The far left publication Z Magazine is one of the few outlets, other than animal rights groups and publications, to come out in support of the seven Stop Huntingdon Animal Rights activists recently charged with stalking.
Z Magazine has for years featured a pro-animal rights area on its web site, and after the arrests of the SHAC activists, Potter posted an article that claimed,
FBI agents rounded up seven American political activists from across the country Wednesday morning, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey held a press conference trumpeting that “terrorists” were indicted.”
That’s right: “Terrorists.” The activists have been charged with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 1992, which at the time garnered little public attention except from the corporations who lobbied for it. Their crime, according to the indictment, is “conspiring” to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company that tests products on animals and has been exposed multiple times for violating animal welfare laws.
That’s interesting, except there is not Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The 1992 law that Potter refers to is the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, and makes a federal crime of the intentional physical disruption of an animal enterprise involving interstate travel. This is similar to dozens of other laws that make federal crimes out of any number of state crimes if interstate travel is involved.
Potter continues that,
To most, this [SHAC’s tactics] is effective — albeit controversial — organizing. According to the indictment, though, it’s “terrorism” because the activists aim to cause “physical disruption to the functioning of the HLS, an animal enterprise, and intentionally damage and cause the loss of property used by HLS.”
In fact, nowhere in the indictment are the individual activists or SHAC described as terrorists or their behavior as terrorism. In fact the only allusion to terrorism in the indictment is a couple mentions of the title of a document posted to the SHAC website called “Top 20 Terror Tactics” which included, according to the indictment,
demonstrations at oneÂ’s home using a loudspeaker;
abusive graffiti, posters and stickers on oneÂ’s car and house;
invading offices and, damaging property and stealing documents;
chaining gates shut, and blocking gates;
physical assault including spraying cleaning fluid into oneÂ’s eyes;
smashing the windows of oneÂ’s house while the individualÂ’s family was at home;
flooding oneÂ’s home while the individual was away; vandalizing oneÂ’s car;
firebombing oneÂ’s car;
threatening telephone calls and letters including threats to kill or injure oneÂ’s partner or children;
e-mail bombs in an attempt to crash computers;
sending continuous black faxes causing fax machines to burn out;
telephone blockades by repeated dialing to prevent the use of the telephone; and
arranging for an undertaker to call to collect oneÂ’s body.
Potter pretends that SHAC activities were run-of-the-mill protests,
The group uses home demonstrations, phone and email blockades, and plenty of smart-ass, aggressive rhetoric to pressure companies to cut ties with the lab.
First, phone blockades are explicitly illegal in the United States. SHAC is hardly the first group to be charged with this.
Second, email blockades are almost certainly illegal as well.
Third, SHAC also advocated and, according to the indictment, engaged in denial of service attacks against SHAC and its customers/affiliates. DOS attacks are also clearly illegal in the United States.
Certainly Potter is free to claim that SHAC’s recommendation of “physical assault including spraying cleaning fluid into oneÂ’s eyes” is not a direct inducement that would place a target of SHAC’s campaign in reasonable fear of bodily harm, but a jury might see things differently.
The strength of this case will likely boil down to what sort of information the U.S. Attorney’s office gained from their seizure of computers used by SHAC. The indictment is pretty clear in claiming that those indicted participated in a number of illegal acts which they then would claim in the name of some other group (such as the Animal Liberation Front), using encryption programs and similar tools to try to hide their direct involvement. If they can prove that in court, perhaps through evidence gleaned from the seized computers, then the feds have probably got a pretty strong case. If all they have is what we already know publicly about SHAC, then their case will be far weaker but still certainly winnable.
Animal Rights Arrests. Will Potter, Z Magazine, May 27, 2004.
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