Episode anhören — 67 min
Alanis: The Ex-Worker;
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world.
Alanis: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Greetings and welcome back to the Ex-Worker! In our seventeenth episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at the state’s use of conspiracy charges as a strategy for repression against anarchists and other social movements. We’re focusing on this to coincide with the NATO 3 trials taking place right now in Illinois, in which three anarchists are facing dramatic prison sentences after being entrapped by informants in a state-generated plot at a 2012 protest summit. The trial has significant implications for anarchist portrayals in the mass media, prisoner solidarity, state repression tactics, and more. So in this episode, we’ll discuss the emergence of this strategy through interviews with anarchists who’ve supported those targeted by conspiracy charges, including the NATO 3, animal rights activists, and the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation.
Clara: We’ve also got a review of Green is the New Red, a 2011 book by journalist and blogger Will Potter about the FBI’s use of terrorism charges to suppress environmentalist and animal rights movements. There’s also more feedback from listeners about what anarchy means to them, upcoming events, calls for submissions, and tons of news from all over the world. My name is Clara…
Alanis: and I’m Alanis, and we’ll be your hosts. Don’t forget to check out our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, for a full transcript of this show as well as all the references and links we mention along the way.
Clara: We also hope that you’ll be in touch with us, by emailing podcast at crimethinc dot com, or calling us at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.
Alanis: Here we go!
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: Let’s get rolling with the Hot Wire, snippets from resistance struggles around the globe. It’s been a busy 2014 so far, eh, Alanis?
Alanis: You bet. Beginning Monday, January 13th, Indiana prisoners in Westville Correctional Facility began to refuse the nutritionally deficient, unappetizing cold sack lunches they have been forced to endure over the past several months and have issued a call for solidarity. A mass call-in to the prison occurred on the following day; check our website for links with info on how to support the resistant prisoners.
Clara: Gentrification remains a tense point of conflict across the globe. Thousands of marchers in Burgos, Spain have rioted for several days in a row, protesting a gentrifying development by building barricades, fighting police, and destroying construction equipment.
Alanis: The Ukrainian parliament passed a new anti-protest law, making blockading buildings punishable by up to 5 years in prison and criminalizing the wearing of masks.
Clara: Wanna bet that US officials will condemn this repressive move - even though similar laws exist in much of the US?
Alanis: According to the new law, you can also be fined or arrested for providing space for unauthorized meetings, or enslaved at hard labor for up to a year for disseminating slander on the internet.
Clara: One Mexican and two Canadian anarchists have been detained without bail in Mexico. Carlos, Amelie and Fallon are facing charges of property destruction, and possibly organized crime, sabotage, and terrorism in relation to a Molotov cocktail attack that occurred on the Ministry of Communication and Transportation and a Nissan dealership in Mexico City.
Alanis: The three are currently being held under a special prevision of Mexican law, the arraigo, which places them in special detention, severely limiting their capacity for communication with the outside. This sort of arbitrary detention also gives the state authority to abuse, torture, extort, and otherwise mistreat detainees, and there have been thousands of reports of abuse under the ‘arraigo’. It has been described as a ‘license to torture’, and has been denounced by the U.N.
Clara: Dozens of solidarity actions have taken place since the comrades’ arrests, including a bank firebombing in Vancouver, BC and a noise demonstration at the Mexican consulate in New York City.
Alanis: Newly leaked documents indicate that a second informant provided information to federal authorities from within the LulzSec radical hacker group; anarchist Jeremy Hammond, whom we discussed in Episode 13, is currently serving a 10 year prison term due to evidence provided by LulzSec informants.
Clara: Action #10 of the Phoenix Project, an international insurrectionary anarchist dialogue conducted through actions and communiques, took place in Malang, East Java, where an ATM bank was bombed by a cell of the International Conspiracy for Revenge / Informal Anarchist Federation. The action was dedicated to the memory of Chilean anarchist Sebastian Seguel, who was killed by a security guard during an attempted bank robbery in December.
Alanis: And in Bath, United Kingdom, the Earth Liberation Front/Informal Anarchist Federation torched three cars and a four by four at a Kia dealership, after police were cleared of responsibility for their 2011 murder of Mark Duggan which catalyzed widespread riots.
Clara: Peruvian indigenous leader Segundo García Sandi began a hunger strike January 7th to demand his freedom at Huayabamba prison in Iquitos. He’s been imprisoned on charges of tampering with an oil pipeline, after pollution contaminated the rainforest and poisoned numerous children in the Achuar community.
Alanis: Activists are blockading the entrance to a proposed coal mine at the Leard Forest in Australia, while police in Kenya are evicting thousands of indigenous inhabitants of the Embobut Forest – whom the government refers to as “squatters” - to make way for a World Bank-funded “conservation project.”
Clara: Anarchist prisoner Marco Camenisch has been on hunger strike since December 30th, when he was put into solitary confinement for refusing to give a urine sample. Marco is a Swiss anarchist and environmentalist who was imprisoned for sabotage on nuclear energy infrastructure, and subsequently the murder of a border guard after escaping prison and living underground for 10 years in Italy.
Alanis: The Solar Guerilla Autonomous Response Team of the Mobile Anarchist School is launching a third mission to the typhoon-hit region of Leyte in the Philippines. Info on the first two missions and how to support anti-authoritarian relief efforts can be found via our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: A 20 year old Italian woman was charged with sexual assault for kissing a riot cop’s helmet during a demonstration.
Alanis: And last but most assuredly not least, Christian anarchists, probably dissatisfied with our scornful treatment of them in Episode 15, have struck back!
Clara: Take that, the Ex-Worker! Jesus radicals taking direct action against patriarchy!
Alanis: And now it’s time for listener feedback! What have we got in our inbox this time, Clara?
Clara: Following up on the thread about religious radicals, one listener wrote in to share the story of Sister Malgorzata, a Polish nun whose life arcs close to anarchism. He writes, “It’s a story about a kind of nun going freestyle anarchy in guise of religious charity. They live communally in a house that they kinda squatted… and now [live with] no formal hierarchy, at least. The nun also expressed a lot of critique about government and said that it’s all about taking matters into your own hands.” The article he shared mentions that Sister Malgorzata lost her job and housing in Communist Poland for refusing to vote in elections, and, after meeting a French anarchist who founded a Christian charity organization called Bread of Life, started a chapter of it herself in Poland.
Alanis: Sounds like a fascinating character. If you want to read more, we’ve got a link to a brief biography about her on our website.
Clara: We got some really beautiful responses to our appeal for y’all to write in and share what anarchism means to you. We sampled some of them in our last episode, but we couldn’t fit everything in. Here’s an excerpt from one we received:
Listener 1: “Personally, I was an Anarchist before I knew you could be an Anarchist. For my entire life I felt ostracized by society because of my distaste towards authority and oppression. When I was realizing what was going on in the world, whether it be due to religion, politics, or otherwise, I started growing sad and disillusioned and the only option I had at the time was drugs. It helped, for a time, but eventually I started using because that was the only time I could feel anything.
However, once I began finding ties within the Anarchist society, either by converting my friends or by attending meetings at a local diy warehouse, I knew there was more to life than good feelings. Life is about struggle and the ideal Anarchist utopia will take an extreme amount of struggle. I do not feel that I will ever see a truly free society, in my time, but I have experienced small scale successes… I believe in working inside the system in order to survive or garner the resources necessary to become independent. I hate work and don’t pretend to believe in the necessity of wage labor, but the society that I want will take a while to manifest. I feel that once I fool the antagonistic authority into believing I’m like them, I can truly inflict damage upon them and shatter the walls that the United States’ capitalist system has implemented on its public.”
Clara: Another listener wrote in a with a dramatic, if slightly more abstract, account of the kinds of social and self-examination that anarchism entails:
Listener 2: Looking in the mirror, touching my face, saying to myself, Holy fuck! I’m alive! What the fuck am I? Looking through the window, asking, what the fuck is going on? Why is there something instead of nothing? Looking in the mirror, saying to myself, and this is it for me, this is the way my existence takes shape? Of all the infinite forms possible, this is me? And looking through the window, this too, of all the possible ways to live, rather than help each other we fuck each other over? Perhaps never once really looking in the mirror or really looking through the window. Never realizing looking out and looking in are the same. Never waking up. Never realizing life. Just going along, always going along.
Clara: And then we received some heart-rendingly poetic statements, like this one from Ms. Information:
Ms. Information: Anarchy was not the tears I shed when they kicked me out of the world I didn’t make. Anarchy was when I stood up to those who would rather conquer me than know me.
Anarchy is the logic of instinct and nature. It is the wild riot brought by the bees swarming the hive when they have a new queen. It is the cloud of winged pollinators dancing in flower dust and carrying it to the next life force. It plants its seeds in wastelands and fertile soils. It knows no bounds except the ones the bees discover and break through en route to creating life. It sings in the wind that blows the dandelions to carry their world across pastures o’ plenty.
Anarchism is the North Star which points the way but cannot deliver. It is the drinking gourd melody that gives us guidance and spirit to move our own two feet and never look back. Anarchy is the fight left in all of us to destroy the scales and make room for a natural order.
Clara: It was really inspiring for us to have the chance to sift through all the different ways of understanding anarchism-
Alanis: -and all the different life experiences that led people to them.
Clara: Exactly! As much as we have in common in our pursuit of living passionately in defiance of authority, making the last episode really drove home how there are as many ways to be an anarchist as there are anarchists. We appreciate your generosity, dear listeners, and we hope you’ll continue to share with us your thoughts and dreams and ideas and desires.
Alanis: And now it’s time to share a piece of the CrimethInc Contradictionary. This episode is brought to you by: Entrap and Defendants.
Alanis: For more explorations of the war in every word, visit crimethinc.com/contradictionary.
Alanis: In our last episode, we heard from a lot of different people about what anarchy means to them. But, let’s be honest– we glossed over certain realities of anarchist life a little bit. Because, despite what you might think, being an anarchist is about more than punk shows and podcasts. Sometimes we put our ideas into action.
Clara: And sometimes we get caught.
Alanis: And sometimes the state ropes us in for simply talking about putting our ideas into action.
Clara: Just as anarchists debate the best strategy to oppose the forces of the state and capitalism, the state has its own strategies for dealing with us. Over the past decade, North American law enforcement agencies have strategically used conspiracy charges to target anarchists and others involved in radical struggles. We’ve seen a shift away from the prosecution of high-profile destructive acts, as during the heyday of fiery, Earth Liberation Front actions, towards a strategy of pre-emptive arrest for actions that haven’t even been committed, and which are often invented by undercover cops or informants.
Alanis: Although radical communities are used as a laboratory for testing out prosecution strategies or new uses of certain laws and repression tactics, the state deploys conspiracy charges against many different communities; anarchists certainly aren’t exceptional in facing these types of charges.
Clara: It’s important for us to keep tabs on the state’s evolving strategies of repression, and to support others who are targeted by them. For this episode, we conducted interviews by email or by phone with three people who are involved in supporting anarchists, activists and their community members through bouts of state repression, illustrating various ways in which the state has used conspiracy charges to attempt to crush resistance movements. First, we’ll share the words of Emily, a supporter of the NATO 3, who are currently undergoing trial in Chicago. Next, we’ll hear from John, a member of the counter-information collective Bite Back, who will talk about the structure of the Animal Liberation Front and about the case of two recently arrested animal rights activists; and last but certainly not least, we speak with Caroline, an anarchist who is involved with supporting members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, or ALKQN, a street organization which was recently hit with racketeering charges similar to those used against mobsters and, increasingly, activists.
Alanis: Conspiracy charges are convenient for police and federal agents in that they don’t require authorities to prove that any actual illegal activity took place, only shared intent. In that regard, they are an ideal weapon to wield against ideologically based communities; they also lend themselves to government attempts to entrap inexperienced organizers and activists.
NATO 3 INTERVIEW
Clara: So, the NATO 3 are undergoing trial as we speak. Who are they, and what charges are being brought against them?
Emily: The NATO 3 are Brent Betterly, Brian “Jacob” Church, and Jared “Jay” Chase. They were arrested on May 16, 2012 in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago during the 2012 NATO Summit, and have been held since then in Cook County Jail on 11 felony counts, including four under the Illinois state terrorism statute.
The defendants are currently undergoing trial on charges of material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an incendiary device, and solicitation to commit arson. Four of their original eleven charges have been dropped this week, so that’s good.
The charges stem from a raid that occurred in the days leading up to the summit, in which police stormed homes and snatched people, two of whom were later discovered to be undercover police who had been infiltrating Occupy and Anarchist groups. The arrests served to create an anti-anarchist hysteria in the media surrounding the protests.
This is the first time to our knowledge that these charges have ever been used in the state of Illinois, so if the state can convict on them it will set a HUGE precedent for future dissent.
Clara: This case around the 2012 NATO Summit looks very similar to those around other summit protests, where anarchists and activists travel from around the country to protest or riot against these large, powerful bodies – the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the G8 or G20, the Free Trade Area of the Americas. It’s especially easy to draw comparisons to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St Paul, when 8 activists who were organizing infrastructural support for people to come to the Twin Cities were arrested in the days leading up to the convention. Police raided their houses and charged them with “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism.” These state terrorism charges, if prosecuted successfully, can increase jail sentences by 50%. It also came out in this case that a police informant had been close by the whole time.
Emily: State governments across the country follow the federal government’s lead in calling activists “terrorists.” They also use “anarchism” interchangeably with “terrorism” in an effort to scare the public into thinking that anyone who dissents is inherently dangerous and worthy of being locked away for life. The use of the term “terrorist” to describe activists has the effect of dehumanizing them and diminishing both their legitimacy and that of the issues that they raise.
In a larger context, this is one of many campaigns of state repression against activists, specifically one that is attempting to demonize activists perceived to be anarchists. Similar examples include the Green Scare and COINTELPRO activities against the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, Puerto Rican independence fighters, and Chicano rights activists.
This case is also part of a broader spying effort on Occupy groups, which was exposed in late 2012. Police tactics used in this case are similar to the ones used by an undercover Austin, TX cop in the Gulfport 7 case. This undercover cop proposed making lockboxes to use at a protest, bought the materials for the lockboxes, built them, and took them down to Houston for activists to use. He then orchestrated their arrests on felony charges. This use of entrapment was quickly exposed and all seven activists took plea agreements to misdemeanor charges in 2013. The important issue is that the police targeted people who they thought were vulnerable and easy to take down.
Clara: What has your involvement in this case looked like?
Emily: I have been one of a few main support people, from visiting on a weekly basis to writing letters and sending books to fundraising to countless other things— including t-shirts. I just made t-shirts and we will have those on the website hopefully in the next few days!
I support these defendants for a few reasons. I was involved in the NATO Summit here in Chicago and involved with Occupy, and this just seemed like a next logical step. Go to summit > arrests happen > clean up after summit. It just made sense to me. In a larger political context though, anti-state repression work is something that I hope to focus on long after these defendants are done serving their time, however long that may be.
Furthermore, now that I’ve been getting to know these particular defendants for the past year and a half – I didn’t know them before they were arrested and met each of them with a plexiglass partition between us. I’ve become good friends with them and even outside of my political reasons for supporting them, I am also supporting them because they’re pretty cool guys and I’ve gotten to a point where, even though I have to travel early in the morning every Saturday, wait in a sterile jail waiting room for an hour, get patted down, and then talk through the plexiglass partition, I’ve come to really enjoy and even look forward to our visits, as uncomfortable as the setting may be.
I think people should support the 3 because of what activism could look like if the state is able to get a conviction on these charges. This case affects everyone who calls themselves an activist in the state of Illinois.
Clara: And how is the trial going?
Emily: Exhausting! It’s just jury selection this week, but it’s surprisingly exhausting. It’s just a lot of information to take in. Thankfully it’s still basically open to the public– you don’t need a background check to view the supposedly public trial. For the actual trial, though, the state has put a lot of restrictions on who can come into the courtroom, and once you’re in you can’t leave until the judge calls recess. Even to go to the bathroom! But we just got word that note-taking is no longer prohibited! The judge originally said that he was going to restrict that for spectators but amended that earlier today. But if anyone is in Chicago and wants to attend the trial, look at freethenato3 dot wordpress dot com for information about how to register to attend. It’d be great to pack the courtroom.
Clara: Great! Emily, thank you so much for speaking with us.
BITE BACK INTERVIEW
Alanis: To continue our exploration of state repression strategies, we wrote to Bite Back, an information hub for the animal liberation movement.
John: Hi, my name is John. I’m a volunteer with Bite Back.
Alanis: Can you briefly describe what Bite Back is?
John: Bite Back is a website that shares news and information about the radical animal rights movement worldwide. We also publish a magazine, although it’s been a while since we printed an issue. And we’re active on facebook and twitter, for all you social media junkies.
Bite Back reports news of animal rescues and sabotage often not found anywhere else. We give a voice to anonymous activists who choose to break the law to help animals. We hope our work provides hope and inspiration to activists working in their own communities. Bite Back also helps to connect activists around the world. In 2013, we reported actions in 30 countries.
Alanis: Various individuals and groups work together both above and underground with the sole goal of animal liberation. And we have yet to discuss the origins of the Animal Liberation Front on the Ex-Worker. Could you briefly explain what the ALF is? And what motivates people to support and fight for animal liberation?
John: The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carries out illegal actions against industries that profit from animal exploitation.These actions may be liberating animals from captivity or they may be property destruction. An important guideline for the ALF is to take precautions against harming others. The ALF is not a typical group, with members and leaders. It’s more an idea, a tag or a label that activists use to claim actions taken in defense of animals.
The first action claimed by the ALF in the U.S. was in 1979 when several animals were freed from a lab at New York University. I think the staying power of the ALF can be explained by the strong desire of people to directly try to stop or prevent the suffering of animals. Education and demonstrations are important, but people also want to “get their hands dirty.” For some activists, this means wildlife rehabilitation or managing a feral cat colony. But for others, toppling a hunting tower or opening cages at a fur farm is how they make the idea of “animal liberation” a reality. Once you learn about the many ways animals are abused in our society, it’s hard to be content handing out flyers on a street corner and waiting as society slowly changes.
The exploitation of animals is cut from the same cloth as the destruction of the environment and the oppression of humans. Any truly meaningful change for animals will require challenging capitalism and the state.
On a small scale, the actions that Bite Back reports are often a rejection of the bureaucracy and go-slow approach of some mainstream animal rights groups– activists taking power in their own hands to change society.
Alanis: In 2013, there were a lot more animal liberation actions in the United States than in previous years– usually there are only one or two a year, and this past year there were more than there have been since 1997. Why is this happening now? Why has this wave happened this year, and/or why has there been a lag in actions in recent years?
John: The animal rights movement in the U.S. seems to go through periods when activists focus on a particular issue or target. I don’t know why the spotlight returned to the fur industry in 2013. Maybe it’s because of websites like FinalNail.com and Coalitionagainstfurfarms.com that have made it easy to learn about the industry. Alanis: Can you talk about Kevin Olliff and Tyler Lang? Who are they, what were they charged with and provide an case update?
John: Kevin Olliff and Tyler Lang are animal rights activists who were arrested in August in rural Illinois on charges of “possession of burglary tools.” Tyler was released in November, but Kevin is still being held at the county jail… even though Kevin and Tyler weren’t arrested in the process of liberating any animals, the fact that they were pulled over by police in rural Illinois with tools in their car has been enough to keep Kevin in jail for months. On top of this, the prosecutor in the case is now trying to use another release of 2,000 mink that occurred elsewhere in Illinois to build a case that the items found in Kevin’s car were intended to be used in a burglary - even though Kevin is not being charged with this or any other [mink release]. (http://www.animalliberationfrontline.com/another-fur-farm-hit–2000-mink-released-in-illinois/)
Alanis: The kind of sketchy prosecution tactics being used in Kevin and Tyler’s case are nothing new for the animal rights movement. In 2006, the US Government used a law called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (or AETA) to convict 7 animal rights activists of simply running a website, Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty, that encouraged direct action against animal exploiters. Their charges included interstate stalking and conspiracy to use a telecommunications device to harass others, but not actual actions against animal exploiters. The AETA has made it an act of terrorism to interfere with a business that profits from animals in some way.
Clara: The successful conviction of the SHAC 7 emboldened law enforcement agencies to utilize conspiracy charges to target radicals nationwide, especially in cases in which simple criminal charges could not be pressed convincingly or did not appear to offer enough of a deterrent.
Alanis: This law was deployed again in 2009 against four animal rights activists in California for simply chalking on the ground during an animal rights demonstration.
Clara: Fortunately, those charges didn’t stick and were dismissed. But it’s super important to remember that, while these types of charges are applied to anarchists regularly, repression is a daily fact of life for countless people in communities on the wrong end of power and privilege; anarchists are far from exceptional and it’s important to pay attention to and offer support to other communities who experience these types of repression.
Alanis: Next we’re going to hear from Caroline, an anarchist who is involved in supporting her neighbors in Greensboro, NC, members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation.
ALKQN SUPPORT INTERVIEW
Clara: I’m speaking today with Caroline, an anarchist who’s involved with supporting members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Caroline, can you tell us a little bit about who are the ALKQN, and how you got involved in supporting them?
Caroline: So the ALKQN stands for the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, and the story of that street organization is a pretty long history and tied with a lot of the black and brown liberation movements of the 50s, 60s and 70s. But most importantly for the context of this case and my relationships is the context of Greensboro, North Carolina, where a group of Latino men in 2005, including our good friend King J, started the organization in the hopes to just kind of create more alliances between black and brown youth and folks facing similar issues in Greensboro. But definitely through this organization that has an identity nationally and internationally.
While a lot of street organizations are seen as being vertically organized, where lower groups in different kinds of towns take orders from higher up, there’s a lot more autonomy in these organizations than a lot of people think. So naturally just by being an anarchist in Greensboro, and seeing each other at the same kinds of things, whether it’s about speak-outs, marches against police brutality, or hearing about each others court cases, and living in the same neighborhood, we just kind of became friends, and started doing different organizing efforts together, mostly around prison and policing in North Carolina.
Clara: So there’s been a lot of debate in anarchist circles amongst folks who are involved in supporting prisoners about whether to focus on anarchist prisoners specifically, or folks directly involved in earth and animal liberation, etcetera, or the distinction between political prisoners and so called social prisoners. But in choosing to really actively support and show solidarity with a group of folks who don’t necessarily identify as anarchists, y’all are taking a position in that debate. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of supporting prisoners who aren’t necessarily anarchist?
Caroline: Yeah! I always think this is a really interesting question, because it seems almost like those of us who do this kind of support work for our friends who aren’t anarchists always feel like we have to defend ourselves and our friends for having friends who aren’t anarchists, which is kind of wild! But I really also appreciate this question because I think we get to bring up the damage that I think the leftist prison reform, or maybe the more reformist elements of the prison abolition world, has brought us this dichotomy that now we’re having to deal with a lot, this anarchist or, you know, activist/political versus social prisoner, when if we’re really interested in destroying systems of policing and imprisonment, we know that the vast majority of people in prison in this country aren’t so-called political prisoners. I mean, there’s been a lot of good writings. I mean, I really love kind of reading parts of [Three Positions Against Prisons] with friends who are struggling around this concept. But I guess really I also want to highlight that supporting your neighbors whom you have actual affinity with, whether it’s dealing with things in your neighborhood, by both needing support without calling the police because you’re both targets of police terrorization, or any number of things that can come up between friends and neighbors who don’t have the exact same kind of political goals. It’s really important to be there for each other when you’re facing similar types of repression. And in specific here, the RICO – both street organizations and anarchists have to deal with conspiracy charges a lot, and a lot of infiltration and surveillance. And I think those are all things that our two different communities are interested in coming together and finding mutual ways and strategies to defend ourselves against these things.
Clara: You mentioned that one of the kinds of charges that was used against the ALKQN was RICO charges, which… what does that stand for?
Caroline: It stands for the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
Clara: So RICO charges have actually been used against anarchists (although as of yet unsuccessfully) who waged the I–69 campaign in Indiana, an environmental defense campaign, over the past many years. Although those charges didn’t stick, the state tied those folks up for several years fighting against them. Can you talk a little bit about how the state’s attempt to use gang-related laws against anarchist has worked, and also how those laws impact other communities?
Caroline: Yeah. To back up just a second and do a real cursory explanation of RICO: it’s really the criminalization of association and of people’s lifestyles. So a lot of the things you’ll see in these big RICO cases against street organizations or gangs are the accumulation of maybe ten years worth of petty crime, that’s a lot of survival crimes that happens, and just used with really intricate infiltration and surveillance by the state and a really strong narrative that they’re able to create that can make it look like this pattern of criminal activity that is constantly being conspired to continue in order to bring about success for the organization rather than rather than ways in which people are surviving. And so that has been the primary ways it has been used against black and brown street organizations and gangs in this country. But for anarchists, I think the thing to really take away from that, and why it’s really important to look at is things like gang injunctions in your city and gang related laws in your city is that the gang affiliation is basically just a racialized way of looking at association. So we often as anarchists don’t get called gangs – although that’s changing a little bit, with the way the Black Bloc gets interpreted by certain media – but we often do see how conspiracy charges and anti-terrorist laws have relied on the criminalization of association and intense social mapping to make connections between things there might not necessarily be connections between, and to really just give an excuse to have a long, open-ended investigation that requires millions of dollars by the state and a lot of surveillance as justification. RICO and anti-terrorism laws are both ways the state can do that.
Clara: And I know we’ve actually seen that happening in prisons against anarchists, where for example the circle A is designated a gang symbol, so people who have anarchist literature or are corresponding with anarchists on the outside who are supporting them are targeted as being part of this, you know, using this particular language of the gang. And how that sort of discourse can be deployed to solicit liberal outrage - “Oh, look how our political associations are being targeted” or whatever - when that’s ignoring other forms of organization, particularly those pursued by black folks and brown folks on the inside and outside are routinely criminalized. And because they’re not seen as political in the same way, or they’re not tagged political in that way that something like anarchism as a European political ideology is tagged political – sometimes the same outrage isn’t given to folks who are targeted under those sorts of laws.
Caroline: Yeah, for sure. And I think that we are now living with more than twenty years of a lot of hysteria about gangs. And there’s so much that I think white folks in particular who come from activist backgrounds have to really unpack and kind of deconstruct a lot of their ideas about gangs, because a lot of them are pretty bogus. But also one thing that I think also ties anarchists and people that I know and have supported people who are in gangs or street organizations is is redefining criminality; so rather than just taking this vow of innocence when dealing with court cases, often trying to assert either ways in which certain crimes or criminality are legitimate, either for political goals or for survival, or ways in which there’s a reassociation with criminality, not necessarily in a negative light, but as something that brings us together, in the ways in which capitalism makes both of our lives miserable and impossible. So that’s something that I think is really important to think about, the ways in which often leftist prison reform, or like I said, prison abolitionist groups will be really afraid of taking on cases where someone isn’t presumed innocent. So we’ve struggled with that, but have also found a lot of support with different groups across the country who have seen the work we’re trying to do and have been really helpful at not making us feel like we have to defend ourselves for wanting to support our friends who aren’t anarchists.
Clara: So, unfortunately, several folks from the ALKQN are doing time right now for charges they’ve been convicted of, either under the RICO prosecutions or other crimes. What are some ways that we can support them or learn more about their cases?
Caroline: As with a lot of people doing support for long-term prisoners, there’s just the ever-surmounting task and need for material resources like money, for both for the families of the kings that are incarcerated right now, particularly King J and his kids and their mom who we are still really close with and keep up with, and also just for the costs of being incarcerated in federal prison, which are always increasing. So there’s a way to donate through our website, which is alkqnsupport dot com. [Note: this website is currently down; see the show notes for other links to more information.] And there’s a lot more backstory there too; this is a really complex case, there’s a lot more information about RICO, which I know is hard to understand, and also about the relationship between kings and queens and anarchists and more about Greensboro history and context too on that website. And prison Books is really good about helping us out too, and sending out information, so always the Chapel Hill Prison Books website is a good resource if we’re ever having a call-in day around conditions that our friends are facing or appeal dates, stuff like that.
Clara: Caroline, thanks so much for speaking with us!
Caroline: Thank you!
EXCERPT: “CHILD PREDATORS AND BOUNTY HUNTERS: INSIDE THE FBI’S ENTRAPMENT STRATEGY”
Clara: To conclude our exploration of the state’s use of conspiracy charges to repress anarchist resistance, we’ll share an excerpt from the CrimethInc essay “Bounty Hunters and Child Predators: Inside the FBI Entrapment Strategy.” Tracing the shift away from targeting long-term anarchist organizers and towards preying on younger and less-experienced folks from the fringes of radical scenes, the text outlines the FBI’s strategy for using these entrapment cases to derail our entire movement - and how we can understand and resist it.
Clara: Not so long ago, the FBI focused on pursuing accomplished anarchists: Marie Mason and Daniel McGowan were both arrested after lengthy careers of resistance. It isn’t surprising that the security apparatus of the state targeted these activists: they were courageously threatening the inequalities and injustices the state is founded upon.
Alanis: However, starting with the entrapment case of Eric McDavid—framed for a single conspiracy charge by an infiltrator who used his attraction to her to manipulate him into discussing illegal actions—the FBI seems to have switched strategies, focusing on younger targets who haven’t actually carried out any actions.
Clara: They stepped up this new strategy during the 2008 Republican National Convention, at which FBI informants Brandon Darby and Andrew Darst set up David McKay, Bradley Crowder, and Matthew DePalma on charges of possessing Molotov cocktails in two separate incidents. It’s important to note that the only Molotov cocktails that figured in the RNC protests at any point were the ones used to entrap these young men: the FBI were not responding to a threat, but inventing one.
Alanis: In 2012, the FBI shifted into high gear with this approach. Immediately before May Day, five young men were set up on terrorism charges in Cleveland after an FBI infiltrator apparently guided them into planning to bomb a bridge, in what would have been the only such bombing carried out by anarchists in living memory. During the protests against the NATO summit in Chicago, three young men were arrested and charged with terrorist conspiracy– once again involving the only Molotov cocktails within hundreds of miles, set up by at least two FBI informants.
Clara: None of the targets of these entrapment cases seem to be longtime anarchist organizers. None of the crimes they’re being charged with are representative of the tactics that anarchists have actually used in the US over the past decade. All of the cases rest on the efforts of FBI informants to manufacture conspiracies. All of the arrests have taken place immediately before mass mobilizations, enabling the authorities to frame a narrative justifying their crackdowns on protest as thwarting terrorism. And in all of these cases, the defendants have been described as anarchists in the legal paperwork filed against them, setting precedents for criminalizing anarchism.
Alanis: Why is the FBI focusing on entrapping inexperienced young people rather than going after seasoned anarchists? And why are they intensifying this now?
Clara: For one thing, experienced activists are harder to catch. FBI agents get funding and promotions based on successful cases, so they have an incentive to set people up; why go after challenging targets? Why not pick the most marginal, the most vulnerable, the most isolated? If the goal is simply to frame somebody, it doesn’t really matter who the target is.
Alanis: Likewise, the tactics anarchists have actually been using are likely to be more popular with the general public than the tactics infiltrators push them towards. Smashing bank windows, for example, may be illegal, but it is increasingly understood as a meaningful political statement; it would be difficult to build a convincing terrorism case around broken glass.
Clara: Well-known activists also have much broader support networks. Going after disconnected young people dramatically decreases the resources that will be mobilized to support them. If the point is to set precedents that criminalize anarchism while producing the minimum blowback, then it is easier to manufacture “terror” cases by means of agents provocateur than to investigate actual anarchist activity.
Alanis: Above all, this kind of proactive threat-creation enables FBI agents to prepare made-to-order media events. If a protest is coming up at which the authorities anticipate using brutal force, it helps to be able to spin the story in advance as a necessary, measured response to violent criminals. This also sows the seeds of distrust among activists, and intimidates newcomers and fence-sitters out of having anything to do with anarchists. The long-range project here, presumably choreographed by FBI leadership rather than rank-and-file agents, is not just to frame a few unfortunate arrestees, but to hamstring the entire anti-capitalist movement.
Clara: To recapitulate the FBI strategy:
1) Divide and conquer the movement by isolating the most combative participants, 2) Stage-manage entrapments of vulnerable targets at the periphery, 3) Use these arrests to delegitimize all but the most docile, and to justify ever-increasing police violence.
Alanis: For decades now, movements have defended themselves against police surveillance and infiltration by practicing security culture. This has minimized the effectiveness of police operations against experienced activists. However, it can’t always protect those who are new to anarchism or activism, who haven’t had time to internalize complex habits and practices, and these are exactly the people that the FBI entrapment strategy targets. Infiltrators need only find one impressionable young person, however peripheral, to advance their strategy. These are inhuman bounty hunters: they don’t balk at taking advantage of any weakness, any need, any mental health issue.
Clara: If we are to protect the next generation of young people from these predators, our only hope is to mobilize a popular reaction against entrapment tactics. Only a blowback against the FBI themselves can halt this strategy. This will not be easy, but there is no better alternative.
Alanis: Don’t stop speaking out, organizing, and fighting—that won’t stop them from repressing us or entrapping people. Retreating will only embolden them: we can only protect ourselves by increasing our power to fight back, not by withdrawing, not by hiding, not by behaving.
Clara: The best defense is a good offense. So long as capitalism is unstable—that is to say, until it collapses—there will be repression. Let’s meet it head on.
Alanis: So if conspiracy charges are becoming central to the state’s strategy for repressing anarchists and others, it’s crucial that we develop a strategy of our own to respond to this and seize the initiative rather than simply reacting over and over to individual cases.
Repression is intended to discourage militants from engaging with the public, losing connection with a broader social base and deepening the false dichotomy between less militant “community organizing” and clandestine direct action. This is not to say everyone has to organize publicly—on the contrary, one function of public organizing is to prepare a favorable climate for more underground and anonymous actions. But organizing publicly is a necessary aspect of anarchist struggle.
Clara: One way we can protect ourselves against this is to practice good security culture– we’ll cover this in more depth in future episodes, but for now you can check our website for some suggested resources to learn the basics. And now that we know that the NSA not only keeps tabs on everyone but also strategically analyzes and maps the massive amounts of data they gather, we have no excuse not to delete our Facebook pages!
Alanis: And it’s also important that we support and educate those who are new in our circles and make sure they don’t become prey to government infiltrators. We can’t afford to have any more Eric McDavids, NATO 3s, or Cleveland 4s – folks whose lives and roles in our struggles are being stunted by incredibly long prison sentences intended to intimidate others away from even thinking about taking action.
Clara: If the authorities come to rely on pressing conspiracy charges against anarchists as a central strategy of repression, we must take advantage of the ways this makes them vulnerable. Many in our society—and not just radicals—are uncomfortable with the idea of people being persecuted for thought crime. We need to find ways to address people outside of our social and political circles about the prevalence of conspiracy charges, to discredit the state and delegitimize conspiracy-based cases. The broader the range of people who disapprove of this tactic, the more the hands of the authorities will be tied.
Alanis: As long as there is inequality and injustice, there will be resistance, and those in power will attempt to repress it. If we take ourselves seriously as a revolutionary movement, we need to see ourselves in the larger context and history of resistance movements and the repression they have faced; we would do well to learn both from the successes and the failures of the past, and from other communities who face repression.
Clara: This stuff is scary, but we can’t let them scare us out of acting altogether. Be smart, be safe, and have each other’s backs!
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Clara: And now it’s time for the Chopping Block, in which we take a look at radical books, magazines, and other texts that offer perspective on anarchist struggles today. To wrap up this episode’s account of conspiracy and state repression, we turn to a 2011 book by radical journalist Will Potter, titled Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. Potter runs a well-known blog of the same name, covering current events that illustrate the theme he explores in the book: the concerted campaign by lawmakers, corporations, and the FBI to use the language of terrorism to attack animal rights and environmental movements.
Potter’s introduction to the new post–9/11 politics of domestic terrorism came in 2002, when he received a visit from FBI agents at his Chicago apartment. The agents threatened to get him fired from his job, withdraw the scholarships sending his girlfriend to college, and add his name to a list of domestic terrorists, unless he agreed to snitch on fellow activists. His crime? He had distributed leaflets in the neighborhood of a corporate executive whose company provided insurance to Huntington Life Sciences, a notoriously cruel vivisection company. How did leafleting become a terrorist offense, and what interests lie behind it?
In setting out to answer these questions, Potter follows the cases of the SHAC 7, Daniel McGowan, and other Green Scare defendants through a bewildering maze of state repression. In a vivid first person narrative, he navigates congressional hearings, tense courtroom battles, and grim federal prisons, weaving his own life experience into a thoroughly researched account of how idealistic activists were re-branded as eco-terrorists. The book chronicles the heartbreaking and infuriating human costs of the Green Scare, as well as the grave political implications of capitalizing on public fears of terrorism to repress social movements.
Potter’s journalistic eye for detail and documentation dovetails with his storytelling flair to render Green is the New Red an unusually compelling read. As his book, website and public presentations make clear, he’s uniquely skilled at moving audiences beyond radicals and activists to understand the risk that Green Scare repression poses for all of us. Of course, as anarchists, we need not believe in the mythology of civil liberties and American democracy to know the crucial stake we have in defending earth and animal liberationists against state repression. But to catalyze a broad movement to resist the Green Scare and turn the tide against exploitation and eco-cide, we need advocates like Potter, whose ability to frame a broad case without sacrificing radical principles powerfully strengthens our struggles.
He concludes by discussing the parallel between the use of “Communist” as the all-purpose bogeyman during the Cold War years and the “terrorist” of today, a shadowy label that can be deployed against anyone perceived to pose a threat to government and corporate power. Of course, the analogy has its limits, and he teases out the nuances of the eco-terrorism craze by contextualizing it within the longer history of state repression against many communities and movements, from the Haymarket trials through COINTELPRO to post–9/11 racial profiling. Yet if green is the new red, the specter of radical earth and animal activists holds a central place in the anxieties of the powerful today. Potter cites a 2008 Department of Homeland Security report which concluded that if ecological and animal rights movements were to succeed, they “ultimately would lead to a new system of governance and social relationships that is anarchist and antisystemic in nature.” And there you have it - the crippling fear that any direct challenge to animal exploitation and environmental destruction would lead to anarchist revolution motivates the US government’s campaign to use conspiracy charges, terrorism accusations, and whatever other dirty tricks they can to stop us. But as powerful as the forces arrayed against us may be, their repression demonstrates that our resistance poses a profound challenge to the culture of domination that attempts to harness all human and non-human life to the yoke of capitalism and authority.
Green Is the New Red was published by City Lights Press. You can read more at greenisthenewred dot com.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: And now we’ll finish up with Next Week’s News, some ways that you can plug into global resistance struggles. Alanis, what’s coming up?
Alanis: From Jan 30 through Feb 2, animal and earth liberation activist and former political prisoner Rod Coronado will conduct a speaking tour around the northwestern US, discussing wolf hunting, hunt sabotage, and other topics. Events are scheduled in Denver, Seattle, Portland, and Eugene.
Clara: Incidentally, as a young vegetarian and budding anarchist in high school, I heard Rod Coronado speak at an animal rights conference. I went vegan the next day, and have been vegan for 13 years. That’s actually literally a true story, embarrassing as it is in these ironic times. Point being- he’s a pretty compelling and inspiring speaker, so if you have the chance, don’t miss him.
Alanis: February 11th has been tagged as “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance” by a coalition of internet freedom groups. In commemoration of the anniversary of internet radical Aaron Swartz’s death, folks are encouraged to take anti-surveillance actions online and IRL. The politics are mostly pretty liberal, focused on begging Congress to do or not do legislation, but seem open enough to accommodate direct action. Find out more at https://thedaywefightback.org/.
And now we’ve got a special guest announcement from Ruddy of Everglades Earth First!, telling us about an upcoming gathering down south.
Ruddy: Hey, everybody! This is Ruddy from Everglades Earth First!, contacting you from occupied territories of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes. In four weeks, Everglades Earth First! will be hosting the Earth First! Winter Organizer’s Conference (OC) and Rendezvous from Feb 19th–24th in the Everglades bio-region. The exact location will be released on the website soon. Come to the Winter OC and Rendezvous and plug in to the Earth First! Movement, and learn how our struggle to defend the earth is comprised of an interconnected web of global resistance. From hydrofracking to tar sands to genetically engineered trees, industrial civilization has dealt us a bad hand, and twice a year we get together to share of our struggles, to strengthen our connections with each other and the wild, and to confront the key players in ecological devastation.
We’ll spend six days and six nights out in the swamp and scrub camping under the stars, live oaks, cypress and cabbage palm trees. So come prepared for cool and warm weather, bring your swimming suits, and just in case, bring some rain gear… and alligator repellant. Oh, and please, no dogs; they’re the best gator bait ever.
Also, this year’s rendezvous is going to have quite a number of woods workshops for kids, and please contact us if you have any special needs such as American Sign Language translation, language translation, or disabilities that our host group could work to make this event more accessible for you.
For more information visit evergladesearthfirst.net or contact us at evergladesearthfirst[at]riseup[dot]net. Hope to see you in the swamp!
Clara: Thanks, Ruddy! And speaking of Earth First: the new issue of the Earth First Journal is about to be released, and the publishing collective has issued a call for submissions for the next issue. So if you’ve got reports on an ecological campaign you’d like to get to a wider audience, analysis about the struggle to defend the earth, biocentric prose or poetry, etcetera, then hop on over to earthfirstjournal.org.
Alanis: There’s also a call for submissions from the Anarchist Studies Network, which is having an international conference for academic-type anarchists in September in the UK. The call reads: Proposals are welcome for individual papers, sessions, and streams of sessions. We especially encourage proposals for sessions, to include 3–4 papers drawn together around a common theme, although individual paper proposals are of course also welcome, as are proposals for practical workshops, experiential sessions, and other activities. Contributions can come from any scholarly discipline(s), on any topic relevant to the study of anarchism.” Proposals are due by March 1st, so put on your thinking caps.
Clara: And we’ve got a couple of political prisoner birthdays coming up! On January 26th, Marie Mason, serving a 22 year sentence for environmentally motivated direct action. Find out more at supportmariemason.org.
Alanis: And on February 4th, Veronza Bowers, Jr., a former Black Panther framed for murder by the FBI. Here’s a brief clip from an interview with Veronza back in 2002:
Veronza Bowers, Jr.: Well, you know, the Black Panther Party became a nationwide organization, and we established chapters and branches – chapters for the state and branches for the cities – all over the country wherever there were major ghettos. We began to address some of the issues in our communities, some of the same ones I’d seen growing up as a little boy. And I was just one of the many young men and women who were filled with a vision and a burning desire and a hope and a dream for a better future for our people. And so we embarked upon that journey, not knowing where it would end or if it would end, but we knew we had to do something. And not to mention the police brutality that was raging from coast to coast, and still is from coast to coast. And we began to address a lot of those issues, and were unfortunately – history will bear it out – we were misaligned and attacked, you know, and my incarceration is a direct result of that. Not because of something I’ve done, because of my, what is called, or what they call, political activities. We were trying to make a better life for our own people, and for that – you know, history will also absolve us on this – that a war was declared against us. And many of us linger in prison now for decades. I’m almost in my 30th year, and I’m still struggling.
Clara: As usual, you can find their mailing addresses on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, along with all the other links, texts, references, and other info we discussed on the show, plus a full transcript of the episode.
Alanis: And that’s all for this time! This podcast has been a production of the CrimethInc Ex-Worker’s Collective. Thanks to everybody for listening, thanks to Underground Reverie for the music you’ve heard, and extra-special thanks to Caroline, Emily, and John for taking the time to do interviews with us.
Clara: We’ll be back in two weeks with our next episode, in which we’ll continue our exploration of what anarchism is by kicking off a two-episode series focusing on what anarchism is NOT – first, by looking at libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism, and why we are not in to it.
Alanis: Till next time, take care of each other…
Clara: …so we can be dangerous together.
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
Check out the NATO 3 Support website to stay posted on the latest developments in the trial happening now in Chicago. Please come out to support them in the courtroom if you’re able, though be sure to read through these courtroom restrictions from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Keep tabs on the struggle of prisoners in Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana for decent food via Rififi Bloomington.
Upcoming events include animal liberationist and former political prisoner Rod Coronado’s speaking tour around the northwestern US, “The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance” actions on February 11th, and the Earth First! Winter Organizer’s Conference, hosted by Everglades Earth First!
Our discussion of state repression strategy included an excerpt from the CrimethInc essay “Bounty Hunters and Child Predators: Inside the FBI Entrapment Strategy,” and drew heavily from the piece “The Age of Conspiracy Charges”.
Some of the other notable conspiracy and entrapment cases we discussed include the RNC 8, the entrapment of three young activists by snitches Brandon Darby and Andrew Darst at the 2008 RNC protests, the Cleveland 4, the Gulfport 7, and the “racketeering” charges levied against two activists against I–69.
On the Chopping Block, we reviewed Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege by Will Potter.
Security culture refers to the norms that anarchists and radicals subject to state repression adopt to stay safe and minimize the threat of infiltration. To learn more about security culture, we recommend “What is Security Culture?”, “Towards a Collective Security Culture”, “Stay Calm: Some Tips for Keeping Safe in Times of State Repression”, and “Donny, Don’t!”, the hilarious security culture puppet show by the Mysterious Rabbit Puppet Army. Find out what to do “If An Agent Knocks” from the excellent Center for Constitutional Rights pamphlet, and also find out “What You Should Know About Grand Juries”. Info on electronic and computer security for activists can be found from the Riseup Collective, the Surveillance Self-Defense page of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and “Security in-a-box: tools and tactics for your digital security”. Of course, following security culture practices cannot protect us entirely from the risk of surveillance or informants - but don’t let that intimidate you from taking action! Understand the risks you’re taking and do your best to keep yourself and your community safe.
To learn more about the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation and their repression in Greensboro, NC, check out the Negate City zine Guilty County. For a brilliant analysis of the FBI’s use of RICO legislation as a tool of repression, don’t miss The FBI is a Racket and a Menace: History and Commentary on RICO, the FBI’s Most Weaponized Litigation Tool. Caroline from ALKQN Support also referred to the zine Three Positions Against Prisons and the Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective blog.
We discussed the Green Scare in Episode 3 of the Ex-Worker. Here are some links to learn more about the SHAC 7, Daniel McGowan, Eric McDavid, and Marie Mason (whose birthday is coming up soon – see below).
The Solar Guerilla Autonomous Response Team of the Mobile Anarchist School is launching a third mission to the typhoon-hit region of Leyte in the Philippines. You can read here about the first and second missions that have taken place.
One listener wrote in with information about radical nun Sister Malgorzata Chmielewska.
Prisoner Birthdays coming up soon:
Marie Mason #04672–061
Post Office Box 27137
Fort Worth, Texas 76127