Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

posted by scott parkin

Even though change and hope has come to America, and we have friendly politicians who give us treats (when we act like obedient pups), the same federal police state (i.e. the FBI) that has been in place since at least the 1920’s continues to patrol and control us.

Of course, after the Bush years they are on the legal equivalent of steroids.

In February, four animal rights activists (Nathan Pope, Adriana Stumpo, Joseph Buddenberg, and Maryam Khajavi) were arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). AETA is a sweeping law passed in 2006 that labels and prosecutes animal rights and environmental activists as “terrorists.” Congress argued when they passed it, that it would be used for underground groups that engage in property destruction like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. But the actual law has much wider interpretations linking “terrorism” to activism.


The background to the arrests is that a fierce campaign has been waged against animal research in the University of California system. A wide variety of legal and illegal tactics have been used, including bombings of UC vehicles and an incendiary device being left at the home of a UC researcher. No group has claimed responsibility for those acts. The police and the feds have said they are the work of animal rights activists. No evidence one way or the other has surfaced.

The four activists arrested were not charged for the bombing, but instead for First Amendment activity–chalking, leafletting and picketing. They are facing up to five years in prison for this.

You can see the details of the case here, but the point being is that the federal government continues to marginalize and criminalize radicals as terrorists.

Big pharmaceutical companies were the impetus behind AETA. Animal rights activists threaten Big Pharma’s profits with campaigns against animal testing. They have been very successful in these campaigns and therefore in industry’s minds the animal rights movement needs to be eliminated. Congress and the FBI have been more than happy to help. AETA was sold as a way to root out underground activists. The “AETA 4’s” case exemplifies that it’s gone far beyond that by targeting First Amendment activity.

Within our own sphere of climate justice organizing, oil and coal corporations are poisoning air, polluting water sources, burning the climate, harming communities near their operations, etc., etc. Right now, a vibrant climate movement is fighting the fossil fuel industry (particularly big coal) using fierce escalating direct action tactics. How long before the FBI decides that radical climate justice movements are problematic and comes to big coal’s aid with AETA? Things like pickets at office buildings, non-violent direct action and simple leaf-letting are obviously not off limits.

The overt targeting of above ground activists with “animal enterprise” threatens all social movements engaged in struggles for change. How long before we see “carbon enterprise” or “financial enterprise” as legitimate targets by the authorities? It’s time to stand up and fight back against the continued repression of activists engaged in First Amendment activities.

For more info on AETA and the government’s war on activists, check out Green is the New Red.

For AETA prisoner support info, check here.