This speech was delivered at the "Paths to
Animal Liberation" plenary session
at the national AR2006 conference in
Arlington, Virginia on Friday, 11 August 2006
This photograph was taken in
1971 in Baltimore City. The turtle was called Timothy. The little girl was
called Patti-Lee. She grew up to be me.
One summer day not unlike
today, little Patti-Lee was standing in front of that rowhouse with one
foot on the sidewalk and one foot on the postage-stamp sized front yard,
shifting from leg to leg and saying "our property, not our property, our
property, not our property, our property, not our property."
was troubled. She was trying to figure it out. But no matter how hard she
thought, she couldn't make it come out fair.
She knew that her
grandparents had bought the house from somebody who had bought the house
from somebody who had bought the house from somebody going back to when it
was built. But how did that little bit of land come to belong to one
person rather than another in the first place?
She thought back to
what she learned in school about the Pilgrims and the Indians. She
imagined a Pilgrim with his musket building a fence and threatening to
shoot anybody who trespassed onto what had become his "property."
It didn't seem right that the trees and the squirrels who used to
belong to themselves belonged to him just because he had a gun. And if
that wasn't right, she wondered, how could it be right for the people who
bought the land from the people who bought the land from the people who
brought the land from him to say "that's my property?"
And so it
came to be that, in those childish musings, little Patti-Lee happened upon
a truth that many adults never get around to figuring out: Property is
So it's apt that this grown up girl is here to convince
you that breaking locks, tearing down cages, disabling bulldozers, and
other ways of interfering with property are anti-violent activities. i
also aim to convince you that demonstrating on public sidewalks is always
okay, no matter what the defenders of the sanctity of the private property
bounded by those sidewalks might say.
The division of the world
into countries with borders policed by armies has been and continues to be
a violent process that hurts both human and non-human animals.
subdivision of the natural world into disconnected bits of private
property hurts animals too. Fences interrupt ecosystems, breaking up homes
and families while blocking off resources like watering holes. Fences
enclose animals, making them into slaves and ultimately into bits and
pieces of property to be bought and sold.
It's time to tear down
the fences, freeing the animals and restoring their habitats to them.
Of course, violence is never okay since that is the root of all of
Violence is unjustified or excessive injurious use
of force. Many uses of force are not violent. How can you tell the
difference? It's easy in context.
One day, Patti-Lee was standing
at the top of a flight of stairs, facing an angry and out-of-control adult
not unlike those we've seen in undercover videos from vivisection labs.
All of a sudden, the screaming grownup gave her a short, sharp shove to
the shoulders, sending her tumbling down the steps. That was violence.
But the exact same muscular action -- a short, sharp shove to the
shoulders -- would have been justified and even heroic if she had been
standing in the path of an onrushing truck.
I tell you these
details from my life so you will know that i know what violence really is.
Take it from an animal who knows what it's like to be hit and hurt
and hope, hope, hope for somebody to come to the rescue: Breaking locks
isn't violence, tearing down cages isn't violence, tossing a monkeywrench
into the works of a machine that kills animals isn't violence, carrying a
hurt and terrified animal to safety isn't violence, and -- certainly --
using public sidewalks to denounce abuses that occur behind closed doors
is not violence.
Look at the picture.
What if that little
girl was trapped inside that rowhouse and being burned by a fire? Wouldn't
you break down the door to help her escape?
What if she saw that
turtle being tortured in her neighbor's basement? Wouldn't she climb in
the window to help him escape? Wouldn't she break that window if she had
to? Wouldn't she match her little muscles against those of the torturer if
that's what it took to make the violence stop?
What if the torture
was happening in a vivisection lab?
What if that little girl
learned that the homes of that turtle and his whole family were going to
be bulldozed to make room for fancy houses for people who already have
perfectly good places to live? If she could, wouldn't she put a little
sugar in the gas tank of that bulldozer or maybe take a monkeywrench to
its engine? I think she would.
What if that little girl learned
that her neighbor was torturing puppies at his job? Can't you just see her
marching up and down the sidewalk with a picket sign? Of course she'd be
very careful not to do anything that might scare the dogs, cats, or
children living in surrounding houses. But wouldn't she want to tell the
world: "This man hurts animals!" And wouldn't that be her right?
made 300 copies of a picture of myself to give out tonight not because I'm
so egotistical but because I want you to have something to hang onto to
help you remember what I said tonight.
I want you to remember that
there's a difference between force and violence and that the context often
determines the difference.
I want you to remember that violence is
never okay but force is sometimes necessary.
I want you to
remember that property is violence and that we can -- and must --
interfere with that violence if we want a world in which little girls and
turtles can be safe, happy, and free.
Not everybody has to do that
work but we all have to be in solidarity with those who do.
you ever find yourself getting ready to denounce or distance yourself from
the brave and loving activists who risk their own freedom to free animals
and protect their habitats, I want you to look at this picture and
remember what I said tonight.
If you are one of those brave and
loving activists, well, you know who you are and you know what you need to
do. What i want you to know is that you're not alone. Wherever you go to
take truly nonviolent direct action for earth and animals, that little
girl goes with you
And, when i stop talking and the people start
clapping, the applause will be for you.
As cofounder of the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, pattrice jones
devotes time and energy to the care and defense of previously-abused ducks
and chickens. Her book, Aftershock, will be published by Lantern Books in
November of 2006.
For a more detailed discussion of the idea that
property is violence, see her article "Stomping with the Elephants:
Feminist Principles for Feminist Solidarity" in Igniting a Revolution:
Voices in Defense of the Earth edited by Steve Best and Tony Nocella
For a more detailed defense of nonviolent direct action in defense
of animals, see her article "Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist
Imperatives and the Animal Liberation Front" in Terrorists or Freedom
Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals edited by Steve
Best and Tony Nocella (Lantern Books).
The ideas expressed in this
speech and those chapters are those of pattrice jones and do not
necessarily reflect those of the sanctuary or its supporters.
Please note that the text of the speech above was reconstructed
from notes and the memory of the speaker and is not an exact transcript.
Audio recordings of this and other speeches delivered at AR2006 are
available via the conference website.
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