Activists don't like being tarred with extremist brush


Mar 11, 2001
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Eco-vandals condemned as domestic terrorists.

But activists say all groups being tarred with extremist brush

Robert Schlesinger, Boston Globe    

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Washington -- On Sept. 20, as much of the country was still in shock from the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, self-proclaimed members of the Animal Liberation Front firebombed a primate research lab in New Mexico, causing $1 million in damage.

In October, a federal land management facility in California was torched, causing $85,000 in damage. Members of the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility. The same movement is suspected of planting two homemade bombs in November at a forestry research center at Michigan Tech University.

As the Bush administration pursues its war on terrorism at home and abroad, some political leaders, particularly from Western states, want to ensure that extreme environmental and animal rights groups share the focus.

While even the harshest critics acknowledge that there is no proportionate comparison between Al Qaeda and groups like the Earth Liberation Front -- particularly because these radical environmental and animal rights groups have avoided taking lives -- they say that terrorism is terrorism.

"The point has come when we need to strip away the Robin Hood mystique from this terrorism in our country," said Rep. Scott McInnis, a Republican from Colorado.

McInnis's district includes the famed ski town of Vail. Earth Liberation Front members burned down a ski resort there in 1998, causing $12 million in damage. An estimated $40 million in damage is attributed to these radical groups over the past few years. That figure includes the fires at the Coulston Foundation labs in Alamogordo, N.M., in September and the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Facility in Litchfield (Lassen County), in October.

State bomb squad technicians defused the two bombs found outside forestry research buildings at Michigan Tech last month. The Earth Liberation Front has not claimed responsibility for planting the explosives, but self-identified members of the group sent threatening e-mails to the university.

The FBI, in its most recent report on terrorism in the United States, identified such groups as among the biggest and fastest-growing domestic threats.

"The threat posed by special interest extremism -- most notably the extreme fringes of the animal rights and environmental movements -- is also emerging as a significant concern for law enforcement," said the report, issued last year.

Group members style themselves as defenders of Earth or animals against rapacious corporations and a complicit government. They ask who the "extremists" really are.

"I find that torturing sentient animals, harming animals who would otherwise live a free life in the wild, I find that a bit extreme," said David Barbarash, a spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, which opposes the often-painful use of animals in medical or product testing. "I don't find torture a normal practice; I think that's an extreme practice."

Barbarash dismissed descriptions of his group and the Earth Liberation Front as terrorist organizations, saying that no one has ever been killed by their actions.

But there are similarities to terrorist organizations. ALF and ELF are organized in a cell structure, with small groups acting independently and without a central leader. The Internet is used as a tool to spread information and exhortation. ALF's Web site has a "recommended reading" section that includes a document on "Setting Fires With Electrical Timers -- An Earth Liberation Guide."

The decentralized set-up is designed to prevent interference with the groups' activities.

"This decentralized structure helps keep activists out of jail and free to continue conducting actions," the ELF Web site says. Activists who damage property are rarely identified or caught.

Representative Darlene Hooley, a Democrat from Oregon whose district has endured a lot of clashes over the environment, is sponsoring a bill that would set up a national environmental terrorism information clearinghouse and step up federal aid for areas of high activity.

"There has been increased activity on ecoterrorism in our state and in the Northwest and in my district," said Hooley, who added that Oregon has experienced 100 "major acts of terrorism" in the past 20 years -- one-third of them in the last four years.

In February, McInnis will chair a hearing of a House Resources subcommittee focusing on ecoterrorism, and he has subpoenaed the former spokesman for ELF.

McInnis and a half-dozen other Western Republican legislators have also sent a letter to prominent mainstream environmental groups calling upon them to disavow groups like ELF and ALF. McInnis, who is regularly at odds with these groups on policy matters, likens his effort to the coalition-building the United States has done internationally against terrorism.

He hopes to form "coalitions with governments that do not necessarily agree with the U.S. on policy but agree that terrorism is not a way to solve policy differences," McInnis said.

Most of the environmental groups -- who had long-standing, vocal positions opposing the radical fringe of their movements -- rolled their eyes at the political posturing while reiterating their positions.

"I wonder why seven congressmen are so interested in challenging an organization to disavow ecoterrorism when Greenpeace has a perfect, 30-year record of peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience used to engage corrupt governments and corporations around the world," John Pasacantando, Greenpeace USA's Executive Director, wrote to McInnis. "I wish that you would drop this ruse of trying to link peaceful environmental efforts to terrorism -- just at the moment when the country needs you to actually focus on real issues."


Well-known member
May 3, 2001
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their spin doctors are at work.. i just wish common sense would prevail and people would think for themselves..


Well-known member
Mar 15, 2001
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Let the sportsman groups of america be part of the coalition.

Like in we get to do the shooting part.

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