Direct action tactics discussed at UF
In an era of Patriot Acts and restricted civil liberties, activism of any sort has become something of a tricky business. With the passage of the USA-Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), the government broadened its definition of terrorist activity to include the use of "a weapon or other dangerous device...to cause substantial damage to property," even if such use does not result in injury to any person. Civil liberties defenders worry that organizations using non-violent civil disobedience tactics, such as trespassing or damaging fences to enter an area in protest, could be deemed terrorist organizations under this new definition.
The Patriot Act also grants government agencies the power to gather information by wiretapping, reading email, tracking Internet activity, conducting secret searches, and checking everything from medical and library records to financial transactions. Animal rights and environmental activists worry that the same state paranoia that held back the civil rights movement (through spying, sabotage, and blackmail) will make it impossible for them to achieve their own goals. Activists also fear that the invective "terrorist," which is being used as indiscriminately as was "Communist" in the Fifties, will prove as troublesome.
Local activist organizations Animal Activists of Alachua and Environmental Action Group intend to address this problem by holding a forum to discuss the ethical and tactical aspects of Direct Action campaigns in eco-activism. The event, dubbed "Take Action!", takes place March 6th at 7 pm in the Rion Ballroom of the Reitz Union, at the University of Florida. Direct Action campaigns-which can range from property destruction and economic sabotage, to demonstrating at the homes of irresponsible CEO's, to tree-sitting-put activists directly in the line of fire and make animal exploiters and polluters personally accountable for their actions. To demystify Direct Action and eliminate the negative stereotypes associated with eco-activism, Take Action! brings guest speakers Rod Coronado and Kevin Jonas to explain and justify their own actions.
Rod Coronado is a mixed-blood Yaqui Native American who has devoted the last fifteen years of his life to protecting the earth and the animals. Coronado is a former member of both the Animal Liberation Front and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. With these groups, he was involved in releasing mink from fur farms, burning down laboratories, and sinking two whaling vessels. He served four years in prison for his actions, and now devotes the majority of his time to speaking about the ethics and spiritual aspects of Direct Action. He is currently reporting from the frontline campaign to stop Pacific Lumber from logging California's ancient forests.
Kevin Jonas is the United States coordinator of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). SHAC is an all volunteer, no-nonsense, grassroots organization dedicated to a full-time campaign to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences, one of the world's most notorious product testing labs. The lab has been exposed in 5 undercover investigations documenting horrendous animal cruelty, bad science, and outrageous worker conduct.
The campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences has broken new ground in the struggle for animal liberation. Instead of targeting just the lab itself, SHAC has gone after those affiliated with HLS, attacking the lab's necessary and crucial support structures, including investors, shareholders and market makers as well as smaller targets like janitorial supply, body disposal and insurance brokers.
For more information about Take Action!, please visit www.animalactivists.org.
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