Just When You Think Animal Rights Activists Can’t Get Any Nuttier

Earlier I noted that the Grassroots Animal Rights Conference was very proud to feature nut case Ramona Africa as one of its speakers (see this article for more information. But they actually managed to top this by enlisting Ashanti Alston to deliver their keynote.

Who is Ashanti Alston? According to a press release sent out by GARC organizer Hillary Rettig (emphasis added),

Alston is a former member of the Black Panther Party and former political prisoner (Black Liberation Army) for over 14 years. Ashanti Alston was recently the Northeast regional coordinator for Critical Resistance, a national radical prison abolitionist organization and is now a member of its New York City chapter; Estacion Libre, an organization that works to strengthen ties between people of color in the US with folks in the liberated Zapatista territories of Chiapas Mexico; and Anarchist People of Color. He sits on the Board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies., and has been an invited guest teacher for the last two summers at the Institute of Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont.

Former political prisoner? Michael “Ashanti” Alston spent more than a decade in jail after being convicted of bank robbery.

Presumably to extremists like Rettig, this was just a direct action that happened at a bank, and just don’t bother to ask about the violent threats Alston and his fellow robbers made to bank officials to steal the money.

In addition, consider Alston’s work on prisons with Critical Resistance that Rettig summarizes. CR’s position is that prisons should be abolished. They oppose, for example, arresting and potentially incarcerating men who assault their wives or girlfriends. CR straight out lies in claiming that sexual assault rates have been unchanged despite increased law enforcement attention — in fact sexual assault rates have declined substantially over the last decade (this is not to say there not excesses, but CR would throw out the baby with the bathwater).

Critical Resistance is a lot like many animal rights groups in proposing a bizarre, completely unattainable political goal. And like many animal rights groups, it hasn’t quite figured out how to implement its abolitionist goal. For example, the following appears in a Critical Resistance statement available here,

While prison abolitionists have correctly pointed out that rapists and serial murderers comprise a small number of the prison population, we have not answered the question of how these cases should be addressed. The inability to answer the question is interpreted by many anti-violence activists as a lack of concern for the safety of women.

Hmmm…we want to abolish prisons now, but we don’t know what to do with the serial killers — but don’t hold that against us.

I’ve heard of preaching to the choir, but having a convicted bank robber and opponent of imprisoning violent criminals keynoting an animal rights conference is like the crazies preaching to the nuts.


Exciting GARC Updates! Ashanti Alston to present Thursday Keynote! Casey Neill Band to perform at opening-night reception! Press Release, Hillary Rettig, March 30, 2005.

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