The Feds can’t imprison our spirits

Federal agents carried out raids in Oregon, Arizona, Virginia and New York Dec. 7 during which they arrested six activists on charges that they were involved in a number of arson attacks blamed on the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF). Daniel McGowan, Sarah Harvey, Chelsea Gerlach, Kevin Tubbs, Stanislas Meyerhoff and William Rodgers were arrested. The Catalyst Infoshop in Prescott, Arizona where Rodgers lived was thoroughly searched. The arrests were apparently part of a nine year federal investigation and it is possible that more arrests will be made. Most of those arrested are being charged with multiple felonies and could face life in prison if convicted.

Support groups for those arrested have asked the alternative media to be very careful about what we write regarding these cases. In an Orwellian twist on “innocent until proven guilty,” the government has been using media reports about the arrests to smear those arrested. We have every reason to assume that all those arrested are innocent of the crimes of which they are accused, and that they will eventually be found innocent and released.

We also have every reason to believe that people everywhere will continue to resist industries and institutions that destroy the earth. Finally, we have every reason to believe that the government will do everything it can to frighten the environmental movement by infiltrating our circles, recording our conversations, and framing-up innocent activists. We won’t be scared and we won’t stop our activism. Many of us know some of the folks who have been arrested and our hearts reach out to them through the prison bars. Stay strong.

Events have moved quickly since the arrests. On December 21, Rodgers, 40, allegedly committed suicide in his jail cell with a plastic bag. (See obituary, page 6.) His supposed suicide came on the heels of the release of an affidavit from a federal agent in mid-December. The affidavit revealed that a cooperating government witness (snitch), believed to be Jacob “jake the snake” Ferguson, had worked closely with the government. Ferguson allegedly taped numerous conversations with a number of the arrestees. Also in mid-December, arrestee Meyerhoff was reported to be cooperating with the police by accusing his co-defendants of involvement in some of the alleged crimes in order to save himself. There are unconfirmed reports that another one of the arrestees may also be cooperating with the police.

Currently McGowan, 31, Gerlach, 28, and Tubbs, 36, are being held in Oregon and are seeking support.

Court papers filed in connection with bail hearings included a 25 page affidavit from FBI special agent John L. Ferreira who has apparently worked on the investigation for years. The text of the affidavit is available and makes very interesting reading for those interested in FBI investigative practices.

The document describes a detailed, 3 day long debriefing by an un-named cooperating witness (CW), believed to be Ferguson, describing the CW’s involvement in a number of arsons claimed by the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. The document also describes how the CW wore a body recording device to secretly tape conversations with McGowan, Tubbs, Meyerhoff and Rodgers during numerous encounters over a one year period.

Gerlach’s public Defense attorney Craig Weinerman has attacked the credibility of the cooperating witness (Ferguson) since by his own admission he was involved in a number of the arsons, actually setting the fires in a number of instances. Photographs of a tattooed and pierced Ferguson show how he could pass easily through activist circles. The affidavit names a number of other individuals implicated by Ferguson who have not yet been arrested. Ferguson was reported addicted to heroin over the past several years. The arrestees are charged with involvement in a number of ALF/ELF actions (not all arrestees are charged in all of the following) : • A June 21, 1998, arson at the Animal and Plant and Health Inspection Services facility in Olympia, Washington. • An attack on a Bonneville Power Administration transmission tower near Bend, Oregon on December 31, 1999. • A January 2, 2001 fire at the Superior Lumber Co. in Glendale, Oregon • A May 21, 2001 fire at the Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Oregon. • A Dec. 27, 1998, fire at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Oregon. • A May 9, 1999 fire at the Childers Meat Co. plant in Eugene, Oregon. • A March 30, 2001, arson at Romania Chevrolet in Eugene which destroyed 35 vehicles.

In addition, media reports and court papers have indicated that the government seeks to charge some of the arrestees with involvement in an October, 1998 arson attack which did a reported $12 million in damage to a ski-resort in Vail, Colorado that threatened lynx habitat — one of the most destructive ALF/ELF actions.

Daniel, Chelsea and Kevin deny any involvement in any of these actions and so far it appears that there is no physical evidence connecting any of them to any crime. The arrests — and especially revelations about FBI informants and secretly recorded conversations — have spread fear in some activist communities, which may be precisely what the government wants. For many, the arrests underline the gravity of what we are struggling for and the lengths the government will go to protect corporate destruction of the earth. Any ALF/ELF actions against corporate property pale in comparison to the daily massive corporate attacks on the planet, its plants and animals, and ultimately its human inhabitants.

In the post 9-11 climate, it may be difficult for the arrestees to get a fair trial given sensational media coverage and government attempts to paint ALF/ELF actions as “terrorism.” In fact, no one was injured in any of the actions listed above. Despite the “property destruction only” nature of ALF/ELF tactics, John Lewis, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, told a Senate committee in 2004 that environmental and animal-rights activists are the nation’s top domestic-terrorism threat.

Support information:

Daniel, Chelsea and Kevin need our support! You can send them letters of encouragement and/or contact their support groups. If you send a letter, keep in mind that all mail is read by prison officials. Do not use any nicknames or include any incriminating information. (See more tips, below.)

• Kevin Tubbs: Kevin Tubbs #1213751, Lane County Jail, 101 W 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401; Write to PO BOX 3025, Eugene, OR 97403, supportkevintubbs.org, supportkevintubbs@gmail.com.

• Daniel McGowan, # 1407167, Lane County Jail, 101 West 5th Avenue, Eugene, OR 97401, FriendsOfDanielMcG@yahoo.com.

• Chelsea Gerlach #1308678, Lane County Jail, 101 W 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401, freechelseagerlach@hotmail.com

Tips for writing to prisoners:

* Use only black/blue ink or type on plain white paper

* Use a white envelope. Avoid: tape, stickers, or markings beyond addresses

* DON’T USE NICKNAMES

* Don’t discuss people’s pending cases.

* Even if you are a lawyer, don’t discuss legal information or offer legal advice.