FEDS INDICT ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUP, SEVEN RADICALS AS DOMESTIC TERRORISTS FOR ATTACKS ON RESEARCHERS
By: Patti Strand Date: 04/7/2004 Category: | Animal Rights Extremism |
On May 27, 2004, following two years of intensive investigation, a New Jersey Grand Jury handed down indictments of a militant animal rights group and seven individuals for crimes against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a biological research company with offices in New Jersey and Great Britain.
The indictment charged that Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty conducted a systematic campaign that involved stalking, destruction of property, harassment, intimidation, threats, incitement, and other actions aimed at destroying the company, its clients and its business partners in violation of a federal law that protects animal enterprises. According to the indictment, this conspiracy was furthered on the SHAC website where a list of Top 20 Terror Tactics was used to provoke direct action against the company; the names and contact information of company and client employees were presented as targets of the campaign; and reports of such actions were announced before and after the fact.
The tactics included loud demonstrations at individuals' homes; abusive graffiti on cars and homes; property damage and theft of documents; physical assault such as spraying cleaning fluid into a victim's eyes; vandalism and firebombing of cars; threatening communications; bomb hoaxes; and smashing windows.
SHAC was founded in England in 1999 to wreak havoc on Huntingdon; its violent tactics reached their nadir in 2001 when thugs attacked Huntingdon director Brian Cass and beat him with a baseball bat and sprayed cleaning fluid in the eyes of another company executive.
By that time, the war against Huntingdon had been going on for several years. In 1996, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals opened the US hostilities against the company by implanting a spy among the animal caretakers in the laboratory. For eight months, Michelle Rokke secretly videotaped scientists and technicians and photographed and stole documents. She gave the tapes and papers to PeTA to be distilled into short segments and sent to Huntingdon clients and the media in a crusade clearly calculated to destroy the company.
Huntingdon sued PeTA and reached an out-of-court settlement that required the animal rights group to return documents and to stay away from the company. In 2001, Rodney Coronado, a convicted arsonist with ties to PeTA, co-founded SHAC's US branch.
No stranger to the war on scientific research, Coronado admitted guilt for the 1992 firebombing and vandalism of a laboratory at Michigan State University and served nearly five years in jail. The sentencing memorandum prepared by the prosecution in that case included detailed evidence that PeTA knew of Coronado's crime in advance, received documents stolen from the laboratory, and issued the ALF press release claiming 'credit' for the attack. The memorandum further revealed that Coronado and PeTA co-founder Alex Pacheco had planned a raid on Tulane University to steal monkeys being housed there. Tax records show that PeTA gave more than $45,000 to Coronado's support committee after his arrest.
Today Coronado demonstrates bomb-making skills at animal rights meetings, some of them co-sponsored by SHAC. Even though appearances by Coronado are often accompanied by an arson attack on a business that has earned the wrath of radicals merely by existing, PeTA's Ingrid Newkirk, has called him "a nice young man."
SHAC's connections with PeTA are not limited to Ingrid's admiration for Coronado. The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, a PeTA affiliate, partnered with SHAC in a series of letters to Huntingdon clients in 2001, and in 2002, Newkirk told the Boston Herald, "More power to SHAC if they can get someone's attention."
The connection between SHAC and PCRM has been solidified. According to the website www.insidehls.com, the SHAC site targeting Huntingdon, its clients, and its service providers, "SHAC has teamed up with two doctor/researcher organizations who oppose animal research based on the belief that it is harmful to humans. These groups are Americans For Medical Advancement (AFMA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)."
The SHAC seven
The seven individuals charged in the five-count indictment are: Kevin Kjonaas, 26, identified as president of SHAC-USA; Lauren Gazzola, 25, campaign director of SHAC-USA; Joshua Harper, 29; Jacob Conroy, 28; Andrew Stepanian, 24, Darius Fullmer, 27; and John McGee, 25.
The case against SHAC and its seven apologists is part of a massive web of entanglements featuring a host of nefarious characters. Not only are Kjonaas, Harper, Stepanian, and Fullmer quite familiar with the legal system, they are intricately connected with organizations that skirt or violate the law or support those who do so.
Kevin Kjonaas uses several aliases, including Kevin Jonas, Steve Shore, and Jim Fareer, according to the court papers. While Kjonaas claims to remain on the right side of the law, he makes no apologies for his support of illegal activities or his admiration for those who commit them. In an attempt to legitimize the use of violence as a tactic to eliminate animal use, Kjonaas told participants at the Animal Rights 2002 convention that "Today's terrorist is tomorrow's freedom fighter."
Later that year, he expounded on his politics at a SHAC rally in East Millstone, New Jersey: "We're a new breed of activism. We're not your parents' Humane Society. We're not Friends of Animals. We're not EarthSave. We're not Greenpeace. We come with a new philosophy. We hold the radical line. We will not compromise! We will not apologize, and we will not relent! ... Vivisection is not an abstract concept. It's a deed, done by individuals, who have weaknesses, who have breaking points, and who have home addresses!"
Those addresses and the addresses of their colleagues, clients, and families are periodically posted on the SHAC website with the obvious implication that these people are fair game until they quit doing business with Huntingdon.
Seattle resident Joshua Harper joined Coronado as a beneficiary of PeTA's largesse. Harper followed in the footsteps of PeTA co-founder Alex Pacheco and Coronado when he served on the crew of Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd. Financed by the late Cleveland Amory, the ship was used to ram whaling ships and fishing boats and to further Watson's reputation as an outlaw.
In July 2002, Watson told participants at the Animal Rights Convention: "If you do not intend to kill anybody, if you make every effort to not kill and injure anybody, that's all you really can do. You can't stop somebody from walking into a situation, and we really can't be too overly preoccupied with this."
In 2000, Harper and fellow-indictee Jacob Conroy were arrested for attacks on members of the Makah tribe as these Native Americans conducted a legal whale hunt. The two men were accused of throwing smoke bombs, spraying chemical fire extinguishers into the faces of the whalers, shooting flares over the bow of the canoe, and threatening the lives of the whaling crew.
"We did it for the whales," Harper said when he was arrested.
Harper has been arrested several other times in connection with out-of-control demonstrations and was called to testify before a federal grand jury for his knowledge of the Animal Liberation Front in February 2001. That year, Harper said that he sees "a spark of hope in every broken window, every torched police car" and PeTA donated $5000 to the Josh Harper Support Fund.
Darius Fullmer, co-founder of the radical Animal Defense League-New Jersey, shares the ALF anarchist philosophy with Harper, Kjonaas, and others who commit crimes against animal enterprises. In an interview on the ALF website, Fullmer explained his anarchist philosophy:
"I value life over property. If I can save a life by destroying physical property, I will gladly do so. People do not have the right to torture, enslave, mutilate, or murder living creatures. If they are doing so, I am going to use whatever means I deem is necessary to put an end to it. If their property is a tool of this oppression, they have no right to it.
"There are no better educational opportunities than ALF actions - they generate more public interest and media than any protest or media event ever could," Fullmer told the interviewer. "The only failing point may be above ground groups' inability to take advantage of the situation. I would also remind them that you can protest, write letters, get petitions signed until you are blue in the face, but if a fur store is nothing more than a pile of ashes, they are not going to be selling any more fur, and that's the bottom line."
Andrew Stepanian has been arrested several times. He served three month's jail time in 2001 for smashing the windows of a fur store, and six months the following year for obstructing justice and resisting arrest. While sitting in jail in March 2002, he reiterated his commitment to the use of direct action against animal interests and encouraged others to disrupt and damage animal interests.
"I would encourage everyone to step up their involvement two times. If you only feel comfortable writing letters, then attend a protest or rally, if you only feel comfortable attending demonstrations then take to the night and commit an act of non-violent economic sabotage or liberate an animal from torture."
In his earlier stint behind bars, Stepanian received support from his buddies at ALF:
"In the early morning hours of March 2nd, we planted two incendiary devices underneath two trucks belonging to The Schaller and Weber Meat Packing Plant in Astoria, Queens. The incendiary devices did an unknown amount of damage to the trucks, although it was evident that the trucks caught fire.
"Until the institutional abuse of animals is put to an end we will continue to destroy the property used to exploit innocent life.
"This action was carried out in support of Andrew Stepanian, and Frank Ambrose, both dedicated members of our strong above-ground support groups. The unjust treatment of these activists will never intimidate us into stopping our activities."
First Amendment Rights?
Whenever they are prevented from demonstrating, arrested for offenses that often follow their mass protests, or charged with theft, arson, stalking, harassment, or other crimes, animal rights activists scream that they were merely exercising their right to free speech. The SHAC crew is no different; a spokesman for the organization told the San Francisco Chronicle that the indictments are "completely unfounded" and that the arrests are "a classic First Amendment case."
According to New Jersey lawyer Andrew Erba, "This case is about First Amendment practices in the 21st century, the use of modern technology, the freedom to use Web sites to speak for any cause." Erba told the New Jersy Star-Ledger that he expected to represent Kjonaas.
Kjonaas, Conroy, and Gazzola were arrested in California and made their first appearance in federal court in Oakland. After the court hearing, the three said that they would defend their actions as free speech rights. The judge admonished the three against committing violence or harassment such as placing the names and identifying information about individuals on their website.
Not content with the claim that the arrests for vandalism, harassment, stalking, and other crimes are constitutional violations, the dissidents also allege that the federal government is falsely using the Patriot Act to quell their campaign against animal-based research.
"This case is going to the free speech trial of the century - and we are going to do our best to use it slam HLS, vivisection, the constitutionality of the AETA, and show the 'true grit' of grassroots activists," Kjonaas said in an e-mail to supporters. (The AETA is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.)
Business As Usual?
SHAC-USA spokesman Andrea Lindsay said that Kjonaas, Conroy, and Gazzola "definitely find the indictment outrageous and they're ready to return to business as usual."
"Activists will not stray from our course of shutting down Huntingdon Life Science," Lindsay said. "Huntingdon Life Sciences has a false sense of security if it thinks these indictments will end the unrelenting protest activity against it."
Harper, Stepanian, Kjonaas, and SHAC were all participants in the Total Liberation Tour, an effort to bring their message of direct action to several US cities in July.
The SHAC website listed more than 20 actions against HLS clients since the indictment, including vandalism, threats that an executives vacation would be ruined, and noise attacks by megaphones and alarms in employees' neighborhoods.
SHAC and Kjonaas planned to raise money to support their defense through the Total Liberation Tour, a road show preaching revolution to the sound of music. The tour included bands and speeches about overthrowing "Babylon."
Organizers were disappointed in the July events; they drew the attention of police and FBI but their crowds were sparse and they lost about $10,000 instead of raising money for defense of the SHAC 7. However, in spite of this failure, organizers plan to carry on. According to the Total Liberation website, "Clearly, our potency and our threat as freedom fighters does not have it's roots in a shared single-issue ideology or lifestyle. It has nothing at all to do with what sub-culture we may be a part of. What SHOULD bind us to one another and give us strength, is the only worthwhile culture alive in Europe or Amerikkka today, the culture of REVOLUTION."
"REVOLUTION" is a link to a call to arms and information about fitness and firearms training.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |