We’ve finished the latest version of the NYC ABC “Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War” and it’s available for viewing (and download) by clicking on the tab at the top of this page. This update includes address changes for a few prisoners as well as removing Guillaume Constantineau (TIME SERVED!), Youri Couture (TIME SERVED!), Chris French (TIME SERVED!),Steve Murphy (TIME SERVED!), Mark Neiweem (TIME SERVED!), and Lynne Stewart(COMPASSIONATE RELEASE!).
Archive for the ‘Repression’ Category
Please help get Marie Mason moved out of FMC Carswell by writing a letter to the Bureau of Prisons Director. We are asking as many people as possible to write letters and organize letter writing events so that we can show the BOP just how many people recognize her position as unjust, and support the idea of her being moved into a general population unit closer to her family.
Below is the address to send all letters to, and a sample letter. Please remain firm but polite in your communications with the BOP.
Charles E. Samuels, Jr. , Director,
Dear Director Samuels:
I write on behalf of Marie Mason #04672-061, who is currently incarcerated
I urge you to transfer Marie to a lower security facility – closer to her
Her sentence would best be served in a facility consistent with her
Thank you for your attention to this matter. If a reply is possible, it
Move Marie from Carswell prison
He did his time for burning down two Oregon lumber mills, but he’s not exactly a free man
By Anna Merlan email@example.com
At six o’clock on a cool June morning, after five and a half years in federal prison and six months in a halfway house, Daniel McGowan went home. From the halfway house in Vinegar Hill, he took the F train to downtown Brooklyn, crawled into bed beside his wife, Jenny, and slept for a few hours. Then he headed out to meet his probation officer and a mountain of paperwork. It was his first day as a freed domestic terrorist.
“The definition of terrorism is exactly what they did.”
“I was really horrified at the time of my sentencing at being called a terrorist,” he says. “I’m still horrified.”
At 39, McGowan is a little skinnier than before he went to prison, a little grayer. But he doesn’t look too different from the guy who helped burn down two Oregon lumber mills on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front in 2001, or the guy a federal judge sentenced to seven years in prison for those crimes in 2007. On a recent evening, he’s wearing a loose green T-shirt and several days’ worth of stubble, a bike seat by his side and a smartphone in his hand. He glances at it every few minutes.
Courtesy Jenny Synan
McGowan can’t associate with environmental or animal-rights groups.
“I used to make fun of people who texted all the time,” he says. “And now I’m one of them.”
With a summer of freedom behind him, McGowan is still figuring out the rules of his new reality. Besides being a convicted terrorist, he owes nearly $2 million in restitution, which he’s expected to pay in full. The peculiar terms of his probation forbid him joining “any groups or organizations whose primary purpose is environmental and animal rights activism”—a prohibition that includes nonprofits such as PETA and the Sierra Club. He can’t associate with anyone with a felony on their record, or anyone convicted of illegal environmental or animal rights activity, even a misdemeanor—a tall order for a man who had spent much of his life in activist circles. And, as he learned in the halfway house, writing about his experiences in the prison system has the potential to land him back in jail.
McGowan says he left the ELF soon after the second Oregon arson. He was working at a nonprofit for victims of domestic abuse when he and 12 others were arrested during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Operation Backfire, which ferreted out ELF members responsible for a series of arsons and other crimes between 1996 and 2001. Vandals targeted lumberyards, slaughterhouses, and U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service offices, wreaking a record $48 million worth of damage.
Several of those arrested agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. One ELF member secretly recorded conversations with McGowan, helping to convict him on several counts of arson and conspiracy—actions that, in the eyes of U.S. District Court Judge Ann L. Aiken, amounted to terrorism: attempts to create “fear and intimidation to achieve a goal and affect the conduct of government,” as the judge put it at McGowan’s sentencing.
Ten months into his prison term, McGowan was transferred from the general population at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota, to a newer wing in Marion, Illinois, known as a Communication Management Unit. Much of the CMU population is Muslim, but politically affiliated prisoners such as McGowan also find themselves there. The main hallmark of a CMU is restricted contact with the outside world: McGowan was allowed two short, no-contact visits per month—he wasn’t permitted to have any physical contact whatsoever with his wife for the duration of his sentence—and his phone time was limited to a single 15-minute phone call per week. (The BOP has subsequently revised the CMU limits to two 15-minute calls and two four-hour visits.) His mail was delayed and often rejected by a censor as inappropriate. In 2009, while he was incarcerated at Marion, his mother died of cancer. (McGowan was later transferred to the nation’s only other CMU, in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he spent 22 months.)
Court documents would later show that the initial decision to move McGowan into the CMU was made by Leslie Smith, head of the counterterrorism unit of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Smith acknowledged that McGowan’s disciplinary slate was clean but argued that he posed a threat to public safety because his jailhouse letters and articles constituted “attempt[s] to unite the radical environmental and animal liberation movements.” Additionally, he had requested that his lawyers send him copies of leaked BOP documents—a blatant attempt, the BOP contended, to escape its monitoring of his communications.
After five and a half years in prison, McGowan was sent to a halfway house in Brooklyn to serve out the last six months of his sentence. While he was there, he wrote an article for the Huffington Post detailing his time at the CMU. On April 4, three days after the story was published, federal marshals arrested him, took him to the Metropolitan Detention Center, and issued him an orange jumpsuit. From there, he assumed, he’d be sent back to the CMU for the remainder of his sentence. But his lawyers quickly secured his return to the halfway house and quashed the BOP’s effort to impose a gag order.
“As far as we know, this is a made-up rule applied only to Daniel, in a further attempt to chill his freedom of speech,” wrote Rachel Meeropol, McGowan’s attorney at the New York–based nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights.
The BOP quietly dropped the matter.
Will Potter is a journalist who has written extensively about environmental activism. He says restrictive parole conditions for activists are becoming more common.
“It reflects the political nature of these prosecutions,” Potter says. “And how this terrorism language can follow people long after they leave the courtroom and long after they leave prison. This is something that can follow these activists the rest of their lives.”
McGowan should not expect the surveillance to stop when his supervised release ends, Potter emphasizes. “At speaking events we’ve done with other former prisoners, law enforcement has been there. Sometimes they come in publicly, flashing badges. In FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests later on, I’ve also gotten information about [undercover] police officers at public events. I just can’t imagine what that would be like. It’s a constant cloud over you all the time.”
For Steve Swanson, McGowan’s terrorist designation and the terms of his release seem like justice. Swanson is president and CEO of the Swanson Group, which used to be called Superior Lumber, one of the two companies whose buildings McGowan helped to burn down.
“The definition of terrorism is exactly what they did,” Swanson says. “They were trying to change our behavior by inflicting terror on us. It’s not different than Islamic terrorists or what the IRA was doing back in the ’70s. To say they were nonviolent is just not accurate. We have a total volunteer fire department that responded. Any number of those people could’ve been killed.”
Adds Swanson, “Frankly, we used more wood products to rebuild all those things they burned down.”
At his sentencing, McGowan apologized for the fires, saying he felt “deep regret” for frightening the lumber workers. “Although I now know it’s hard for people to believe, my intention at the time was to be provocative and make a statement,” he told the court. “Not to put individual people in fear.”
Swanson says McGowan has never apologized to him directly.
In the meantime, both men have moved on. The Swanson Group tore down the remnants of its old factory and built a larger one. McGowan recently participated in Running Down the Walls, a fundraiser for political prisoner support groups. He figured it was permissible because it had nothing to do with environmental issues.
Still, he says, that April night in jail was jarring: “Sometimes things feel fragile.”
A federal judge recently ruled that because McGowan is no longer an inmate, he has no standing to participate in a lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons that challenges the constitutionality of CMUs. Instead, on Tuesday, September 17, he filed a formal complaint against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, alleging that the re-arrest deprived him of his liberty and caused emotional harm.
Daniel’s lawyers at Center for Constitutional Rights have released a new flyer about the Communication Management Units (CMU) that the Bureau of Prisons operates. These are the units Daniel was held in for most of his prison sentence and the subject of a lawsuit (Aref v Holder) brought by Daniel and former/current CMU prisoners.
A more substantial update on the case and how Daniel is doing on the outside is coming soon.
It’s been a week now and we’re finally getting around to sending something out officially. Last Tuesday, Daniel and his wife flew from Indiana to New York, and Daniel proceeded directly to halfway house. We’re SO excited he’s back in the city and can’t wait until his time at the house is up and he can really be back home. All of you have been so amazingly generous and supportive, we couldn’t have gone through the last 7 years without you.
More to come, but for now check out what has been written on Daniel’s return.
Dog Park Media (original source of the above article)
Dear Friends and Supporters,
In a nice change of pace from the usual tenor of our communications, we are happy to report some really good news: Daniel McGowan’s stay in the CMU is coming to an end! Despite many punitive measures over the course of the years, Daniel has maintained a sterling record in prison and has accrued enough “good time” to take 1 year off his 7-year sentence. What is even more exciting is that he has qualified to serve the last 6-months of this time in a halfway house in Brooklyn, beginning in December 2012! After so many years, and so much antagonism from Federal authorities, we are overjoyed to welcome Daniel back home, where he belongs.
The support you all have shown over these past 5 years has helped Daniel get through what are undoubtedly the hardest years of his life. Now that he is on the verge of rejoining us, and never looking back upon these dark times, the focus of support for the Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan is in assisting him in his re-entry and securing him meaningful employment. Not only is finding a job an important condition of Daniel’s being in the half-way house — in addition to his supervised release once he is done with his sentence — but it is also extremely important to Daniel himself, who joins thousands of other ex-prisoners who struggle to find employment because of their prior records.
Lots of people are looking for work these days, and it’s a daunting task for anyone. However, while Daniel is as highly-motivated and hard-working as many others seeking employment, it is obvious that he faces serious hurdles in getting a job because of his conviction. Daniel is a warm, intelligent, passionate, and dedicated person and he would love to find employment at a place that is doing work he cares about and finds meaningful. Over the years many of you have asked how you can help — helping Daniel find such a job would be the most important thing you could ever do for him.
HELP DANIEL FIND A JOB:
In addition to having a Bachelor’s degree, Daniel completed a paralegal course as well as every continuing education and vocational course available (over 25!) while in prison despite limited opportunities for education, as well as frequent moves. He is extremely driven and has a broad skill-set that he is looking to utilize at a NYC-based, non-profit organization. Much of Daniel’s career experience from 1997 onward is within the non-profit world he has ample experience in development/fundraising, communication and IT positions. Daniel has a particular interest in working as a paralegal for civil liberties organizations but would welcome and appreciate work in any of these fields/areas:
*Civil liberties/Free speech
If you work for a NYC-based non-profit, have a close friend, partner or contact at one, or have a specific organization in mind that might be open to hiring Daniel, we’d love to hear from you!
All emails can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
His resume will be made available upon request.
**Daniel is still in prison, in the CMU, and will be until the end of 2012.**
Here are the winners of the December 7th raffle. We’ve already been in touch with the winners but if you see your name and haven’t heard anything, let us know.
Congrats and thanks!!
Will P Pie Any Means Necessary
WHAT: Panel discussion with Robert Meeropol, Will Potter and Jenny Synan with an introduction by Rachel Meeropol plus an AMAZING raffle
Every year we commemorate Daniel’s arrest with an event on or around December 7th. This year’s event will link advocates, activists and concerned individuals to think critically around the Red and Green scare, and ongoing repression of political dissidents in the United States. On the sixth anniversary, Family & Friends of Daniel McGowan, The Rosenberg Fund for Children, Will Potter of GreenIsTheNewRed and the Center for Constitutional Rights are hosting this panel discussion. In addition to the panel, we’re planning on doing a raffle to raise money which goes to Daniel’s commissary account in prison and any future legal expenses.
Raffle now over (12/08/11)
Live from Little Guantanamo: A Conversation with Daniel McGowan Inspired by the Film IF A TREE FALLSTuesday, October 25th, 2011
Live from Little Guantanamo
A Conversation with Daniel McGowan Inspired by the Film If a Tree Falls
The award-winning documentary, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, premiered at Sundance last spring and continues to screen in theaters across the globe. The film, which aired on PBS earlier this fall and is now available on DVD, details the events that led to the imprisonment of environmental activist Daniel McGowan and raises critical questions about ecological crisis, terrorism, and government repression of political activists.
Those who see If a Tree Falls are likely to be left with a number of lingering questions. How is Daniel doing now? When will he be released from prison? What does he think of the movie? Daniel, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence in the Communications Management Unit at FCI Terre Haute in Indiana, answered some of these questions and others in the following interview about the film, prison life, and his thoughts about the future.
Question: What was it like being interviewed and filmed while you were on house arrest awaiting trial during such an obviously difficult time in your life? How present and intrusive where the filmmakers? Did it add stress to your situation?
Once I got my ankle bracelet, so probation could monitor me, and got settled in, we spoke at length about his ideas and we took it from there, setting up some longer background interviews. After a few months, despite frequent grumblings on my part, I was fully committed to it.
Having seen my indictment announced on cable TV and seeing how we were all being portrayed as crazy, dangerous terrorists, I felt strongly that it needed to be countered.
The film to me was a way to challenge the narrative the prosecution and media put out about us, knowing it was a long-term thing. My hope was that people would be able to hear my own thoughts and version of events instead of accepting the mainstream media version, which was exceedingly shallow and accepting of the law enforcement view.
Were you able to watch the film from prison when it aired on PBS? Do you even want to watch it?
DM: When I found out PBS was going to air If a Tree Falls, I was excited that huge amounts of people nationwide were going to view it. However, I have no intention of viewing it while in prison. There are deeply personal scenes, especially interviews with my wife and the day I turned myself in that I want to view by myself, at home. I want to have the chance to emotionally deal with that in a safe environment.
As the film’s primary subject, what is the number one effect that you would like the film to have on viewers? In general, what do you hope the film achieves?
DM: It is difficult to dive into some of these areas because I haven’t yet seen the film. While I have spoken to many people who have seen the film, and read many reviews, there really is no substitute for seeing it myself. That said, I hope people see it and feel a form of discomfort – not in a bad way, but one that has them thinking about what they saw for a few days or weeks after. That discomfort would be because the film challenged previously held ideas, like what a terrorist is, who the kind of people are that commit property destruction, and whether the U.S. government really is on the right path environmentally, with prisons and the isolation of political prisoners in special units.
DM: From what I have heard, the film does a pretty good job of showing who I am. Friends and family have all commented that my personality shines through and I credit the filmmakers for editing all their footage so well! The letters I have received from people who have seen the film have been sympathetic but I fear people may worry too much. The film is a snapshot of my life at a time where I mentally and physically was not doing well at all. That time has passed, though, and I am in the homestretch now. There’s a huge difference between facing 30 years and having almost completed your sentence. All things considered, I am doing okay.
The other thing I want people to know about me is that there really is no major difference between myself and most viewers of the film. Like them, my circle of compassion is wider than myself and my family. Similarly, I seek to live my life as close as possible to my ideals, though like everyone, I fail at that sometimes. On a less serious level, I love fantasy fiction, singing in the shower, and I am a sucker for children and animals – I’m pretty sure some of those details never made the film!
DM: If I could add 30 more minutes to the film, I would discuss how unusual my stay in prison has been since July 2007. My friends and I have joked that we should print one of those concert tour t-shirts but instead of listing the cities that shows were played in, it would list the prisons I have been at! Let’s just say I have seen more of the Midwest than I ever wanted to.
After an uneventful 8 months at a low-security prison in Minnesota, I was held in contempt of court in Wisconsin during a grand jury I was called to against my will. Once that ended, I was shipped to the Communications Management Unit (CMU) in Marion, Illinois, where I spent 26 months. While there, I persistently sought a transfer hearing to dispute the rationale for my placement there, and I also finished a paralegal certificate. One day I was told to pack up and was released to Marion’s general population, where I spent 4 months and then was sent to the hole (secure housing unit). Two days later, I was driven to the original CMU – FCI Terre Haute in Indiana. I’ve been here since February 2011.
I am not sure to what extent the filmmakers addressed the CMU issue, whether in the film or ‘extras’ on the DVD version.
DM: The CMU is extremely different than general population, from my limited personal experience. For starters, the Bureau of Prisons has moved people to these units since 2006 without any form of due process. There have not been any hearings, evidence presented, or any real methods of issuing a grievance about the issue (other than asking for reconsideration from the very same people who have moved me here). This is one of the main issues we sued about in our civil lawsuit, Aref v. Holder.
There is extensive monitoring of all contact between CMU prisoners and the community, whether it’s phone, visits, mail, or email. A separate part of the BOP exists in Washington, D.C. that monitors all our communications. In addition to monitoring, there is a drastic reduction in our communications that has resulted in widespread anxiety and disruption to familial relations.
Prisoners in the CMU are given two 15-minute phone calls a week that must be scheduled a week in advance and take place within a specified time slot. Comparatively, most prisoners in the prison system can use 300 minutes a month. In the CMU, we have two 4-hour non-contact visits a month. There is a no physical contact allowed and the call takes place over a phone so that it can be monitored and recorded. Our visit room has a small glass window with bars in addition, which seems excessive. This is clearly one of the crueler aspects of our placement here. Many of my neighbors have chosen not to have their families visit. Their children do not understand why they cannot hug their father when some had contact visits at previous prisons. Most prisoners in general population receive up to 8 visits a month, up to 8 hours a day, where they can sit with their loved ones, hug and kiss their children, share food and play games.
If there is a good aspect to the CMU, it’s the people. Many of the men here are highly educated, considerate and generous. We share our magazine subscriptions, watch BBC news and football, and lend a helping hand to those in need. The unit is highly diverse, multilingual and there are quite a few men who got raw deals from overzealous prosecutions. At the end of the day, it’s prison and living so close to others creates annoyances. Ultimately though, things here are resolved through dialogue.
In the movie, when describing your political awakening, you say: “I had never seen with my own eyes what kind of world we lived in. I feel like I’m in perpetual mourning and I have been from the moment that… I kind of took the blinders off and was like, ‘Holy crap what the hell are we doing?’” Do you still feel this? And how do you deal with this deep sense that something is wrong in the world, now that you are in prison?
DM: Yes, I would say I still feel this way, though ten years later, I am better able to deal with the frustration that comes with seeing the world like that. When I first got involved in activism, around 1997, I felt like I was exposed to so much, so fast. Part of this was due to where I got involved – at the (now closed) Wetlands Preserve bar, which had an extremely active environmental activism center. Each week, I learned about new injustices and due to my pragmatic nature, felt a desire to put my energy into combatting them. I still very much feel we are on a very ill conceived path but I tend to be calmer about what I see and realize that one person, by himself, cannot do everything.
Prison, and I would say finding yourself in a legal case, has the effect of narrowing one’s focus. This is a dynamic that occurs due to the need to focus on your day-to-day survival and well-being. In this environment, no matter the cordial relations you may have, you are truly on your own. Your emotional, physical, and mental well-being is your responsibility. This focus on the self inevitably changes how you deal with events occurring outside the walls. It used to frustrate me to no end that I stuck in here while my friends were out there, able to work on issues we both care deeply about. Ultimately, what I learned (and I’m not suggesting this concept works for everyone) is that you fight injustice where you are. Can I, as a prisoner of the United States, really be an active participant in outside campaigns? No, of course not – though I am more than happy to share my opinions. I have done what I can, while in prison, to counter the injustice I see. Sometimes, this means refusing to believe what I have read about a prisoner and judging him on his actions and from what I see. Other times, it’s more concrete, such as soliciting the aid of various legal organizations to address the CMUs. I share what information and resources I can so people can effectively and legally fight their cases.
DM: Since I have been in prison for four years now, it is truly difficult for me to judge the state of environmental activism in 2011. When you are free, you learn about and absorb information in a totally different manner than when you are imprisoned. In here, I rely on what I read and the viewpoints expressed in letters by friends and family. This leads to very spotty analysis, since the information I do receive is so subjective. Unfortunately, many publications have ceased publication or gone all-digital since 2007 and there is a dearth of high-quality environmental publications. Also, the majority of people I correspond with are not heavily involved with environmental campaigns.
That said, I cannot say environmental activism is in a better position now, in 2011. So much has happened since 2001 that bodes poorly for progress in environmental activism. I was amazed at how the BP oil well disaster played out, how in the aftermath, there were calls for accountability on the part of BP but as time went on, it petered out. BP set up a reimbursement fund and a bureacratic and lengthy process by which people could be compensated. No talk was made of restoration to the Gulf or reparations for the environment or non-humans that that rely on a healthy ecology. In fact, within months, BP handled the PR struggle well and blunted public anger. The environmental movement was unable to change the long-term dynamics of deep oil drilling, and business has gone on as usual already.
Another example where I feel the environmental movement is worse off in 2011 is in countering well-funded and articulate public relations campaigns for the coal, tar sands oil, and hydro-fracking industries. As scrutiny increases on one form of polluting and carbon-producing source, for example coal, the response is to highlight another source of energy, which is usually no better than the first. Coal dust spills lead to people saving on coal, which leads to nuclear being portrayed as carbon-neutral. The Fukishima disaster occurs, leading people to get fuel from tar sands oil from Canada. The process continues, yet we never move toward healthier and sane sources of energy, or more importantly, any fundamental questioning of the consumer driven culture that requires such insane amounts of energy.
DM: Being relatively close to release, I often find myself thinking about life on the outside. A lot of my thoughts focus on employment, halfway house, probation and serious things like that. Also, I find myself daydreaming about spending time with my wife, playing with my nieces, traveling, eating good food and being able to play music – loud and whenever I want! I try not to romanticize these things and fall into thinking life will be problem-free on the outside. It’s hard because prison is just so bland, negative and soul killing that life outside feels heavenly.
DM: As things stand now, I should be released to a halfway house in New York at the end of 2012. Then, after a few months of adjustment (which entails a job and getting passes home), I’ll go home and begin 3 years of “supervised release”. After four years in prison and many hours spent in reflection, I have loads of ideas on what I’d like to do. Primarily, I want to get on my feet, spend quality time with my wife, family, and friends, and seek out meaningful employment. My hope is to work as a paralegal or communications director for a non-profit engaged in issues I care about. Prison reform is one of these issues as is urban agriculture, the struggles against homophobia and the marginalization of activists in the U.S. I have ideas for different projects and campaigns, most of which are long-term and involve books, dumpster-diving and “free-cycling.” How’s that for vague?
The challenges most on my mind are the preconceived notions and biases of potential employees as well as people I meet – who do not know my past. I have no interest in hiding my history, if that were even possible. Realizing that people may judge me based on being a ‘felon’ or having been convicted of arson and erroneously being labeled a terrorist is a tough pill to swallow. I don’t want to be mired in this though and instead, I plan on devoting time and energy to campaigns that seek to de-stigmatize felons and remove the barriers that deny us full personhood in this country. Remarkably, in 2011, there are many states you cannot vote in once convicted of a felony and thus, there are more than 5 million such disenfranchised people in the U.S. today.
DM: This is a tough question because I loathe the idea that somehow, my suggestion would be relevant or suitable for people reading this interview. In the context of this film, I would ask everyone to be skeptical in how they perceive the words and message of the U.S. government and mainstream media. You can see by watching the film that the issues presented – about terrorism, tactics, environmental politics, incarceration – are more complex than how you will find them portrayed in governmental press releases or the newspaper. When I see the way that I have been presented in the [mainstream] media, even I don’t like myself! It’s truly important for all of us to consider the intent and political goals behind those crafting the messages we are exposed to daily. I am really appreciative of anyone who took the time to see the documentary and question the hype around cases like mine. You can learn more on my website and on Facebook.
This interview was conducted by friends of Daniel McGowan in the fall of 2011. An abbreviated version of this interview also appears on Huffington Post [www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-mcgowan].
IF A TREE FALLS opens Wednesday, June 22 at the IFC Center in NYC, where the filmmakers will be doing Q&As at primetime shows from the 22nd to the 25th.
And in Eugene, Oregon, it premieres Thursday, June 23rd at the Bijou Cinemas, where the Thursday screenings at 6:15pm & 8:45pm will be followed by a moderated Skype chat with the filmmakers.
Ticket sales at the IFC theater and Eugene will be monitored by other theaters around the country to determine whether they want to pick up the film. Please consider attending the IFC and Eugene screenings during the opening week as ticket sales there will assure the film’s widest possible release!
MORE ABOUT THE FILM:
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, IF A TREE FALLS is a feature-length documentary that offers a behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America’s “number one domestic terrorist threat.” Centering on the story of Daniel McGowan, an ELF member who participated in two multi-million-dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies, the film investigates the origins of the ELF in America and explores how a working class kid from Queens found himself facing life in prison for “eco-terrorism.” Using never-before-seen archival footage and intimate interviews from all the players — including ELF cell members and the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them — IF A TREE FALLS weaves an intriguing and suspenseful story that asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism in America today.
If a Tree Falls is distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories and will screen nationwide this summer. Click here for more information and screening times.
See you at the movies!
**Note from Family and Friends of Daniel:
We feel that both Daniel’s story and the message of the film are important to share, and we hope that as many people as possible are able to see it. We also want to highlight an issue we feel the film did not go far enough to illustrate–that Daniel and other non-cooperating defendants have been put behind bars in large part due to the betrayal of former friends who turned government informants. Some of these informants, like Suzanne Savoie, who is interviewed in the film, received sentences that were only slightly less than those who did not cooperate and many of them are currently out of prison because of this betrayal. It is paramount that we as a community do not forget the damage they have done, or allow them opportunities to try to reintegrate into our circles. For this reason, we are at odds with the filmmakers’ decision to invite informants like Savoie to film screenings and we encourage the audience to question and object to any government informant’s participation in the release of this film.