Tag Archives: CCR

First Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Oral Arguments in Lawsuit Challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

First Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Oral Arguments in Lawsuit Challenging the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

[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…

sarahjane blum
Sarahjane Blum

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.

ryan shapiro
Ryan Shapiro

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.

Lana Lehr
Lana Lehr

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.

lauren gazzola
Lauren Gazzola

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.

jay johnson
J Johnson

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

Daughter of Jailed Charity Leader, Activists & Attorneys Rally on Eve of Supreme Court Conference on Fate of Holy Land Foundation

Daughter of Jailed Charity Leader, Activists & Attorneys Rally on Eve of Supreme Court Conference on Fate of Holy Land Foundation

[New York, NY] At 5pm tomorrow (Thursday, October 25, 2012) activists, lawyers, and family members of defendants in the controversial Holy Land Five trial will hold a press conference and rally outside the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building (26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY 10013).

Noor Elashi, daughter to imprisoned Holy Land Foundation co-founder, Ghassan Elashi, and Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, will address the large assembly of activist supporters at 5:30pm in what may be the last public showing of solidarity for the Holy Land Five defendants before the Supreme Court is scheduled to conference on whether they will rule on the group’s 2008 conviction for alleged crimes under the Material Support to Terrorists statute.  The Supreme Court calendar indicates that should they conference on the Holy Land Five case it will likely happen on Friday, October 26, 2012.  This will be the last legal remedy for the defendants outside of a Presidential pardon.

The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was the largest Muslim charity in the United States until three months after 9/11 when the Bush administration shut it down following a claim that the group had donated a portion of their foundation funds to schools and hospitals in Gaza through a Zakat Committee that allegedly had connections to Hamas (designated by the US in 1995 as a terrorist group).  After subsequent raids on their homes and offices, arrests, and two trials (the first ending in a hung jury), the Holy Land Five was convicted of conspiracy under the Material Support to Terrorists statute and received sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years in Federal Prison.

Edward Abington, a diplomat who served as U.S. consul-general in Jerusalem during the 1990s, when called to testify on behalf of the HLF defense in 2007, said Israel had provided “selective information to try to influence U.S. thinking.”  Also introduced into the court record by Abington was the little known fact that in the same year the HLF defendants were indicted the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had given $47,00 to the same Zakat Committee alleged in the indictment to have ties to Hamas (see DX1074 or pg.12 in writ). Moreover, USAID has periodically contributed to the same Zakat committees named in the indictments, from before the time of the HLF indictment until today.   This double standard is circuitous because it implies that either USAID is using taxpayer money to “finance Hamas” or that the allegations made against the HLF were baseless from the beginning.

After the 2007 deadlock, juror Nanette Scroggins, a retired claims adjuster, said in her only interview about the case, “I kept expecting the government to come up with something, and it never did… From what I saw, this was about Muslims raising money to support Muslims, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Noor Elashi, whose father Ghassan Elashi is now imprisoned, is speaking out, “I am heartened by the solidarity of those who are standing by my father during this critical time. I hope to see this momentum keep building until the Holy Land Five are exonerated.”

Ghassan Elashi is currently serving 65 years at the Federal Communications Management Unit (CMU) in Marion Illinois.  The CMU is a designer penal program that focuses specifically on isolating and silencing inmates.  The demographic of the CMU’s designees is made up of an overwhelming 79% Muslim majority with a smaller minority group of non-Muslim designees that have highly politicized cases.  This glaring racial disparity as well as the political nature of these prisons was the focus of a two-part investigation by National Public Radio titled “Guantanamo North.”  The Center for Constitutional Rights is currently suing the Department of Justice over the legality of CMU’s.

The American Civil Liberties Union in a 2009 report sharply criticized the government’s prosecution of the HLF, saying it “…violated the fundamental rights of American Muslim Charities and has chilled American Muslims’ charitable giving in accordance with their faith, seriously undermining American values of due process and commitment to First Amendment freedoms.”

Tomorrow’s rally and press conference is part of a national day of action in solidarity with the Holy Land Five.  The groups participating in tomorrow’s actions include:

• The Committee to Stop FBI Repression
• The Center for Constitutional Rights
• The Muslim Defense Project of the National Lawyers Guild
• Free the Holy Land Five / Freedom to Give
• United National Anti-war Coalition
• Defending Dissent Foundation
• International Action Center
• National Lawyers Guild of Washington DC
• Students for a Democratic Society
• Project SALAM (Support and Legal Advocacy for Muslims)
• Labor for Palestine
• New York City Labor Against the War
• Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
• US Palestinian Community Network

A copy of the indictment against the HLF is available HERE
A copy of the HLF Petition of Cert is available HERE

For more information on the HLF visit http://freedomtogive.com
You can RSVP to tomorrow’s rally on facebook HERE

To request an interview with Noor Elashi, or for raw video footage of tomorrow’s events please contact Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010

Know Your Rights! Training at NYU

Know Your Rights! Training at NYU

6:30-8:30pm, Monday, March 21st, 2011
New York University, Kimmel Center
60 Washington Square South (Room 907)

In this climate of ever-increasing surveillance and suppression of progressive movements, it’s important for all activists to protect themselves and and know their rights. Don’t miss this Farm Sanctuary and Cruelty Free NYU sponsored Know Your Rights Training led by Sparrow contributor and attorney Bina Ahmad.  Bina will discuss what’s protected under your rights to free speech, how to respond to law enforcement and FBI encounters, the basics of grand juries, your rights as an immigrant, and why understanding “material support” is vitally important. In addition to the critical information you’ll receive, we will be a screening the video trailer to Will Potter’s forthcoming book Green Is The New Red, giving away 2 free copies of the book, as well as dozens of free copies of the Center for Constitutional Rights booklet If An Agent Knocks.