[Ppnews] Harassed, infiltrated and spied on by the FBI and police

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 8 08:43:18 EST 2006


Mail Tribune

EUGENE - Environmental groups are being harassed, infiltrated and 
spied on by the FBI and police as never before, activist attorney 
Lauren Regan claimed Saturday during the Public Interest 
Environmental Law Conference here.

A member of a panel discussing government use of the U.S. Patriot 
Act, Regan urged activists to be cautious in their homes, at work and 
in legal actions such as civil disobedience.

"Everyone who is an activist is a target," she stressed.

But Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center 
in Eugene, equally stressed the importance of legal environmental activism.

"The resistance movement has always been an integral part of our 
democracy," she said, adding that activists must constantly speak out 
against what she believes are heavy-handed and illegal government tactics.

"Be very vocal," she said. "Shedding light on it is a great way to 
put an end to it."

The panel discussion was one of 120 events at the 24th annual
conference, which draws activists from throughout the West to the 
University of Oregon. The three-day conference, which concludes 
today, covered everything from lessons learned at the 2002 Biscuit 
fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to toxic-site cleanups.

But the arrests of more than a dozen activists on arson and 
conspiracy charges in the last three months, including two from 
Jackson County, appeared to be on many participants' minds.

Regan said the federal government imposes excessive charges, bail 
andmjail time to intimidate all activists.

Yet Michael Fortier, one of the domestic terrorists linked to the 
April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing that killed nearly 150 people, 
was released last month, she said.

Regan claimed grand juries now routinely go on "witch hunts and 
fishing expeditions." She said the mainstream media is vilifying 
those arrested by portraying charges as convictions.

As a result, groups are being fractured and distrust is building, she said.

Federal prosecutors say the 13 people arrested since December have 
been linked to Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front 
arsons that caused $27.8 million in damage over several Western states.

Conference panelist Hope Marston, regional organizer for the Bill of 
Rights Defense Committee, agreed the environmental movement has been 
hurt by the Bush administration's actions.

However, she noted that eight states, including California, have 
passed laws against the Patriot Act.

She urged individuals and groups to continue to stand up to what she 
labeled as abuses of the U.S. Constitution.

"They can't arrest us all," she said, calling civil disobedience a 
"time-honored tradition."

Panelist Kirk James Murphy, a psychiatrist from San Francisco, 
suggested that the federal government may not be as powerful as some fear.

"We're talking about a federal government that couldn't find 18 feet 
of flood water for five days," he said of Hurricane Katrina striking 
New Orleans.

"Maybe they aren't as powerful as we think," he said, prompting a 
rare moment of levity.

Outside the meeting rooms, participants talked about the state of 
environmental activism.

"It has the feel in many ways like the difficult times of the '60s 
and the Vietnam War era," observed Chip Dennerlein, new director of 
the Siskiyou Regional Education Project in the Illinois Valley.

"It's a very dangerous trend," he added. "It's chilling and it is 
meant to be chilling."

However, like Regan, he noted that legal activism is vital to 
protecting today's environment.

"The stakes are higher today," he said. "There is a lot of
disinformation out there. But when there is more light put on an 
issue, we almost always do better."

Illinois Valley activist Romain Cooper is worried about government 
secrecy increasing.

"In a democracy, our government should be as transparent as 
possible," he said. "Obviously, there are some places where secrecy 
is needed in terms of defense. But, by and large, we really should be 
able to see and evaluate what our government is doing."

The federal government appears to be cloaked in secrecy more and more, he said.

"Because of that, it's hard to know what they are up to, why they are 
doing it and why it's in the public interest," he said.

Ashland resident Julie Norman, who has worked on environmental issues 
in Jackson and Josephine counties for more than a quarter of a 
century, said the result is reducing environmental safeguards.

"It's a very sad thing when the executive branch is dismantling the 
laws that have helped bring us to some conclusions about progressive 
land management," she said. "To see those things dismantled is very tragic."

Not only are groups and individuals threatened, but laws protecting 
th environment are also on the line, Dennerlein interjected.

"It's almost disorienting to think it was Richard Nixon's 
administration under which the EPA happened," he said of the 
Environmental Protection Agency.

The point, he said, is that many Republicans like Nixon supported 
strong environmental laws.

"All those things are at risk right now," Norman agreed.

Applegate resident Chant Thomas, a longtime activist who has attended 
all but two of the annual conferences, also likened today's 
atmosphere to the Vietnam War protest days.

"The antiwar movement was tremendously infiltrated by the FBI," 
recalled Thomas, who was reared in Washington, D.C.

"Unfortunately, there always has been and probably always will be 
surveillance of every organization that is on the fringes of the 
mainstream," he said. "If you are out there far enough, you are going 
to be watched."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at
<mailto:pfattig at mailtribune.com>pfattig at mailtribune.com

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