Utah Bill Would Make Environmentalists Like Tim DeChristopher “Eco-Terrorists”

by Will Potter on February 6, 2009

in Terrorism Court Cases,Terrorism Legislation

Tim DeChristopher. Photo by Washington Post Newsweek Interactive

Tim DeChristopher. Photo by Washington Post Newsweek Interactive.

Yesterday’s article on the sentencing of Marie Mason to prison, as a terrorist, for 22 years has made quite a buzz. Nearly everywhere the piece has been posted (news sites, environmental sites, Digg, punk forums) there has been a slew of angry comments (by “green” folks, no less) supporting her sentence and condemning illegal activity.

The recurring message goes something like this: Marie Mason broke the law. She used arson and economic sabotage as political tactics. She’s an extremist. If you protest the right way, though, you don’t have anything to worry about. The government is only going after the radicals.

Here’s the deal folks: Marie Mason clearly broke the law, but corporations and politicians are targeting mainstream activists with the same tactics, and the same label.

A perfect example of this: A Utah lawmaker is promising to introduce new “eco-terrorism” legislation. His target? It’s not the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front, or some shadowy underground group. He’s openly, proudly targeting mainstream environmentalists.

He points to people like Tim DeChristopher, the University of Utah student who disrupted an oil and gas auction by bidding on parcels of land.

Noel [the legislator] said stopping a legal oil lease is no different than “burning down a man’s cattle operation — eco-terrorism.” DeChristopher “took millions of dollars away from us, and he’s laughing at us. It’s not right. It’s not fair.”

This isn’t an isolated example. When incendiary devices were left at the home of a California researcher, the government recklessly blamed it on animal rights activists. The Humane Society of the United States donated money to an “eco-terrorist” witch hunt in order to distance itself from any illegal activity. And you know what happened? It didn’t protect them from industry groups.

I never discuss tactics on this site or in my speaking events. I never talk about the efficacy or morality of direct action, sabotage, arson, or violence. And that’s for one reason: When it comes to the government and corporate campaign to label activists as terrorists, tactics don’t matter.

These people are hitting ELF activists, Greenpeace and Animal Planet with the same, sweeping label. It’s a coordinate campaign to instill fear and chill dissent, and it’s growing every day.

The only way the environmental and animal rights movements are going to make it through this is if mainstream groups stop blaming activists for their repression, stop repeating the government sound bites, and start fighting back.

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