Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan
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Archive for the ‘Environmental, Eco’ Category

Free to be freed (sooner than later)

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

(picture of Jeff and Daniel from 2005 in OSP)

On February 28th, 2008, my friend and political prisoner Jeff ‘Free’ Luers received his long-awaited sentence of 10 years by Judge Billings in Eugene, Oregon. This outcome was a long time coming— Jeff was arrested in June 2000, sentenced June 2001 and his appeal was filed January 2002. February 14, 2007 saw his sentence of 22 years and 8 months, imposed by Judge Lule Velure, thrown out. After waiting so long and feeling no faith in the so-called criminal justice system in terms of fairness, I doubted I would ever see any victory with Jeff’s case.

Jeff received an absurd sentence of nearly 23 years back in 2001 which many saw as a clear message to the movement: use property destruction as a tactic and you will be crushed. It was a message heard loud and clear just a few years later when my co-defendants were indicted in the Operation Backfire/ELF case initially charged us with crimes that could have put us behind bars for life.

I knew Free from the Eugene anarchist scene— at the time a thriving and active smattering of collectives, groups and spaces. Free did Food Not Bombs and taught self defense. We were both involved in an 8-week activist gathering called Eugene Active Existence and had mutual friends. My interactions with him were always positive and I respected his participation in the Fall Creek tree village— a tactic/style of campaigning I had become disenchanted with. When Jeff was arrested, like many of the local anarchists, I joined efforts to support him and fundraise for his legal defense. Ironically, at the same time, I was involved with the Earth Liberation Front and was participating in actions similar to what Jeff was arrested for.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, so perhaps it’s easy to say this now. Either way, events outside of Jeff’s (or my) control heavily impacted his life and legal case. Some of my co-defendants went back to Romania Chevrolet’s, in an apparent gesture of solidarity, and burned 36 SUVs in an immense and spectacular action. The second Romania arson (“Romania II”) was polarizing to say the least. Some in the activist community freaked out thinking it was a COINTELPRO-inspired set-up specifically designed to ruin Jeff’s trial. The corporate media in Eugene (specifically the Register Guard and Oregonian) offered sensational coverage implying links between Jeff and the incident.

In this climate, Jeff made the decision to have a bench trial— without a jury. The Judge would not only give the sentence (per usual) but would decide guilt or innocence. Despite major holes in the government’s arguments, the Judge (Lyle Velure) found Jeff guilty on 11 of 13 charges— including counts related to an attempted arson at Tyree Oil (an action Jeff has stated he was not involved in). Jeff was found guilty of 3 1st-degree counts of arson— one for each vehicle— which carried 7-year mandatory minimum sentences. When all was said and done, Velure handed Jeff a 22-year, 8-month sentence and Jeff was sent to a maximum security prison. It’s where he has done much of his time since that day.

There has been a lot of speculation on the impact of Romania II on Jeff’s sentence. Suffice to say, I think the action had a clearly negative impact on Jeff’s state of mind regarding his ability to win at trial, inflamed the Judge and the Romania family and polluted the potential jury pool. Everyone knew about this action in the small city of 150,000. Of course the media’s role in this is obvious but they are just doing what they do and it’s silly to assume they would do anything else [case in point, the smoke hasn’t cleared at the Woodinville, WA fires that took place at a rural development before the media and law enforcement proclaimed it an ELF action. The impact on the Briana Waters’ trial is widely assumed to have been negative.]

It is my belief that our movement(s) need to not shy away from discussions of these situations. Criticism, when done in the context of support and respect, is appropriate. It can help us move forward and give us a decent perspective on our own actions. As evidenced by the Woodinville fires (assuming it is ELF), it is apparent that we haven’t learned our lesson. Suspending any sort of discussion on whether the radical environmental movements should use arson, the question of timing and impact on others is still there. It was foreseeable, in my opinion that the second Romania arson was going to inflame and polarize Jeff’s legal situation. To see this situation (potentially) play out years later is just sad. While I know the intentions of those who did Romania II were good, we still need to face up to the impact of these actions.

Although my participation with the Romania II arson was limited to being shown the communique (and failing to have Jeff’s name removed), I felt partially responsibility. The repercussions of that action hit home for me and I decided I needed to be responsible for Jeff’s sentence. I committed to being there for him in the long haul, through every appeal and ordeal until he was released. From 2001- my arrest in December 2005, I was lucky enough to work with a variety of activists all over the world in fighting for Jeff’s freedom. Specifically, the Luers family, Break the Chain and the Friends of Jeff Luers crew were the stand-outs of that effort.

Almost 8 years later after many legal briefs, multiple prisons, a few trips to the hole, 3 international days of action/weekends of resistance and countless interviews, dispatches, articles and videos, we won. Jeff is coming home in December 2009 provided he participates in a boot camp program. While I am pissed off that Jeff wasn’t released immediately, as he should have been, I am happy he will be getting out at age 30, not 43!

Our prisoners have not always done so well upon release and have had a hard time adjusting to outside life again. It is imperative that we resolve to support people not just while they are imprisoned but in the period of adjustment when they re-enter society.

The Irish republican movement has a group called ‘Welcome Home’ (translated from Irish) that exists to provide support released political prisoners beyond the initial rush and euphoria from release. This work isn’t glamorous but it’s necessary. Finding decent housing and jobs, helping people comply with parole and probation, setting them up with clothes and some money when they get out— these are all things our communities can and should do. Jeff luckily has options in all these areas due to the hard work of activists in Eugene. He plans to go to school for green building or ecological sciences. He also plans to spend a lot of time with family and friends. His future indeed does look bright.

For me, I’m just excited my friend is coming home. While I will not be able to see him until 2015, due to my probation, its a day I look forward to. Free’s coming home— damn, that feels good to say.

I want to personally thank a few people who I have worked with over the years on Jeff’s campaign: Jenny, Leeanne, Brenton, Nadia, Priya, Chris, Lauren and John and Judy Luers.

To contribute to Jeff’s legal or release fund, go to his website at www.freefreenow.org. There’s a paypal button there or you can send a check/money order.

Winter in Sandstone

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

It has been a while since I have sent out an update on life here at FCI Sandstone. Part of the reason for that is my life is pretty boring and I’d hate to bore you with the details – invariably, anything on the outside sounds great compared to the mundane days here! I did want to thank everyone who has written me these past couple of months and assure you that even if you don’t get a response, I do read each and every letter or postcard (more than once). The amount of letters and my other responsibilities (as well as my sore thumb from writing too much!) prevents me from responding to everyone. It is a great feeling to stand there at mail call every day and receive all these letters – with tales from the outside and news, both good and bad. I’d like to especially thank everyone who sent me cards around the holidays – which, as you may know, is a hard time for most prisoners.

Most of my letters inquire about how I’m doing. It’s a complicated answer, of course. For starters, I’m really busy working my job as an orderly 6 hours a day, working hard on my Master’s degree, working out and taking many of the classes the prison offers (such as German I or Job Skills). If anything, my time is going fast as I’ve established quite a busy routine. In here, routine is your friend. On another level, life is deeply frustrating as I watch from the sidelines as the atrocities of normalcy persist – our country’s occupation of nations far away, continued exploitation of ecosystems and every other form of life on this planet and the myopic and ‘ostrich’s head in the sand’ approach of many in our society to these issues. Cooperating codefendants in my case refuse to take real accountability for their actions choosing to instead minimized their collusion and instead point fingers at those who made significantly different choices than they did. That, I’ll address at another time, though.

My friends have been great about keeping me updated on what is going on outside in our movement(s) and society, in general. I cherish my updates on other political prisoners, environmental campaigns and the continuing developments in “Green Scare” cases. With that information though, comes the constant reminder that I am here, not out there, and my advocacy is limited to writing. One organization I am continually impressed by is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who is presently (as of this letter) in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary attempting to disrupt the pirate whalers of Japan (perhaps, ‘poach’ is the better term considering a sadly voluntary moratorium on whaling since 1986. Japan, along with Iceland, Norway and a few small island nations continue to support this slaughter of highly intelligent and sentient marine mammals). This year, there has been much drama including Japan’s refusal to release two Sea Shepherd crew members who boarded their ship with a declaration condemning Japan’s poaching. Like last year, the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, is there documenting the kill, taking photos for their lucrative direct mail campaign but as per usual, refusing to cooperate with Sea Shepherd in any way, including the sharing of coordinates. Oh my, Greenpeace – what have you become? The fight to protect Antarctic’s whales may be over by the time you read this but please check out their website and consider donating, or even better, crewing with them.

So, reading accounts of direct action against whaling and local initiatives in my home town of Brooklyn makes me itchy but I’m throwing myself into my studies and writing with renewed vigor. I have been happy to see so many other political prisoners writing publicly these days. Specifically, my codefendant and some of the Shac 7 defendants who, like me, have a blog and similar website names. Additionally, the Earth First! Journal has consistently published political prisoner writings lately focusing largely on the variety and differences of the prison experience. While I enjoy hearing all of these responses, I specifically hope to hear more from my codefendants on the debates surrounding my case and the cooperation of so many people.

Overall, I’m doing well and dealing with the cold (it hit -5 degrees last week!). Luckily, I am provided for very well by my family and friends and my stacks of books, magazines and my frequent visits are a testament to that fact. Thank you again for all of your letters and support. Please continue to support the Green Scare defendants and all political prisoners especially in the next month when we see Jeff Luers and Eric McDavid‘s sentencings and the start of Briana Waters‘ trial in February.

Remembering William Rodgers

Friday, December 21st, 2007

This is a eulogy, two years too late, for my friend William Rodgers — known to friends, family and the movement as Avalon. Avalon took his life on December 21, 2005. This was just two weeks after our arrests in the Operation Backfire case and, by no coincidence, the Winter Solstice. In his absence, much has been made of his role in our Earth Liberation Front (ELF) group. Not surprisingly, the prosecutors in the case have painted him as a leader who recruited young, impressionable activists to do his bidding. This is not only false, but also insulting to the younger people in the case, who did get involved on their own. Snitches in the case have used his inability to respond to dramatically maximize his role in certain actions in an attempt to lesson the consequences of their own actions. One person went so far as submitting to the judge video evidence and testimony that has not been made public because it was deemed too personal for public consumption. Others on the margins have chosen to focus on Avalon’s flaws by spreading rumors or even by talking to the private investigators hired by the snitches.

I first met Avalon in the months leading up to the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle in late 1999 and developed a friendship with him instantly. His sly grin, easygoing and warm personality and humility impressed me, and I was happy to see that this quiet, older enviro was up to more than attending the EF! gatherings at which I first saw him. His rationality and quick thinking prevented disaster for our affinity group during the Seattle protests (I’m proud to say we took part in the Black Bloc). I distinctly remember getting ready to leave Seattle, and hearing his suggestion to “keep in touch.” Well, we did keep in touch. Much has been said of what we did in the years after that, but that will be told elsewhere.

Like so many of us, Avalon suffered from depression and despair, fueled by the realization of what our species is doing the planet. Living underground, juggling details of planned actions and double lives, and eschewing many of the things that our movement allies had access to is stressful. I know because I did it, and yet Avalon’s experience in that underground life dwarfed mine. I can’t help but think that this isolation and despair were major factors in his suicide. We moved on, and yet the cruel hand of the past — in the form of old friends and a Joint Terrorism Task Force — pulled us all back into our secret histories. Maybe for Avalon, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. We will never know for sure. I remember seeing his name in a list of arrestees in a New York Times article while sitting in a New York City jail. It gave me some hope — I thought we could all fight these charges together, as a group of people who had lifelong solidarity with each other, as people who honored the oaths we made to each other. Sometimes, I lie there at night asking the questions I try to avoid: Could Avalon have stemmed the tide of informing? Would he have been the person who, having known some of the snitches for much longer than I, could really reach them — beyond their fears and to their core? I’ll never know these answers, but I do know this: Avalon would rather die and make a jailbreak than cooperate in any way with this immoral and unjust process.

The prosecution, knowing only hierarchy and bureaucracy, cannot conceive of a group without a leader, a pecking order and strict rules. Without Bill around to protest and because he was older than all of us, they found their puppet master. Suddenly the so-called “book club” was his invention and was deemed a “training school for arson.” Meyerhoff and Gerlach, grand quislings that they are, had the audacity to say with a straight face that Avalon pretty much did the Vail arson all by himself. Just reading about the ski resort’s geography, the large amount of fuel that was used and Bill’s slight stature made me laugh bitterly to myself about these lies. On some level, it’s the way the game is played for snitches. The government tells them what it wants to hear, and the cooperating witnesses jump through hoops like the well-trained pets that they are. To be clear, everyone involved with these actions and the “book club” are people like you and me. We have skills — some of us excel at one thing, others of us at another. However, there was no formalized hierarchy as suggested by the prosecution, and William Rodgers was no kingpin or leader of the ELF.

Avalon, like all of us, had his flaws and made mistakes, both personally and politically, in the way he lived his life and how he resisted environmental destruction. Our group attempted to deal with one of these areas — an accusation of sexual misconduct — and I’m sorry to say that we failed, due to not being equipped with the right ideas and strategies. It is all too easy to assuage our guilt about our own shortcomings by attacking others. I think it’s a better idea to focus on what we are doing in this world, rather than criticizing people who are not here to defend themselves. I thought of this often in court when I looked at my family, seeing the pained looks on their faces as they listened to attacks on me. Bill’s family and partner have had to endure a lot of grief in the last two years.

So when I think of Avalon, I don’t believe the hype spewed by aggressive and narrow prosecutors. No, I think of a soft-spoken, caring person who would give you the shirt off his back or carry a snake off the road; an avid, even obsessive recycler; someone who supported indigenous struggles and really got the connection between Earth-based cultures and ecological action. I knew Avalon was involved in the struggle against the Mount Graham telescope, but only after his death did I find out that he and his infoshop, The Catalyst, supported the campaign to protect the San Francisco Peaks (see Earth First! Journal May-June 2005).

When snitch Jacob Ferguson recorded a conversation with me through a wiretap in 2005, I asked him how Avalon was. He lied to me (big shock!) and told me that Avalon was happy and lived in an intentional community in Canada. I remember being really happy for him and hoping to run into him again one day, but for different reasons than why we last saw each other.

Avalon has been gone two years now, and yet it still isn’t real to me. Since I haven’t seen him for years, I can’t really take it all in without getting upset. Yes, one of our own betrayed us, and that action caused the death of my friend. How do I reconcile the truth? I don’t have a good answer except to say that we need to talk about these things and confront death in our movement. We need to grieve for our friends. Most of all, we cannot forget. This is my contribution to never forgetting William Rodgers: radical environmentalist, ELF activist, cave lover and sweet, kind man. I miss you, buddy.

–As printed in the Earth First! Journal, November-December 2007 issue.

2 years, 1 week later

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Friends and supporters,

We didn’t want December 7th to completely pass everyone by without any acknowledgment. Two years ago (plus a week), Daniel was first taken away from his family, his friends, his home, his job, his school — his life.

Last weekend there were events held all over the country to commemorate the multiple arrests that took place on December 7, 2005.

These events aimed to educate others on the past, present and future. A number of us in NYC spent last Sunday in one of the busiest intersections of Manhattan spreading the word about a troubling new piece of legislation called “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act”

Please take a few minutes to read all of the extremely important information found here: http://www.supportdaniel.org/act/

We hope to keep adding relevant information to this page over the next few weeks. Please call your senator, spread the word, stop this Act.

Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan

Don’t forget to send letters to Daniel’s non-cooperating co-defendants:

Jonathan Paul
FCI Phoenix
Federal Correctional Institution
37910 N 45th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85086

Joyanna Zacher #36360-086
FCI Dublin
Federal Correctional Institution
5701 8th St – Camp Parks- Unit F
Dublin, CA 94568

Nathan Block #36359-086
FCI Lompoc
Federal Correctional Institution
3600 Guard Rd.
Lompoc, CA 93436

Reflections on December 7th

Friday, December 7th, 2007

If I could, I would wear black today, not because it’s my preferred color (which it is), but because today is a day I mourn. Not in a traditional sense of mourning a person’s death but a day to mourn the end of one part of my life the day I said goodbye to a part of my life no one in my life knew about. Some people order their lives into ‘before September 11’ and ‘after September 11’ — for me, it’s before and after December 7, 2005, the day of my arrest.

Sometime around 4:15 on that day, my past caught up with me in the form of 3 federal agents standing in the entrance of my cubicle at my job. I was not quite sure why they were there but I had a feeling it was going to be bad. Although I sensed nothing that day, I had experienced anxiety in weeks prior about (then) hypothetical matters like “Who would do x if I was gone?” or “Do I really need all the Jeff Luers campaign materials, original master VHS tapes, et cetera ?” I chalked it up to anxiety – the holidays were coming up and I was woefully behind on getting gifts for my family; plus the first semester midterms in my graduate acupuncture program were approaching. The perfunctory “Are you Daniel McGowan?” along with the macho and unnecessary declaration, “You’re going back to Oregon!” snapped me out of my stupor. The office holiday cards were dropped, I was cuffed and led outside into the frigid air without a coat into an unmarked car. It hit me at that point that my life would not be the same. The feeling of my secret past colliding with my present and all I could do was slip into survival mode. My inner voice screamed, “be quiet! Don’t say a word to them! You know people care about you and they will have your back, hire a lawyer and you’ll fight this.” I am grateful to all the lawyers and legal workers who put on legal trainings as it really came in handy then.

Here I am, two years later sitting in federal prison; if all goes well, I’ll be out in about 5 years. When December was approaching, I wondered what this date means to me and how I would feel when it came. Last year, I was insulated from it all as my community held a rally for me at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, near the FBI headquarters I was brought to and the jail I was housed in for a week. So, Dec 7th is here and it has brought up a number of feelings: frustration, anger, fear, nostalgia, loneliness and hope. I fear that as time goes on, people will move on and focus their attention elsewhere; that by being out of sight in prison, that I’ll be out of mind. I’m scared that people will forget what it is we were (and are) fighting for — that this ‘Green Scare’ is not just about punishing us but about preventing them from advocating for a culture that doesn’t destroy every ecosystem and see our planet as something to profit from. We are here as trophies for the government and symbols to you that scream: “mess with us and our god of private property and we will crush you. Talk about stopping our plans and we will label you a terrorist and when we catch you, we’ll offer some of you reduced sentences for selling your friends out.”

In the absence of information, it’s hard at times to figure out whether or not this strategy the government uses is having an impact or whether it’s backfired (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!). Recently, I read an excellent book by social justice activist, former editor of Onward!, (and someone who I met last year), Dan Berger called Outlaws of America. It focuses on the Weather Underground and their actions against US imperialism in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Dan argues that the WU’s significance is not in the property bombings of US government buildings and corporations — albeit spectacular and daring actions. The significance and legacy to today’s social and ecological resistance movements is the politics and beliefs behind the actions, not the details of the bombings, how each site was chosen or the devices themselves. As I read this, it raised a familiar frustration in me — that no matter how hard I tried, the things people remembered about the ELF wasn’t the rationale behind the actions but were, the rumors mentioned in court, who slept with whom, how much damage the fires did and other trivial matters. There is a problem with the dominant idea of the ELF and our actions as ‘activists who burn things’ or as the government labels us, ‘arsonists’ or ‘terrorists.’

For me, the tactics were not the driving force in my actions but were the means to an end. In fact, the use of fire caused me great anxiety and I felt it was generally used with little strategy as we were trapped in a self-created race to be more “effective.” This led to strategy and ideas taking a back seat to the ‘why,’ which is infinitely more important to any discussion of what we were trying to do. I should say that I speak for myself on this issue and my opinions may not be similar to any of my codefendants – cooperating informants or otherwise. My point then is that similar to the Weather Underground, the significance of the ELF actions was not the arsons, but the beliefs behind them.

I suppose in reflecting on actions I have taken and how they were perceived, it made me think I need to write more about them. If all people took from the actions were the sensational aspects – then we have failed. It is our rationale for engaging in such extreme action that matters, not the tactics. People have asked me about the actions and I’ve been very cautious about saying things for a variety of reasons. One – I don’t want what I say to be taken out of context. I’ve been screwed by the government using an interview I gave to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! as justification for opposing motions for me to stay out on bail longer. Secondly, I have my own perspectives on what went down and I am neither ELF cheerleader nor detractor. I will not be used by others to criticize people who choose the same tactics I chose no matter what my personal opinions may be. Unlike the critics, I know where they are coming from and I can empathize. Nor do I want my words to be used by people whose main goal seems to be to encourage young people to do actions they will support but lack the courage to do themselves. I’ll do my best to avoid these dynamics and instead try to explain the complexities of one’s motivations and where we were coming from, to the extent I can.

December 7th reminds me that this fight is not over. On the legal front, many of us are in prison with long sentences to do plus years of probation and multi-million dollar restitutions. One person is going to trial in early February 2008 in a related ‘Operation Backfire’ case (see supportbriana.org). The government has convened a grand jury in Minneapolis regarding ELF actions and Eric McDavid is facing 5-20 years in prison after losing his September trial. US environmentalist Tre Arrow is fighting extradition from Canada for very similar charges I faced although he has proclaimed his innocence. Jeff ‘Free’ Luers gets re-sentenced soon as well. Please take some time to educate yourself about the cases and extend your solidarity to these people and others. Perhaps more importantly, this government and its corporate friends continue to destroy ecosystems here and abroad in pursuit of unfettered profits. People may be opening their eyes to the perils of global climate change but much effort is needed to fight for real alternatives – not fake ones like bio-fuels, nuclear power, or straight-up “green capitalism.”
*Many of these ideas will be expanded on in a zine I am writing — hopefully out within the next year

Green Scare Update

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

I just wanted to send a little note to say hi to everyone who has written and let you know I truly appreciate the support. It is functionally impossible for me to respond to all the notes, cards and packages, but they are getting to me and they really make me happy. Oddly enough, I seem to have sprained my thumb! I know, I can imagine the bad jokes now as I type this! It seems to be rather swollen and it’s certainly from writing too much. So, I appreciate your kind words and letters but between my job, studies, and my poor fat thumb, know that I may not be able to respond.

I wanted to share some news about some court cases I have read about recently and perhaps update people on the latest happenings related to the Green Scare. If that term is unfamiliar to you, I’m sorry. I think myself and many of us have just chosen to use that term because its easy to name it per se than to describe the full set of circumstances. What I mean is the US government’s obsession with investigating, harassing, prioritizing and prosecuting activists involved with environmental and animal rights activities. I’d like to think that this behavior on the part of government officials is just about illegal activity but sadly, it’s not. As Will Potter has pointed out on his informative blog, greenisthenewred.com, these campaigns of harassment, indictments, overzealous legislation, targeting by industry front groups, all create a chill around activism. “Will they come after me next? I don’t burn things down, but that Animal Enterprise Terrorism Bill seems so broad..”

Well, as you may know, a lot of people were arrested and indicted in my case– what the agents dubbed “Operation Backfire.” (Get it? It’s a joke– on us! Like, you know, our tactics/actions backfired! Nice one, secret agent boys!) Although it seems that our case is wrapping up, a Midwest grand jury was to convene (and was then postponed) regarding ELF actions in that region. You can read more about this on a new site:?

A few weeks ago, there was good news and bad news with two Green Scare trials. The good news is that former ALF prisoner, Rod Coronado, got a hung jury in his free speech case in San Diego. Rod was charged with an old law that alleged that he was instructing people on how to use incendiary devices. From the accounts I read, this so-called instruction was Rod speaking at a public event and a question was asked about an action he was involved with years prior (and which he had already done time for). The jury was deadlocked in favor of acquittal but ended up being unable to come to any decision. At this point, I am unsure whether or not the government will continue this vindictive behavior and file charges again. In either case, check out his support site at www.supportrod.org to donate or find out more.

Sadly, Eric McDavid was found guilty by a jury in the Sacramento ELF case. Eric was charged with conspiracy and was sold down the river by his two co-defendents who testified against him and will now receive a maximum of 5 years. Eric faces 5-20 years. It should also be noted that a woman only known as “Anna,” was not only the key witness but also a blatant provocateur in the case– constantly pushing the three young activists into planning actions. The judge denied the entrapment motion even though evidence kept showing up that “Anna” seemed to really want an action to happen so that she could please her FBI handlers. You may ask, “Why is the FBI recruiting 17-year old college students to push people into doing ELF type actions, even going so far as to pay her $70,000, rent and outfit a cabin for planning the actions, etc.?” That’s a good question. Eric is filing an appeal and last I heard needs help with legal costs and continued access to vegan food.

See www.supporteric.org for more information.

There are also a few ongoing cases associated with the Green Scare:

Tre Arrow: This American environmental activist is fighting extradition from Canada and has been held for three years now trying to clear his name and is being tried on very serious charges in Oregon state. The authorities claim he was involved in an ELF arson of the Ross Isnald Sand and Gravel company in Portland, OR and an arson of three logging trucks. Three people who have received reduced sentences claim Tre Arrow was involved although there doesn’t appear to be any evidence other than this. He was a well-known forest defense activist in Oregon and even ran for Congress. He sits in a jail in British Columbia and is appealing an extradition order. He needs your support. Contact his crew at www.trearrow.org If sent to the US, he will be facing life in prison like I was.

Briana Waters: This case goes to trial on February 4th, 2008. She is facing 35 years in prison and is accused of participation in the UW arson claimed by the ELF in 2001. More information: www.supportbriana.org

Finally, my friend Jeff Luers has been sent to Eugene for resentencing in his case. An Oregon appellate court ruled in favor of part of his appeal last year and Jeff faces a significant reduction in the length of his sentence. By now, he may have already been sentenced, but either way, check out www.freefreenow.org

There are websites that have much more information than I can convey. Check them out:

Portland Indymedia’s Green Scare page
Twin Cities Eco-Prisoner Support Committee

Remembering Brad

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

On October 27, 2006, my friend, fellow activist, and independent journalist Brad Will was murdered by paramilitaries (as well as off duty police) while documenting protests and riots in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was filming the struggle by the teachers union (APPO) against policies of the mayor of Oaxaca and the unrest in the streets. As I write this, Brad’s killers walk free after their token arrest shortly after his murder. Others have written more eloquently about the situation in Oaxaca (leftturn.org, Narco News) so I’ll stick to what I know – Brad, and the gap in our NYC activist community he left behind.

I first met Brad in the fall of 1998 when he gave a slideshow on the Fall Creek Tree Village at ABC no Rio, two days before a planned move to California for me. I had big plans to participate in the campaign to save Headwaters Forest, but Brad attempted to talk me out of going to northern California with tales of Cascadian resistance to old growth logging at Fall Creek. He told me how the dogma and rigidity of nonviolence codes just didn’t exist at Fall Creek (that’s not to say protesters were violent because they weren’t. They did eschew guidelines that prevented them from defending their bodies from physical harm doled out by angry loggers or Forest Service cops). Brad was a cornucopia of information on the forests, advising me on how to waterproof my backpack, move quietly in the forest, where the hot campaigns were and how to get there, as well as tales of his two months in the trees. I ended up going – or trying to get to – Headwaters Forest. Sadly, an activist named David “Gypsy” Chain was killed by an out of control logger while I was en route.

Over the years, I started to see Brad everywhere. (This was funny to me years later when Brad contributed to an Anthology called We Are Everywhere. I remember thinking, “you certainly are!”) First, I saw him at the WTO protests in Seattle, then at Earth First! Gatherings, in random Midwest cities, and back home in NYC when I came to visit. You could always count on Brad to come zooming by a protest with a huge grin on his face. When we went to the Mexican consulate the night after he was killed, people joked that they expected him to show up at any moment. The energy there that night was definitely something he would have wanted to be a part of.

I won’t canonize Brad either, because that would be a disservice to his memory. There was a potluck at my house once that Brad showed up to with empty hands and much later that night, he drained 3/4 of the last bottle of wine while singing that annoying song that doesn’t end! But, I’ll take no wine with Brad any day over the alternative which, sadly, is reality right now.

Instead of that, I think about our interactions during my legal court case. Even when I was facing life, he was super positive with me – at a time when it was very easy to slip into despair. He passed legal fund donations to me from the sale of rather sketchy and provocative patches and always offered to post my legal updates on 10 or more Independent Media Center websites. My last email from him was in response to a request for people to translate materials into Spanish about the Green Scare. It was simple and in his style: “Send it over, b.”

With Halloween approaching, I can’t help but think of Brad – it was a random phone call from a friend I expected to see at the Times Up! Halloween party later that night who gave me the news. Seeing the photo of Brad on the La Jornada website, plugging the words into a Spanish translation website, and trying to tell myself it wasn’t him was my way of coping – a vague attempt to tell myself, No, they took another one from us.

When Brad was murdered, the NYC activist scene lost a special person – a catalyst who connected people to each other, seemed to know everyone, and took special interest in new activists, trying to make them feel comfortable in the movement. He pressed for US activists to take concrete actions and offer mutual aid to the global sound. He documented the struggles of the landless workers in Brazil, almost getting beaten to death in the process. People will remember his stand on the 5th Street squat in the Lower East Side, where Brad stood down a wrecking ball years ago. He is more than the sum of his actions, though.

So, as Halloween approaches and the anniversary of our friend’s death nears, take a moment to remember Brad Will or read about who he is. Join the efforts of those here and in Mexico who are continuing to put pressure on the government of Mexico to arrest his murderers. Don’t ever let them forget that we know who is responsible for these deed.

Rest in peace, b. You are missed.

For more information, see:

Friends of Brad Will


Narco News

Left Turn

P.S. Brad would be happy to know that Fall Creek (what the Forest Service call the Clark Timber sale) was cancelled weeks ago, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of activists using direct action, lawsuits, and public outreach.
(Note/Update from a friend: The Fall Creek sale hasn’t been canceled yet unfortunately. It was supposed to be part of a package deal of cancellations, but that sale got left out in the end. Its not in danger of being cut, but still is not canceled.)

Products and Paper

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

As many of you know or may have heard, I live a rather austere life on the outside. Perhaps it has to do with my genesis as an activist as I was introduced to groups that made significant changes to their lifestyle (yeah it’s a loaded word) to reduce their impact on the environment and animals. Other times, I think lowering my consumption and eschewing large amounts of material goods is my version of prefigurative politics – “I’m not going to let them tell me what I need to be happy, I’m going to live my life now as I want the world to be.”

However, in prison I have been confronted with a situation – albeit a minor one overall – that has proven irksome. Our commissary, unlike groceries or health-food stores on the outside, offers very little choices and there is no way to avoid products sold by companies that test on animals. Additionally, in order to write letters to the outside world, my only option is a pad of bone white, cheap and thus, I assume, non-recycled writing paper. Of course, I need to brush my teeth, wash my hair/body, and write to friends, family and community, but nonetheless, my lack of options troubles me.

Like in the outside world, there is more than enough discarded paper here for me to use but there is no alternative to the animal tested products. In the past, I’ve joke about particular prisoners’ requests to have people only write them on reused, discarded or tree-free paper. There is nothing like prison to give you an altered perception of things and now I find myself making a similar request and – in effect – eating crow.

My request then is pretty simple and I apologize if this request seems to you as bizarre or annoying as it did to me before I came here! If you write to me, I humbly request you to use either discarded paper (paper that was printed on one side), tree-free or 100% post consumer recycled paper, and if those options are not achievable, that you write on both sides of the page. The first option (using discarded paper) is pretty much free as any work, school, library or other recycling bin is overflowing with this sort of paper. In addition, using small margins, smaller font and lower ink levels on your print-outs will reduce the ecological impact even more.

Since I’m in a position where buying animal tested products is not optional, my other request is to educate yourself on vivisection and cosmetic testing and look for alternatives. PETA has a comprehensive list of companies that Do and Do Not test on animals, available on their website. You can easily find these products at any grocery or health food store. I realize that animal issues may not be ‘your issue’ and that is fine but all I ask is that you educate yourself on the unnecessary practice of testing consumer products on animals and cease funding this cruel and unethical practice. Compassion and advocacy for animal nations is congruent and consistent with the struggle for social justice and environmental protection.

Again, I apologize for my self-indulgent requests to you. Prison offers little opportunity for activism and advocacy and its dawned on me that my advocacy and agitation expressed to you could have a much greater impact than just my own actions.

For more info:
Dogwood Alliance
Native Forest Network
PETA’s Caring Consumer webpage
Close HLS
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty