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STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Freeing Mink not Terrorism; Corporate Contributions not Speech

Why aren’t the two parts of that headline a non sequitur?

Last week two animal rights activists, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff, were indicted as terrorists. Federal prosecutors claim they released 2000 mink from a fur farm. That act is defined as terrorism under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). Tyler and Kevin each face two counts. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If they are imprisoned as terrorists, they may be forced to serve their time in Communication Management Units under restrictive conditions that the Center for Constitutional Rights calls cruel and inhumane. They are also accused of the terrorist act of spray painting “Liberation is Love” on the walls of the farm.

How can freeing animals constitute terrorism? Lobbyists for the multi-billion dollar animal enterprise industry (defined as anything from fur farms to chicken factories to perfume companies) got Congress to pass a law defining protests that damage corporate property or hurt their profits as terrorism. President Bush signed it into law and Federal Courts have ruled that activists who damage property, even if those actions pose no threat to human life, can be convicted of terrorism.

I’ve had difficulty convincing left-wing friends to support targeted animal rights activists. One friend responded, aren’t they the people who think animals are more important than people? This echoes the belief of many progressive people that this is a relatively trivial pursuit compared to the terrible crimes against humanity carried out by the multi-national corporations and our government. But the corporate behavior the animal rights activists are fighting is part of the same culture that permeates the military industrial complex, the energy companies, the private prison corporations, and so on. These are the same foes we face every day. The rights that the corporations and their political flunkies seek to curtail belong to us all. The sensibilities these heroic young militants work to spread are the same values to which progressives aspire. They don’t think animals are more important than people; they attack corporations that place greater value on profits than either people or animals.

What do these indictments have to do with the Supreme Court’s decision declaring that corporate contributions to election campaigns are speech protected by the First Amendment? Corporations are striving for ascendancy on several fronts. On the one hand they wish to dominate public discourse by gaining all the protections guaranteed citizens under the constitution. On the other they seek to protect their primary purpose - making money - by demonizing as terrorists all who might turn public opinion against them and diminish their profits.

Evidently, the FBI had been investigating the mink release for a year, but chose to issue the indictments and arrest Tyler Lang in Los Angeles on the opening day of National Animal Rights Conference being held in that city. They are attempting to intimidate this movement just has they attacked the communists, anti-war, civil rights, anti-globalization, Occupy Wall Street, and other movements before them.

Divide and conquer is their age-old tactic. Let’s not help them out. We are in this together and we need each other’s support. For more information go to www.supportkevinandtyler.com  Read More 
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