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by Al D.
Wednesday, Mar. 01, 2006 at 2:18 AM
In the wake of the FBI "Operation Backfire" crackdown on Earth Liberation activists, how can the radical environmental movement resist infiltration and division and best defend to those already indicted, subpoenaed or harassed, as well as those indictments to come.
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"The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
Two weeks ago I found my name on a government list regarding the current "Green Scare," also known as the FBI's "Operation Backfire" against the grassroots ecology and animal movements. The mysterious "No Contact" list contains the names of many radical, wonderful people—the people that perhaps would be the most outspoken in their support of those charged in this case—and for some unknown reason these people are supposedly banned from communicating with the defendants. I have tried to find out exactly what the list means, yet I've found no solid answers, but instead a general sense of paranoia, confusion and unease. I've come to view this ridiculous list as symbolic of the whole Green Scare campaign. Check it out at: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/02/333236.shtml
The U.S. government excels at dropping down on people's lives like a ton of bricks, and of course that's what it has done with this witch hunt. In the last couple months, it has incarcerated or otherwise hammered many amazing radicals, thereby traumatizing them, their friends, families, and movements. Federal prosecutors have also set a new standard for potential sabotage penalties: life in jail plus, oh, say, about 300 years.
The personal reality for the people and their loved ones facing this repression is sad enough. But to make matters worse is the apparent success with which the government has isolated the accused from their comrades and movements. We need to look at how the state has succeeded, to a large degree, in cutting off each of these people from communicating with one another or their political allies. This isolation has surely caused some of them to break their solidarity with each other and cooperate with the prosecution.
Meanwhile, families and friends who aren't part of a movement may
understandably want to look after their own first, given the potentially huge prison sentences hanging in the air. The dilemma being faced for the movements, each targeted individual, and their supporters, is essentially the classic "prisoner's dilemma." If everyone persecuted by the government sticks together, the end result will be better overall for *both* the group and the individuals involved. When their solidarity is broken and some cooperate against the others, the end result is worse overall for the group, usually much worse for the individuals who don't cooperate, and
often not much better for cooperators.
The question is how can these individuals–sitting alone after arrest for 23.5 hours a day in cold cells and facing decades of jail time or even multiple life sentences–have the strength to resist? Our movements, while definitely having a major impact, are not strong enough to adequately protect those facing persecution. And as Americans, we are raised to be isolated individuals. It's a cultural imperative to look after Number One first, and then some of our family and friends after that. But outside of that little circle, there is hardly any solidarity in our society across political, class, gender, sexuality, or race lines.
I want to offer up a view of these people that differs from either the
evil geniuses fiendishly plotting to terrorize America presented by one side, or the angelic innocents who have never had an angry political thought in their lives claimed by the other. Out of respect for these individuals and their legal situations, I want to be clear that I'm not speaking about anyone in particular. When I write "these people," I'm referring to those already indicted, subpoenaed or harassed, as well as those to come. The discovery evidence coming from the government apparently shows that the informant Jake named approximately 60 people in his crusade, so the fallout will continue to widen like ripples on water (depending, in part, how much we let it).
When I think of these folks, I think of people who put everything on the line for their beliefs. I see them courageously blockading forest roads in the middle of nowhere from crazed loggers and cops; hanging huge banners from daunting heights off bridges and office buildings; hiking miles into a forest and setting up tree-sits in the darkness, rain and snow; disrupting bear, cougar, whale, wolf and shark hunts, on sea and land and frozen lakes, all the way up and down the Pacific coast and interior; dodging rubber bullets and wading through clouds of tear gas to shut down the WTO in Seattle; splattering eco-villains with creme pies; locking their bodies down to every kind of object in order to stop every kind of
destructive activity; typing away at a computer or photocopying fliers in the neon glow of Kinko's while everyone else is asleep; driving through the night to make it to the next basecamp or demo; and I see them laughing and singing around a campfire under lush old-growth forest canopies and star-swept desert skies.
I also remember people who thought holistically, who refused to be blinded by single issue activism, who saw the links between the exploitation of animals, f humans, of the Earth. People who realized that capitalism and authoritarian governments of all stripes are killing everything good, not just wilderness. The kind of people, ultimately, most dangerous to a repressive government and its loyal opposition of weak-kneed environmental "non-profit" corporations.
In this time, we need solidarity from other movements. And to get that solidarity we need to communicate that the accused weren't hairy Cro Magnons living in caves outside of Eugene. Yes, they have been involved in vital ecological and animal struggles, but they've been involved in many other social movements as well.
I am proud to know many of these folks and call them my friends. I am proud of who they were then, and who they are now. They are neither martyrs nor victims. Yes, they are truly gentle and kind people as has often been remarked, but they are also fierce fighters who let their passion for justice guide them. Whether in jail, on home arrest, facing grand juries, or "believed to have fled the country," y'all are in our thoughts and our heartbeats constantly.
This persecution comes as a result of the effectiveness of the grassroots ecology and animal movements, and also because the state needs to have an "Enemy Within" to justify its growing fascism. The government is shifting, as predicted, from using the word "terrorist" to "extremist." It's only one step from there to "radical," or "subversive," or "agitator." And those words closely shadow the word "activist." This is a historical moment for our movements, like it was for the Industrial Workers of the World during the Palmer raids.
We've all heard the saying, "united we stand, divided we fall." Though it's become cliche, it's also absolutely true. Knowing it to be true does not make it easier to break this cycle of repression and take a leap of faith in trusting each other, but it is our only way out. Even in the darkest moments, we must remember the strength of our collective power.
The feds have stuck a knife into our movements, and we're bleeding. We urgently need to stem the flow and get back on our feet. I'm hoping this open letter will provoke thought, discussion, action, and engagement. Like memory against forgetting, let's remember who we were and what we accomplished before this ton of bricks dropped. Everyone has a role to play, so let's get it on.
With love for Rebel Cascadia,
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