Statement from Josh Harper of the SHAC 7

by Will Potter on July 14, 2008

in Terrorism Prisoners

Josh HarperJosh Harper wrote this letter to the attendees of the Let Live conference in Portland, OR. Harper is one of the SHAC 7, and is currently in prison on “animal enterprise terrorism” charges. I read this at the opening session of the conference.

Dear friends,
Let me just start by expressing how happy I am to be writing something for a conference in Portland. It is the city where I got my start as an animal rights activist back in nineteen-diggety-five. The Kaiser had stolen the word “ninety,” so we had to say “diggety” instead. Man, you young activists today have no idea how good you have it. Back in the 90s there were only about 10 vegans in all of Portland and we all hated each other.

Still, we couldn’t use the horse-drawn buggies at the time, so we had to ride on each others’ backs to protests. I remember carrying Craig Rosebraugh up Burnside in the snow to a McDonald’s demonstration, and when we finally got there he didn’t bother to feed or water me! Burnside was a lot steeper then, too. I couldn’t even complain; in solidarity with the cities horses, I had taken a vow of silence, so instead I just bit and kicked the crap out of him.

But, rapid aging aside, I truly do have incredible memories of my time in Portland. Some of them joyous and some of them sad. I hope that no one minds if I share one of the sad ones today. My apologies to those who’ve already heard it.

Shortly after I moved to Portland from Euguene. I got one of my many shitty jobs. This one was at a parking garage. My uniform included a forest green polo shirt with a huge golden “M” emblazoned on the chest. The shirt was made with an unholy blend of polyester, neoprene, and uranium. Which made me a bit of an outcast in the trendy northwest neighborhood where I’d found a cheap apartment above a boiler room. If it can be said that I didn’t fit in amongst the neighbors, than the same is even more true for another new resident I was just about to meet.

Construction in the hills above my building was displacing critters whose homes were falling beneath bulldozers and chainsaws. One of these creatures, a small deer mouse, took shelter in a rock wall next to the Plaid Pantry on 23rd and Glisan. When I first saw her, she was skinny and terrified. She would huddle as far back in the wall as possible. Only occasionally darting out to snatch a bite of bread I would leave for her.

As time went by, she got a little bolder though, until eventually her true personality as the world’s punkest mouse broke through. She started out taking seeds from birdfeeders and graduated to stealing the seed right out of the bags when yuppies came to fill the feeders. She never strayed too far from the wall. I could usually find her when I needed a reminder of the strength possessed by the smallest of us. She was my sister at arms, a fellow rebel in the fight against this joy-crushing society.

Sadly, not everyone in the neighborhood embraced her presence. One day when I was returning from the parking garage, I noticed a woman wearing fur, standing near the deer mouse’s wall. Since I’m a total conflict gypsy, I approached her to discuss the lives lost for her fashion choices. As I got close I overheard her saying how horrible it was to have “rats” living in such a nice neighborhood. I confronted her and said that my mouse friend was doing her no harm. In the ensuing argument, she spit on me and sped off. I trudged home with fur scum saliva drying on my shoulder and arm and forgot all about the incident until a few days later. On my way to work I saw that someone had left yellow rat poison pellets on the sidewalk near the wall. I scooped them all up and crossed my fingers that none of them had already been eaten. I worked a double shift that day and tried not to think about the grim possibility awaiting after I clocked out. But, as I returned home that evening, I soon saw that the worst case scenario had become reality. There was the deer mouse slowly crawling through the dirt and oil and grime of the Plaid Pantry parking lot.

I found a box in a garbage can and lifted my friend inside. I walked her down to Couch Park and placed her on the dirt beneath a tree. She was so light. Her fluffy coat made her look much bigger. And yet, in that tiny being there was a thirst for life I seldom see in the grey people shambling from home to work to home again. As she lay dying, she looked at me in the eyes, and I knew she was questioning me. Why? Why is my life being taken away when I love it so dearly? If we had shared the same language, I may have answered her—for avarice, for human arrogance and greed, and my species’ sick desire to control and destroy everything that reminds us of the wildness we’ve lost.

The light faded from her eyes, and I buried my poor deer mouse friend in the park. I have never been the same.

This conference will give you many opportunities—from learning new skills to making new contacts. But today you also have another opportunity, just as I did that night in the park. Right here and now, you have the opportunity to firmly turn your back on speciesism and dedicate your life to freeing countless billions from tyranny. You can choose to push yourself further in whatever forms your activism takes, whether that means getting past shyness in order to do outreach or getting past razor wire in order to do liberations. My greatest hope is that those of you hearing these words will make the choice to persevere in this struggle and actualize a world free from animal slavery, even if it takes the rest of your life and many more generations to get there. Our fellow animals deserve no less. Thank you for listening and for all that you do in support of our cause.

From 19-diggety-5 till death,

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