our world, are the real cause for the stateís fear. Thus they round up those on their watch-lists, hoping to make an example of them in order to frighten others into submission, to halt any attempts at solidarity for fear of being swept up as well, and to make us remember that the State is master of orchestrating violence.
The Real Terrorists
The U.S. government exploited the attacks on the World Trade Center that occurred in 2001, using the specter of terrorism to attack many social movements and to frighten people into acceptance of the most invasive "security" measures. This strategy has been used in the current wave of repression, with each of the accused being fitted-up as eco-terrorists. For the state, anyone who refuses institutional channels for dissent, or who chooses not to simply have an opinion and take direct action, is a terrorist, an extremist, and an enemy of freedom. It is ironic that states across the world vehemently denounce "terrorist violence" while at the same time causing more death, destruction and misery than any so-called terrorist groups.
None of the attacks for which the accused are charged harmed a single person, which is more than can be said for companies like Union Carbide and Freeport-McMoRan, who are responsible for the deaths of thousands in India and West Papua. It is the same for the U.S. government, who is responsible for killing well over 30,000 Iraqi civilians in the last three years of war, and millions of others in Southeast Asia and Latin America in wars of counter-insurgency. It is clear that the real terrorists are those who arrested and rounded up the accused, and not the other way around.
A Link in the Chain
Since the 1960s the state has repeatedly used grand juries to target forces antagonistic to it: the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement (AIM), and animal and earth liberation groups. Composed of 16 to 23 jurors, grand juries do not actually decide innocence or guilt. Rather, they decide whether or not there is probable cause to charge someone. Unlike a normal court hearing, there is no judge, nor are those subpoenaed entitled to legal counsel within the courtroom. Instead the hearings are conducted in secret, with defendants who are forced to testify or face jail time. Grand juries are used to divide and isolate individuals, to turn social fighters against one another and to break the bonds of friendship and affinity that form the basis for social movements.
In 2005 three grand juries targeting activists were convened: one in San Diego and two in San Francisco. The grand jury in San Diego was convened to look into the 2003 ELF arson that destroyed a large apartment building under construction in the University City district. One in San Francisco targeted former Black Panther members for a bombing at an Ingleside police station over 30 years ago and the other targeted animal rights activists for possible connection with the bombing of a pharmaceutical company. Three people refused to testify before the San Diego grand jury and spent several months in prison and five ex-Panthers refused to testify in San Francisco. The former panthers were imprisoned for two months and were only released when the grand juryís time limit expired. The other grand jury in San Francisco was reconvened in late January 2006 and concerned animal rights activity as well. It is apparent that the state is taking action against current movements and is also trying to settle old scores in a time when political repression seems to be well tolerated.
It is important to remember, however, that repression experienced by activists and radicals is not abnormal and cannot be separated from other aspects of state repression. Across the U.S., the government and mass media are attempting to scapegoat undocumented immigrants, so-called "illegals," portraying them as terrorists, criminals and leaches on American people (while at the same time creating opportunities for businesses to legally employ them for extremely low wages). This has lead to increased support for the further militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, for round-ups and especially for deportations of immigrants. Aside from this new upsurge in anti-immigrant sentiment, there is the daily repression faced by working class people across the board, and specifically communities of color. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, and hundreds of people are beaten, shot and killed each year by the police. From our perspective, the prison system, which helps maintain social-peace, is an instrument of daily terror masquerading under the guise of law and order.
A Thousand Daggers and One Voice
Thus we are faced with a dilemma, what to do in the face of repression? First and foremost, when the state focuses its repressive apparatus on radicals, it must be fought. Thus this is no time for becoming quiet and closing in on ourselves in hopes of weathering the storm. Quite the opposite, it is time for increased struggle and solidarity with comrades facing repression. Supporting the accused through monetary donations is important, but revolutionary solidarity must go beyond simple support campaigns. This type of solidarity is based on the recognition that struggles are intimately intertwined, of the way in which the exploitation and repression of others and our own fate are connected, and it also demonstrates the points at which capitalism and the state operate in similar ways in very different places.
Comrades in Greece are particularly active when it comes to showing revolutionary solidarity. Following the European Union summit in Thessaloniki in 2003, seven people from Spain, Greece, and England were arrested. The Greek government wanted to scapegoat these seven, threatening them with long prison sentences. Rather than appealing to the state, anarchist comrades decided to play their own game. Demonstrations occurred at the prison where the seven were being held, at the home of the prime minister, and in city squares across Greece. These demonstrations were complemented by occupations of universities in Athens, Hyraklios and Thessaloniki, and by occupations of radio stations in order to broadcast solidarity statements and the statements of the prisoners. Also the headquarters of various political parties were attacked with molotov cocktails, as were many banks, all in support of those who were being held by the Greek state. Clearly this strategy differs significantly from the sad and ineffectual petitioning that passes for solidarity in most countries.
Therefore revolutionary solidarity also implies attacking power ourselves. Rather than playing the stateís game of compromise and negotiation, we can pursue our own course of action. In light of the current crackdown in the U.S., comrades in Spain and France have demonstrated their support. On the night of December 31, 2005, the ALF liberated 28 beagles from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the Independent University of Madrid in memory of Bill Rodgers. Another action undertaken in memory of Bill, occurred in the town of Arles in France. There the ALF torched a bus belonging to a bullfighting organization. Those in France and Spain who carried out these actions did so with the recognition that their struggle is linked to Billís and his to theirs. This leaves us with a thousand and one possibilities for attack: against repression, against ecological devastation, against war, against the industrial system, against work and so on.
It is important to remember that certain actions could adversely affect the outcome of any political trial, so intelligent choices must be made. One particular case that comes to mind concerns Jeff "Free" Luers. Prior to his sentencing an attack occurred against the same exact car dealership that he was accused of targeting. A communiqué was issued claiming responsibility for the attack, and Free and his co-defendant Critter were mentioned in it. Some speculate that this action may have contributed to his nearly 23-year sentence. But, caution and inaction are two very different things. There are a multitude of things that can be done to support the accused and combat repression: street demonstrations, fund-raising, holding public meetings, increasing struggle against the real eco-terrorists, and attempting to radicalize and connect current social struggles.
So we have a choice, we can run and hide or fight back. If we give the state an inch, it will certainly take a mile, therefore we must stand firm in the face of repression. Repression is being meted out precisely because the social situation is becoming more precarious and because the types of actions for which the defendants are accused are dangerous to the state. So solidarity is not simply raising money for legal defense and pleading to the state for leniency. Instead it is an attack on power, and choosing to attack is not only refusing to bow down, but also contributing to the wider atmosphere of social combativity. In many countries a simple slogan abounds: solidarity is a weapon. Let us put it into practice.
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