[Ppnews] Victory for the AETA Four

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 16 11:55:29 EDT 2010


http://www.counterpunch.org/quigley07162010.html
July 16 - 18, 2010


Dissent Victory for Animal Rights Activists


The Case of the AETA Four

By BILL QUIGLEY and RACHEL MEEROPOL

Police reports state that on October 21, 2007 a 
group of about twenty people trespassed onto the 
front lawn of the home of a Berkeley professor 
involved in bio-medical research on animals. 
According to the US government, some of the 
protestors had bandanas covering the lower half 
of their faces and they made “a lot of noise, 
chanting animal rights slogans” like “1,2,3,4, 
open up the cage door; 5,6,7,8, smash the locks 
and liberate, 9,10,11,12, vivisectors go to hell.”

A year and a half later, four young activists 
were indicted in California federal court under 
the little known and rarely used “Animal 
Enterprise Terrorism Act” (AETA) for their 
alleged involvement in this and others pickets.

The federal criminal indictment charged Joseph 
Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and 
Adriana Stumpo (now the AETA 4) with one count of 
“animal enterprise terrorism,” and one count of 
conspiracy. They each face ten years in prison if convicted.

Strangely, the criminal indictment against them 
doesn’t actually say anything about their chants 
or leaflets, or what else they are supposed to 
have done to violate the law.

There is some good news here. On July 12, 2010 a 
federal judge threw out that indictment, 
explaining that is was so general and vague it 
failed to provide the defendants with notice of 
what criminal act they are accused of committing, 
a constitutional requirement.

In his order, Judge Ronald M. Whyte described the 
indictment as “quite generic.” For “an indictment 
to fulfill its constitutional purposes,” he 
explained, “it must allege facts that 
sufficiently inform each defendant of what it is 
he or she is alleged to have done that 
constitutes a crime. This is particularly 
important where the species of behavior in 
question spans a wide spectrum from criminal 
conduct to constitutionally protected political 
protest.” According to the judge’s ruling, the 
government can re-indict these activists if they 
make the charges much more specific.

AETA prosecutions are not your average criminal 
cases. Trespass, threats, harassment – these are 
all activities that violate state law and carry 
criminal penalties. And any violence by 
activists, of course, can also be punished under state law.

The animal rights and radical environmental 
movements aren’t violent against people. The 
alleged illegal action that has occurred within 
those groups has primarily been the type of 
time-honored non-violent civil disobedience 
Martin Luther King, Jr. made famous, although 
there has been some property destruction. If no 
one is hurt, how can the government prosecute 
these kinds of acts as terrorism? Simple. First 
reward rapacious corporate interests with an 
incredibly broad federal law that equates any 
action that hurts the bottom line of a 
corporation with “terrorism.” Then issue generic 
indictments calling picketers terrorists, without 
explaining what they actually did. That is what happened to the AETA4.

This governmental tactic can drive those few 
activists who actually commit serious illegal 
acts far underground, while terrifying the 
mainstream movements into silence.

The AETA4 ruling is a rare victory for animal 
rights and environmental activists, whose 
communities are under COINTELRO-style attack in 
what has come to be known as the “green scare.”

Recent victims of this kind of governmental 
prosecution include the “SHAC7,” activists who 
ran a website documenting both lawful and 
unlawful protest activities undertaken in the 
campaign against animal testing by Huntington Life Sciences.

The SHAC7 were convicted of “terrorism” under the 
precursor to the AETA, the Animal Enterprise 
Protection Act, (AEPA) despite the fact that none 
of them were accused, much less convicted, of 
doing anything other than commenting on others’ 
legal and illegal actions. Also threatened with 
jail time under the AEPA is Scott Demuth, a young 
activist who defied an Iowa grand jury subpoena 
and was promptly charged with animal enterprise 
terrorism. His indictment is so vague and 
far-reaching that it seems designed to hold him 
accountable for every act of property destruction 
attributed to animal rights activists over two 
years and across several states.

While animal rights and environmental activists 
are the main targets of these new laws equating 
protest with terrorism, the law could potentially 
be applied to anyone who protests anything, and 
does it effectively. The AETA defines an “animal 
enterprise” to include any business that deals in 
animal research or uses or sells animal products. 
You can be accused of violating the law by 
traveling across state lines (or using the 
internet) to purposefully cause economic damage 
(like lost profits) to an animal enterprise. That 
is why CCR and other activist organizations are challenging these laws.

Environmental and animal rights groups are 
organizing against this law and against the green 
scare in general. Activists from other movements 
need to join them. CCR is involved in several of 
these battles, and updates are always available 
on our website, at 
<http://www.ccrjustice.org/>www.ccrjustice.org or 
learn about the latest prosecutions by visiting 
the Civil Liberties Defense Center’s website, at 
<http://ww.cldc.org>ww.cldc.org. Attacks by 
government on our human and civil rights are 
always first directed at people on the margins 
who do not have widespread popular support. 
Animal and environmental activists are the ones 
under attack today. Unless we stand up and 
vigorously protect their rights to dissent, 
others, including us, will be certainly be next.

Bill Quigley and Rachel Meeropol are human rights 
attorneys at the Center for Constitutional 
Rights. You can reach Bill at 
<mailto:quigley77 at gmail.com>quigley77 at gmail.com 
and Rachel at <mailto:rachelmeeropol at yahoo.com>rachelmeeropol at yahoo.com




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