San Diego, CA — This morning in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Joseph Buddenberg was sentenced to two years in federal prison for Conspiracy to Violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The sentencing follows his signing a non-cooperating plea agreement in which he plead guilty to conspiring to free thousands of animals from fur farms throughout the U.S. and to cause damage to businesses associated with the fur industry.…
[BOSTON, MA] Yesterday members of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and their supporters packed a Boston, MA courtroom, as Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol demanded the First Circuit Court of Appeals strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as a violation of the First Amendment.
The AETA is a federal criminal statute ushered through Congress in 2006 by powerful lobbyists for the fur, pharmaceutical, and meat industries. It criminalizes a broad swath of free speech activities and has cast a chill over the animal rights community. CCR filed the first civil challenge to AETA, Blum v. Holder, in support of five animal rights activists who have censored themselves and limited their lawful advocacy out of fear that their work could subject them to prosecution as terrorists.
Want to fight the silencing of a movement? Do it directly by listening to and amplifying the voices of these activists. Please watch, share, and tweet (using #AETAspeakout) this new, two-minute video by CCR, featuring the plaintiffs in Blum v. Holder. Also check out Rachel Meeropol’s accompanying blog on the Huffington Post.
The plaintiffs are animal rights activists from across the country who are chilled from continuing their lawful and important advocacy work based on the broad reach of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act…
lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she runs a small business with her husband. In 2003, Sarahjane co-founded GourmetCruelty.com, a grassroots coalition dedicated to exposing the abuse of ducks and geese raised for foie gras. The following year, the group released a short film, Delicacy of Despair, Behind the Closed Doors of the Foie Gras Industry, documenting their investigation of deplorable conditions on foie gras farms, and featuring the “open rescue” of a number of ducks. Sarahjane would like to continue her anti-foie gras work in Minnesota, which has become a significant foie gras producer, without breaking the law. But she is limited in her ability to do so, as the AETA criminalizes campaigns like hers that could cause a foie gras farm to lose profit, or hire extra security.
lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is completing a PhD at MIT. Ryan’s research focuses on disputes over animals and national security. In particular, his work explores the use of the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to marginalize animal protectionists as threats to American security from the late nineteenth century to the present. A longtime grassroots animal rights activist, Ryan co-founded GourmetCruelty.com with Sarahjane, and has focused much of his activism on factory farming issues. Ryan’s work, along with that of Sarahjane and the rest of the coalition, was instrumental in the 2004 passage of a California State law banning all foie gras production within the State. Ryan holds a degree in film and used these skills to direct Delicacy of Despair. Ryan wishes to further utilize his expertise to document and expose animal exploitation and abuse on factory farms. He is chilled from engaging in this important work, however, because documenting and distributing evidence of animal exploitation and abuse risks prosecution as a terrorist under the AETA. Read Ryan’s recent piece, Is Freeing a Duck Terrorism? on Truthout.
lives in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a licensed psychotherapist, and has been seeing patients in private practice for over 20 years. After adopting a rescued rabbit, Lana became interested in rabbit care and advocacy issues, eventually co-founding RabbitWise, a public charity devoted to preventing the irresponsible acquisition and care of companion rabbits, improving retention rates of rabbits already living in homes, educating people who live with or treat rabbits to give them the best possible care, and advocating for the broader welfare of rabbits in general. Lana used to supplement her rabbit advocacy by organizing and attending lawful, peaceful anti-fur protests in DC, but she is now afraid to attend such protests out of fear that even a lawful protest, which causes a fur store to lose money, would violate the AETA and risk prosecution as a terrorist.
lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she works in the communications department of a non-profit legal organization. Lauren served almost three and a half years in federal prison after being convicted, along with five others, under a prior version of the AETA – The Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992. Lauren’s arrest and prosecution arose from her leadership role in Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a grassroots campaign devoted to exposing and ending horrific animal abuse at Huntingdon Life Sciences, a corporation made infamous after undercover investigators disclosed footage of researchers dissecting a conscious monkey, repeatedly punching beagle puppies in the face, and other abuse. Lauren and the other SHAC defendants were not prosecuted for personally damaging Huntingdon property but, rather, for running a website that reported on and endorsed legal and illegal protests that caused the company to lose money. Now that she is out of prison, Lauren would like to engage in lawful animal rights work, but she cannot tell what is protected by the First Amendment and what is not, due to the broad reach and vague language of the AETA.
also lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is an undergraduate at The New School. J moved to New York recently, from his native Chicago, where he spent close to a decade organizing protests and educating the public as a leader in the Chicago-area SHAC campaign. He left Chicago due in large part to the erosion there of long standing animal rights networks and his resulting inability to effectively organize demonstrations. Upon arriving in New York, he hoped to connect with others involved in sustainable and strategic animal rights campaigns, but has had trouble finding advocates to work with, due to a chill throughout the animal rights community as whole, based on the targeting of that community as would-be terrorists under the AETA.
The AETA criminalizes a broad swath of protected First Amendment activities and is so vague as to fail to give people notice of whether or not their conduct falls under the statute’s prohibitions.
In 2011, CCR filed the first civil challenge to the law. The case was dismissed on standing by the District Court in 2012, and CCR has since filed an appeal to the First Circuit. To learn more about the CCR’s legal challenge to the AETA please visit » http://ccrjustice.org/AETA
Suffolk Law School, Harvard Law School, and New England School of Law present a panel discussion of how the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is undermining our rights.
Featuring: Odette Wilkens, Esq. (Executive Director of the Equal Justice Alliance), Ryan Shapiro (Animal rights activist & doctoral candidate at MIT), Andy Stepanian (Ex-SHAC 7 political prisoner & cofounder of The Sparrow Project), David Nathanson, Esq. (Partner in the Boston law firm of Wood & Nathanson, LLP), Will Potter (Award-winning independent journalist & author of Green Is the New Red)
Odette Wilkens is Executive Director of the Equal Justice Alliance, whose mission is to repeal the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. She is a member of the Committee of Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals of the New York City Bar Association. That Committee issued a Comment opposing the Act before its passage, and after its passage, issued a letter, along with the Civil Rights Committee, to President Obama’s Administration and Congress calling for the repeal of the Act. Project Censored honored her with an award in 2007 for co-authoring an editorial published in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law: “The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is Invidiously Detrimental to the Animal Rights Movement (and Unconstitutional as Well).” Under her guidance, the Equal Justice Alliance succeeded in persuading the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis & Clark Law School to focus their moot court competition on the AETA. That competition took place at Harvard Law School in February 2008, where Odette was a moot court judge. She has spoken at numerous law schools, bar associations, and legal conferences on the Act’s implications for civil liberties. Odette is also a corporate and transactional attorney focusing on information technology, and has spoken on corporate records retention policies. She was Assistant General Counsel for a major international recruiting firm after working as associate counsel at a leading technology law firm, Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner. Before becoming an attorney, Odette negotiated film license agreements, and was Assistant Corporate Secretary, for HBO. She also has an MBA in Finance from the Stern Graduate School of Business at New York University, and is a graduate of Barnard College, affiliated with Columbia University.
David Nathanson is a partner in the Boston law firm of Wood & Nathanson, LLP. Previously, he was a staff attorney in the private counsel division of the Criminal Appeals Unit at the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). From 1997 to 2001, David was a sole practitioner focusing on criminal appeals and pro bono trial representation of protestors. He joined CPCS in 2001. He returned to private practice in January 2008 as a partner with Attorney Chauncey Wood. David’s most widely known case is [Smith v. Massachusetts, 543 U.S. 462 (2005)], holding that a granted motion for a required finding of not guilty at the close of the Commonwealth’s case may not be later reconsidered. He was also among a group of seven lawyers who successfully defended animal rights activists in Massachusetts state court against extortion charges stemming from their campaign to shame investors into divesting from a notorious animal experimentation laboratory. He has frequently presented trainings on criminal appellate matters for CPCS and for the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. David is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Law at Newark, and was a member of the Rutgers Animal Law Clinic while in law school.
Andy Stepanian is an ex-SHAC7 political prisoner and currently the co-founder of The Sparrow Project, a grassroots PR outfit that aims to braid popular culture, the arts, and revolutionary activism. In 2002, the Financial Times characterized SHAC as “succeeding where Karl Marx, the Baader-Meinhof gang, and the Red Brigades failed.” Their actions drew the attention of Wall Street and the FBI, resulting in a politically charged landmark free speech case called the SHAC 7 trial, where Andy and 5 others were charged and convicted as terrorists for their activism. Sentenced to 3 years in prison, Andy spent his last 6.5 months in a secretive federal prison program that NPR would later name ‘Guantanamo North’.
Ryan Shapiro is a longtime animal rights activist and now a doctoral candidate in the Department of Science, Technology, & Society at MIT. His research explores the use of the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to marginalize animal protectionists as threats to the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present. As part of this work, Ryan has nearly five hundred Freedom of Information Act requests in motion with the FBI. He is also currently a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Will Potter is an award-winning independent journalist based in Washington, D.C., who focuses on “eco-terrorism,” the animal rights and environmental movements, and civil liberties post-9/11. His work has appeared in publications including the Chicago Tribune, the Huffington Post, and the Vermont Law Review, and he has testified before the U.S. Congress about his reporting. Will frequently lectures about efforts to roll back civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. Speaking engagements have included the New York City Bar Association, Yale Law School, and the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin. Media appearances have included the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, and Democracy Now. His book, Green Is The New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege was recently published by City Lights Books. It has been featured by NPR, The Rumpus, and Publisher’s Weekly. Kirkus Book Reviews awarded it a Kirkus Star for “remarkable merit” and named it one of the best books of 2011.
In the past few weeks the prosecution and incarceration of activists, direct-actionists and philanthropists as terrorists has seen a resurgence in media attention. It’s never too little or too late…
Last week The Wall Street Journal took a critical look at the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) citing that the law was both irresponsible and redundant in the way it prosecutes activists as terrorists for combined legal and illegal actions, noting that the illegal actions prosecuted under the act (liberating animals, destroying property, etc) are already crimes under state and federal law. You can read a non-subscription version of the article HERE.
The Paris-based Arte Television and CAPA Presse TV aired the segment ‘Qui sont les éco-terroristes?‘ (who are the ecoterrorists?) as part of their Global Magazine series, broadcasted across France, Germany, and Switzerland. The segment highlighted the case against the SHAC7 and Operation Backfire defendant Daniel McGowan and featured interviews with Green is the New Red author Will Potter, Jenny Synan, Andy Stepanian of the Sparrow Media Project and Alexi Agathocleous of the Center for Constitutional Rights. The segment took a critical view of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, FBI scaremongering, and highlighted animal industries influence on designer legislation like the AETA. The segment also drew attention to Stepanian’s and McGowan’s incarceration within Federal Communication Management Units (CMUs) and showed McGowan’s “Notice of Transfer” as well as an elaborate computer generated model of the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, IL where the CMU is located. You can view the segment below.
The stories surrounding CMU programs in Marion Illinois, and Terre Haute Indiana were revisited by NPR’s Justice Department correspondents who noted that the transfer of 5 high-profile inmates to the unit further called into question the constitutionality of the CMU and it’s overwhelming Muslim population.
Will Potter also revisited the issue of CMUs in a look at the now defunct Lexington High Security Unit. Highlighted in Potter’s book Green is the New Red the Lexington High Security Unit was a federal political prison program strikingly similar to the that of the CMU and the lesser known ADMAX Unit at The Federal Medical Center at Carswell, TX. Potter writes —
“The government has reason to be secretive about this program [Communications Management Units], because similar experiments have not been well received by civil rights and human rights organizations. The Bureau of Prisons has a history of operating pilot programs outside the confines of the Constitution.
For example, the High Security Unit in the federal women’s prison in Lexington, Kentucky, was created in the 1980s to house political prisoners belonging to an organization that, according to the Bureau of Prisons, “attempts to disrupt or overthrow the government of the U.S.” The Lexington HSU existed below ground, in total isolation from the outside world and with radically restricted prisoner communications and visitations. The women were subjected to constant fluorescent lighting, almost daily strip searches, and sensory deprivation. The purpose of these conditions, according to a report by Dr. Richard Korn for the ACLU, was to “reduce prisoners to a state of submission essential for ideological conversion.” The Lexington HSU was closed in 1988 after an outcry by Amnesty International, the ACLU and religious groups.”
The Southern Illinoisian, a daily paper published out Carbondale, IL featured two articles and a cover shot highlighting the CMU program. Although the photographs provided by the officials at the Marion, Penitentiary were misleading (the CMU does not have a gymnasium or any similar open spaces for recreation) the papers editors went to great lengths to challenge the legality of the unit and to question who is actually housed within the controversial program. Within the paper’s cover article lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights blasted the unit for its lack of due process and grossly disproportionate population of Muslim detainees. A second, more personal article featured interviews with Noor Elashi, Jenny Synan, and Andy Stepanian about their experiences with the CMU. Noor’s father, Ghassan Elashi’s, only crime is providing charitable aide to hospitals in the Israeli-Occupied Palestinian territories. You can read The Southern’s articles HERE and HERE.