Notorious “Eco-terrorist” Convicted of… More Non-violent Crimes

by Will Potter on August 9, 2006

in Government Priorities,Terrorism Court Cases

Mention the name Rod Coronado in the presence of fur farmers, animal research supporters, or law enforcement agents and blood will boil. He’s a “terrorist.” A “violent criminal.” A “national security threat.”

Coronado was just convicted yet again for illegal actions defending the environment. So what was this “eco-terrorist” up to this time? Conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, a felony, and two misdemeanor charges of destroying government property and of interfering with a U.S. Forest Service officer.

Those charges sound like heavy stuff, maybe even worthy of the T-word. But take a look at what he did: Coronado and another individual entered the Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area in March 2004 to disrupt the government’s killing of mountain lions. He allegedly busted snare traps, pulled up sensors, and spread mountain lion urine to confuse tracking dogs.

That’s it. Really. They’re not charged with anything else: no attempted suicide bombings, no firearms, no weapons of mass destruction, nothing. Interfering with a hunt would typically merit a ticket or a fine, but Coronado was sentenced to eight months in prison and three years supervised probation.

But wait! Rod really is a national security threat. He’s facing other charges as well… for possessing eagle feathers. (In case you were wondering if this environmental activist hunts endangered species in his other life, he’s of Pasqua Yaqui heritage). When that news broke, the Tucson Citizen proclaimed “Convicted ecoterrorist faces new charges.” He’s facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Coronado has a hell of a rap sheet, to be clear. He served five years in prison for an arson attack on research facilities at Michigan State University as part of the Animal Liberation Front’s “Operation Bite Back.” He also freed mink from nearby fur farms. No human or non-human animal was injured in any of his crimes.

On top of the charges I mentioned earlier, he’s facing 20 years under a little-used law prohibiting the distribution of information about assembling explosives. In February, Coronado gave a speech to activists in San Diego: afterwards, someone in the audience asked how he destroyed the laboratories. He grabbed a plastic juice bottle from a table and said he used a bottle like that one, filled with gasoline and attached to a timer, then went to the next question. It wasn’t exactly an “eco-terrorism” how-to session, but that’s what the feds are calling it.

Do you think Coronado would be feeling all this heat for civil disobedience and possessing eagle feathers if he didn’t have this “eco-terrorist” label? Doubtful. But corporations, right-wing politicians and groups like the Anti-Defamation League have ratcheted up the Green Scare tactics. The Anti-Defamation League calls Coronado an “eco-terrorist” and sends out press releases about his case: it may win them cheap political points with the Bush administration, but I don’t think even Coronado’s opponents would put him in the same camp as the Nazis the group claims to focus on.

For every hour and every dollar spent harassing activists like Coronado, and pursuing trumped-up charges, that’s an hour and a dollar that could be spent prosecuting real terrorists and violent criminals. This Green Scare is wasting valuable anti-terrorism resources to blatantly push a political agenda: and one that does nothing to protect national security or keep Americans safe.

And activists will undoubtedly have to think twice about engaging in any non-violent civil disobedience to protest government violence, because they too might get labeled “eco-terrorists.” Even if it’s just for pulling up sensors and spreading some lion pee. On the message board of The Arizona Daily Star, a few readers questioned the hefty sentence for non-violent crimes. “Don’t forget,” one reader responded, “these animal rights people are terrorists! He got off light.”

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