As Will Potter said, “it was only a matter of time” before the government used the sweeping new “anti-terrorism” legislation on activists. On February 19 and 20 of 2009, the FBI arrested four young animal activists in California for organizing and attending various demonstrations against cruel animal testing, posting flyers criticizing specific professors and researchers at University of California Santa Cruz, and for chalking anti-animal-testing slogans on the sidewalk. What is their alleged crime? Using harsh language like “murder” or “torture” when describing the tests and distributing leaflets that name specific university staff who are involved in the cruel animal tests. Their charge? Animal Enterprise Terrorism. Chalking, leafleting and protesting are not acts of terrorism. These are not even crimes.
Background on AETA
Despite major criticisms from the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, dozens of civil liberties groups and nearly every major animal rights organization, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) passed Congress. It is sweeping and over-broad legislation that paints effective animal activists as terrorists. The bill’s intentions are clear: scare activists from speaking out on controversial issues and protect the financial interests of so-called “Animal Enterprises”. Much like the Red Scare of the 1930′s, this new law is part of a coordinated effort to scare environmental and animal activists from controversial campaigns. It’s been dubbed the Green Scare.
Background on the UCSC campaign
Students and community members have been waging a heated campaign against animal testing in Santa Cruz. There have been legal protests like demonstrations, marches, leafletings, speaking events etc. There have also been illegal forms of protests, including some damage to university property. The university has seen many protests on its campus, and the researchers who are involved in animal testing have even seen demonstrations in their neighborhoods.
The campaign is seeing some victories and as a result the government is cracking down hard on prominent activists. This has happened many times in the past, sometimes the government has even been successful. The civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960′s and 70′s were constantly under government surveillance. It can be intimating to think about how the government is targeting activists, but there is hope! We can and must repeal the AETA and create greater protections for free speech. Social movements have accomplished greater tasks.