Robert Meeropol

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You can’t sue an idea, or can you?

December 29, 2017

Tags: Rachel Meeropol, Center of Constitutional Rights, Judi Bari, Slap suits

My younger daughter, Rachel, who works as a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York City, has taken on a new case. She is defending the environmental magazine, Earth First! Journal, against claims of racketeering made by two part-owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The extractionists’ attorneys, Kasowitz, Benson, & Torres, who happen to be Trump’s law firm, claim that Earth First! funded a violent terrorist presence at the Standing Rock protests with $500,000 and the proceeds from drug sales, and is conspiring with Greenpeace and other environmental groups to deceive the public about the environmental risks of pipelines.

Trump’s firm admits that Earth First! is a set of ideas with no members or formal leadership, but they still attempted to serve their complaint to Earth First! Journal, a quarterly magazine operated on a shoestring by a small rotating collective. The journal’s current editor, Ryan Hartman said, “We got this 187-page legal document in the mail that didn’t even mention the Journal. Our philosophy is based on biocentrism, direct action, and not compromising with Earth-destroying corporations when fighting for the environment. It is an idea that for over 35 years has been followed and held dear by individuals and groups all over the world. You can’t sue an idea.”

Needless to say, Earth First! Journal never had $500,000 or engaged in on-site drug sales at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps.

This lawsuit is part of a campaign of corporate harassment designed to intimidate protesters and characterize activism (environmental, animal rights, and Black Lives Matter) as terrorism. The good news is that the activists are not frightened. The CCR is counter-attacking by asking the court to dismiss the complaint, and requesting it sanction Trump’s firm for wasting the court’s time with frivolous claims.

Earth First! is familiar with such corporate “slap” suits that are designed to silence and impoverish those who take on corporate bad-actors. I first learned about slap suits in 1992 when I attended a conference at the Highlander Center initiated by Judi Bari, the late Earth First! and IWW leader. Bari and her partner Darryl Cherney had organized the Redwood Summer Campaign to protect some of the last remaining stands of old growth Redwoods in Northern California. I attended the conference at Highlander to learn about the emerging threat of corporate harassment, hear the stories of other targeted activists, and introduce those who had children to the benefits the RFC could provide for their children. Judi laughed off the slap suits. “I’ve got no money,” she said, “I ignore the suits.” But the corporations also fostered violent attacks on those who stood in their way, and that was no laughing matter.

Judi paid a high price for her activism. She was permanently disabled when right-wing terrorists exploded a bomb in her car. The FBI charged her with the bombing. Judi fought back, ultimately winning a suit against the FBI for false arrest and imprisonment. Unfortunately, she died of breast cancer, so her estate won this final victory. Judi’s two children were Rosenberg Fund for Children beneficiaries. We funded music lessons throughout their childhood and made a special grant after Judi’s death to help with their college education.

Over 25 years later, the sophistication, breathe and violence employed by corporations to protect their profits poses a global menace to people and the productive capacity of our planet. Some of the worst fears of those who gathered at the Highlander Center a quarter-century ago have been realized. However, the spark ignited by Judi Bari, and others like her, has been passed on to another generation. The movement these activist defendants embody is much larger and even more determined. Trumps’ attorneys, and his minions, will not silence them.

Selected Works

"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
"one of those rare books everyone should read"
–Joyce Carol Oates

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