Far-left web site Infoshop has an interview with Dan Berger in which Berger tries to rewrite a little history about an animal rights conference he organized in the late 1990s.
Berger hasn’t been involved in the animal rights movement for years, apparently moving on to general left wing causes, but in 1999 he was busy organizing the Total Liberation Conference originally scheduled to be held at Florida Atlantic University. Here’s how Berger tells the tale today,
My last hurrah with animal rights came in 1999, during my senior year of high school, when I organized a conference-the first conference I went to. It was called the Total Liberation Conference, and was an attempt to bridge animal, human, and environmental liberation movements. In retrospect, it was more an “other issues 101” kind of conference for animal rights and Earth First! activists. Nevertheless, it was something quiet, conservative Boca had never seen, and it scared them. The state came down on the conference pretty hard-the university where it was scheduled cancelled a day before the conference was slated to take place. Then the cops shut down our first back-up location, effectively canceling the first night by stopping, searching, threatening and otherwise harassing activists who came to the park. The only person physically threatened was the speaker from the American Indian Movement, one of the few people of color there, who Feds threatened to shoot, and then followed until he left town. (Thankfully, he still came back the next day to speak.) It was a very intense time for me, and quite an education in the politics of repression. It was also a good lesson in organizing; despite having speakers from AIM and MOVE, the conference was almost all white. How I reached out to people and who I reached out to was very limiting. Being criticized for creating such a white conference under the name “total liberation” was a challenging but utterly important process for me.
The state brought everything to stop an animal rights conference? Not quite.
The university cancelled because Berger’s group failed to come up with the $900 fee the university would need to provide security. Why so much? Was the university trying to stick it to the activists?
Hardly. Berger’s group didn’t bother to apply to use space for the conference until just a week before the conference was scheduled to begin. Normally the university would hire off-duty police officers for security at such events, but with the last minute notice it was unable to secure enough off-duty officers and so would have had to pay its own police officers their on-duty wages for the conference.
So the group then decided to moved to a pavilion at Patch Reef Park in Boca Raton, Florida. But the Friday night before that was to happen, police showed up at the door of one of the organizers to inform them that the meeting would not be allowed to take place. Police sticking it to the activists? Again, not quite — again, the group failed to pay the $35 rental fee for the pavilion and never bothered to obtain a permit for the meeting.
How did the organizers react to their own series of incompetence? According to the Palm Beach Post,
About a dozen people from a conglomeration of activist groups picketed the Boca Raton Police Department Monday morning, spelling out “P-I-G” and chanting slogans such as “End the police state now.”
Animal rights nutcases insulting police by calling them pigs! That is simply delicious.
According to the Palm Beach Post,
Dan Berger, an Animal Defense League activist and Spanish River
High School student, skipped school Monday to picket police headquarters.
Remember kids, stay in school. Don’t let this sort of thing happen to you.
Fur flies in Boca when city, FAU block protesters. Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post, February 22, 1999.