Activist Accused of “Advocating Literature and Materials Which Advocate Anarchy”

by Will Potter on June 17, 2009

in Terrorism Court Cases

anarchist_book_logoHugh Farrell and Gina “Tiga” Wertz have their first court date on July 14th: they’ve been charged with racketeering-–charges originally intended to target the mob–-for allegedly “conspiring” to engage in tree sits, participate in non-violent civil disobedience, and make an inflammatory blog post against the I-69 NAFTA superhighway.

When I reported on their arrest, though, I didn’t catch an interesting bit of information buried in the government’s motion for $20,000 cash bond. Mind you, these activists are not accused of any property destruction or violence, they’re accused of “conspiracy.” So how did the government attempt to justify the high cash bond?

According to Farrell’s motion for bond:

“The defendant has been observed advocating literature and materials which advocate anarchy, property destruction and violence, including ‘Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching’ or ‘Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook.'”

In many ways, this is nothing new: the demonization of anarchists has existed as long as the term itself. But this is dangerous territory for a few reasons:

  • It reflects more wasted resources on surveillance of First Amendment activity. Why was Farrell being “observed” by the law enforcement while allegedly “advocating literature” in the first place?
  • It is intended to punish people for their political beliefs. Even if it is true that Farrell was observed advocating literature and that the literature advocated “anarchy,” how does this to relate to whether or not he’ll show up for his court date (which is what bail is all about)?
  • Criminalizing books has no place in a democracy. Make no mistake, that’s what this is about: criminalizing dissent. The government isn’t burning the books, and it isn’t saying it is illegal to own them, but prosecutors are saying that if you *do* own them or “advocate” them it reflects negatively on your character.

    In that case, I’m guilty as well (and I’m sure I’m in good company with many of you). I own both of these books, and they are both available in countless bookstores and on “Ecodefense” was a pivotal book in the history of the environmental movement, and includes an introduction by Ed Abbey. “Recipes for Disaster,” published by CrimethInc., isn’t the “anarchist cookbook,” you might expect: It has sections on coalition building and mental health.

  • As with so many of the cases I write about on this site, this isn’t about threats to public safety, it isn’t about property destruction, it’s about demonizing people because of their political beliefs. Well, in this case, it’s not even about that: It’s about demonizing people because of their books.

    [The fact that prosecutors see these books as a threat is all the more reason to get yourself a copy or two. If you order them, please do so through the Amazon account, below, and support this site at the same time! ]

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