December 7th: Ten years later

From Daniel McGowan 12/7/15:

Ten years ago today, I was finishing up stuffing holiday cards for my employer when 2 beefy men asked me if i was indeed, Daniel McGowan. Once I was handcuffed and being frog-marched through the office, I knew what it was about.

At the same time, 6 of my codefendants were getting arrested at the same time. Others were receiving grand jury subpoenas as well. Sadly, all the people arrested that day became cooperating witnesses save for William Rodgers, who I knew as’Avalon’, who took his life in a county jail on the Winter Solstice, two weeks after we were arrested.

Of course, other arrests followed in the months after that, with a handful of codefendants refusing to play the game. We came together in solidarity to fight the charges and reduce the potential sentence as much as possible. For that, I will always have gratitude to Jonathan Paul, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher (though it would be disingenuous for me to not point out the latter two peoples’ identification with esoteric fascist movements currently).

I was bonded out of jail, fought my case on house arrest for a year and months after that, worked out a plea that did not involve naming names or becoming a witness against anyone. It had repercussions for me including more time and no protection from grand juries (and surely, two years later, i was called before one as a witness and put on civil contempt of court). That said, I cannot have seen it going any other way. My regrets with the case is that more of my co-defendants did not stick with us and move forward together-something that had been the idea when worst case scenarios had been discussed years prior.

10 years later, its obvious to me every time i go to any activist event that many younger activists do not know this history. I suppose it is the struggle we all face-how to remember and memorialize, but not live in the past and nostalgia. I can tell people to watch If a Tree Falls or read Green is the New Red (thanks, Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman & Will Potter) but that is an incomplete picture. How then, do we, move forward in our fight for justice and pass on to others what we learned? Its a longer question.

I use the word “I” often in this post and perhaps others as I am talking about the past but at no point have I ever felt alone and not connected to others. Without these stalwart, loyal and amazing people in my life, I know with certainty that things would have gone a totally different way:

Jenny Malone- my former partner and best friend. The rock. The Wizard of Oz behind every aspect of the support campaign and the ‘trying to keep me sane’ campaign. G.O.A.T.  EXES 4EVAH!

My family especially my sister Lisa who funded my legal defense, let me live with her while on house arrest and did not waver or flinch one time. These people taught me loyalty.

Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan better known as FAF.
This small group worked their asses off, put on so many shows, sold a zillon t-shirts, made my court dates, wrote articles, supported me mentally, emotionally and financially, put their lives on hold for some time to make sure I would have a life to come home too. So much gratitude to all of them. I am not even in touch with all of them, which to be honest, saddens me but I have nothing but lifelong gratitude for all of them. Shoutouts to Andrew, Ainsley, Eliza, Kitty, Corey, Sideshow, Cindy, Marianne and Ryan.

This article may be the best article I have seen on the topic though its quite dated. Check it out.

Write my codees:

Rebecca Rubin #98290-011
FCI Dublin
5701 8th Street – Camp Parks
Dublin, California 94568
Birthday: April 18

rubin

Rebecca Rubin is serving a 5 year sentence for her role in a series of Earth Liberation Front (ELF) actions including the arson of the Vail Ski Resort Expansion and US Forest Industries. She also participated in the liberation of horses and the arson of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse Facilities in Litchfield, California and Burns, Oregon. Rebecca is expected to be released in September, 2017.

 

You can buy Rebecca a book (or 5!) at http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2EEY8SICPOC9D

Justin Solondz #98291-011
FCI Oakdale I
Post Office Box 5000
Oakdale, Louisiana 71463
Birthday: October 3

solondzjpg-184d7e27d46e0341

Justin Solondz pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson for his involvement in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson of the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001 and the Romania Chevrolet dealership in Eugene, Oregon. Justin was imprisoned in China for three years prior to extradition. His anticipated release date is 9/23/2017.

Thirteen More People Arrested in Seneca Lake Seven Generations Blockade

From Earth First! Newswire:

photo from We Are Seneca Lake

photo from We Are Seneca Lake

A Seven Generations blockade of a Crestwood fracked gas storage facility in Seneca Lake occurred this morning, resulting in 13 arrests. The same amount of activists were arrested on August 4, ratcheting up this month’s total to at least 26 people.

The arrestees represented students from five different colleges, as well as families, teenagers, and the elderly.

According to We Are Seneca Lake, “A tanker truck was waiting on the side of the road before the We Are Seneca Lake blockade was in place. The truck was later guided into the driveway in front of the blockaders. Blockaders were then told they were being arrested for disorderly conduct.”

A participant in the action, Gabriel Shapiro wrote:

“Today young people and their supporters took a stand for our collective future here in the Finger Lakes. Crestwood wants to turn our region into a storage hub for fracked gas serving the entire Northeast U.S. Their plans put too much at risk. We want to come back and possibly raise children here someday. We don’t want methane, LPG, brine, heavy machinery and the fracking industry to have anything to do with that.

“We are living a different story and it involves locally grown food, world class wine, and a vibrant, self-sustaining economy. We are the Finger Lakes and we are standing together for a different future than Crestwood is presenting us with.”

The We Are Seneca Lake civil disobedience campaign has been ongoing for years, and has led to hundreds of arrests. The campaign has brought public attention to the widespread disapproval of fossil fuels development in the region.

CMU taking special interest in Kevin’s communications

From supportkevinandtyler.com:

Sorting-Mail

Things have taken a turn for the worse since the last update about the BOP restricting Kevin’s communications. Earlier this week, Kevin was notified that the Communications Management Unit (CMU) had taken a special interest in his correspondence with the outside world. Please read this post in its entirety to get necessary information on staying in touch with our friend.

[Note: If you’re not yet familiar with CMUs, check out Will Potter’s 2009 report on these draconian institutions.]

Using the terms “animal liberation” & “earth liberation”
In short, stop doing it. Apparently the CMU is tallying the number of times these terms are used in letters to Kevin as some crude form of “investigating” (or just intimidating) him and his contacts. Yes, it smacks of censorship. No, it’s not fair. But since the prosecution is seeking longterm, stringent incarceration for Kevin, it’s important not to give them any ammunition to hurt him further.

And don’t try to be clever by talking about a liberation without using the term. Obviously the government is going to decode it. Please leave all mentions of extra-legal activity—no matter how heroic or exciting—out of your letters to Kevin.

People currently under investigation
Of course, most of us have no idea who’s being investigated and who’s not—that’s the nature of how the FBI works and they’re not keen on giving up their records. Simply put, Kevin cannot receive correspondence from anyone under federal investigation. 

More on these new restrictions
Kevin’s communication is being handled in such a sensitive way that every letter (even if it comes from someone Kevin doesn’t know personally, and even if he’s unaware of the contents of said letter) can have grave impacts upon his conditions of confinement. We simply ask that you take caution when writing to him, keep everything PG-13, and consider making a donation if you don’t feel comfortable sending a letter.

***

Please send Kevin a letter of support:
(Note: Kevin Johnson is his legal name.)

KEVIN JOHNSON 47353-424
MCC Chicago
Metropolitan Correctional Center
71 West Van Buren Street
Chicago, IL 60605

Tyler Lang was released from state custody in November 2013. He is currently out on bond awaiting trial on the federal charges.

CAPR: Seattle FBI now targeting climate activists

Short update from the Committee to Resist Political Repression:

In the past 48 hours at least six Seattle climate activists have been approached by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at their home or school. In light of recent revelations about the extent of state surveillance by federal agencies we feel it is important to share this information with the broader activist community in Seattle and nationwide.

Please show solidarity with the Seattle activists facing this investigation by sharing this statement. We will provide updates if the situation escalates.

Buffalo, NY: Leslie James Pickering facing increasing harassment by FBI

From the Buffalo News:

When Leslie James Pickering lived on the West Coast more than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical group that destroyed facilities believed to be involved in animal cruelty or environmental degradation.

That included using arson and firebombs to destroy a wild-horse slaughterhouse in Oregon, a ski resort that threatened a lynx habitat in Colorado and a University of Washington horticultural center project that the group believed – incorrectly – was involved in genetic engineering.

But life for Pickering – who says he never was a member of the secretive group, just its spokesman – became too stressful, so he returned to his home in Western New York and eventually opened Burning Books on Connecticut Street.

Now federal authorities are keeping a close watch on Pickering – checking his mail, asking past associates about whether he is capable of violent activity and requiring greater clearance when he travels by air – even though he insists he has done nothing to run afoul of the law.

Are Pickering’s views and past associations reason enough for law enforcement agencies to look into what he’s doing now?

The FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center all considered the Earth Liberation Front that Pickering represented to be involved in “eco-terrorism” that resulted in tens of millions of dollars in property damage.

But Pickering has not been the group’s spokesman for more than a decade, although he still justifies illegal actions against corporations and government agencies under certain circumstances for what he and others consider to be a greater good.

“I’ve had a very public position for almost my whole activist career, and that hasn’t allowed me to do any of this illegal activity I’ve defended,” Pickering said. “Even in my wildest dreams, I might have loved to have been a Robin Hood hero, but that’s not what landed in my lap.”

But Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, thinks law enforcement agencies have good reason to keep tabs on Pickering.

“He’s still advocating a pretty radical ideology, and in some sort of way violence against property, and this is criminal activity that will get the attention of law enforcement,” Segal said.

Pickering – who notes that ELF actions never resulted in physical harm to a person or an animal – has gained a small but vocal group of followers in Buffalo, who feel he is being singled out for having leftist views. Roughly 150 of them attended a fundraiser on his behalf last month.

“I do not advocate any kind of property destruction or illegal activity because of what someone says or thinks. [But] when it’s a company or a government agency that is doing massive physical harm, acting with impunity and not listening to public opinion, then you have to do something about it,” said Pickering, who notes that every social justice movement has had an element of radical activism.

But he insists his views are besides the point. “I’m a bookstore owner,” he said.

Tracking activities

Here’s how security agencies have tracked him in recent months:

• Last September, the FBI called a friend of Pickering’s he had been largely out of touch with for years and asked who Pickering associated with in Buffalo, and if he was capable of violent and illegal activity.

• That same month, a card appeared to have been mistakenly delivered to Pickering’s home mailbox, indicating the post office at 465 Grant St. was providing surveillance of his mail from mid-August to mid-September at the request of an unspecified law enforcement agency.

“Show all mail to supervisor for copying prior to going out on the street,” the card read, with Pickering’s name, the date of the surveillance and “Confidential” written in green highlighter.

• In mid-February, an entity that his bookstore interacts with was presented with a federal grand jury subpoena to provide records.

• On March 3, Pickering was briefly detained in Buffalo by officers from the Transit Security Administration – a branch of the Department of Homeland Security – and reissued a United Airlines ticket with additional screening measures.

Michael Kuzma, Pickering’s attorney, tried to pry loose information from federal authorities through Freedom of Information requests, but met roadblocks.

Representatives of the FBI’s Buffalo office, the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Transit Security Administration all declined to say whether Pickering was under surveillance or investigation.

“It’s been stressful, and I think that’s kind of the point. We’re not doing anything wrong, but this whole process is designed to make us feel like we are, and make other people think we are,” said Theresa Baker-Pickering, with whom Leslie has a 3-year-old daughter.

Social purpose

Pickering, who grew up in East Aurora and West Seneca, said he knew by his early teens that he wanted his life to be guided by a social purpose. He found it initially in the animal-rights movement after moving to San Francisco with his mother, a nurse, after 10th grade at West Seneca East High School.

Pickering became involved a few years later with the Liberation Collective in Portland, Ore., and estimates he was arrested two dozen times for acts of civil disobedience, including seven convictions for violations or misdemeanors, the last in 1999.

The Liberation Collective also began receiving unsigned “communiques” from the Earth Liberation Front, which between 1997 and 2001 committed more than 30 acts of destruction – at sites ranging from automobile dealerships and housing developments to logging companies and universities – that averaged $2.5 million in damages.

Those actions were championed by supporters, and condemned by others – especially those victimized by the actions.

“ELF firebombings are hate crimes against those of us whose missions in life are to increase human knowledge and bring a sense of wonder to the classes we teach,” University at Washington professor Toby Bradshaw wrote after his office was firebombed in the mistaken belief that he was planning to conduct experiments on genetically engineered trees.

Pickering and another activist, Craig Rosebraugh, opened the ELF’s official press office in 2000 and ran it for two years. They issued press releases, held news conferences and defended ELF’s practices, with Pickering’s media appearances ranging from Rolling Stone to Fox News.

Law enforcement took notice. The house they shared was raided twice by the FBI, which carted away computers and other equipment but never leveled charges.

It was after that incident that Pickering – who said he never knew the identities of ELF members until they were arrested – returned home to work on the family’s small blueberry farm outside East Aurora.

 

A different path

Pickering returned to school and graduated from Goddard College in Vermont with master’s degrees in history and journalism. He wrote books on the ELF and on Sam Melville, who in 1969 was involved in bombing the Federal Office Building and other government and commercial buildings in New York City before being killed in the 1971 Attica Prison uprising.

In 2008, Pickering, his wife and Nate Buckley bought the Connecticut Street building where Burning Books is located, and after extensive remodeling, opened their store two years ago.

The store is filled with books and videos about radical history, many about the 1960s and ’70s, on subjects from the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X to historians Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, as well as animal rights, environmental activism, labor struggles and international movements for social justice. The bookstore also hosts speakers and community gatherings.

Posters commemorate the Attica uprising, Che Guevara and Leonard Peltier, and there are flyers in support of Bradley Manning, a soldier charged with leaking national secrets, and a petition against hydraulic fracturing.

The bookstore also carries the 2011 Academy Award-nominated documentary, “If a Tree Fell: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” in which Pickering appears.

“We all know Buffalo is small enough, and there is no terrorist threat,” said Kuzma, Pickering’s attorney. [Fear of terrorism] has been used by the people who really own and run this country to curtail our civil liberties, and Leslie is a victim of this.”

But Segal of the Anti-Defamation League thinks Pickering is a legitimate person of interest to federal authorities.

“[The ELF] did advocate a pretty radical ideology in terms of pushing for a form of violence in the street,” Segal said. “Even if it’s in your past, you’re going to be looked at by law enforcement.”

CCR: Daniel McGowan freed, but BOP invents special restrictions against publishing of articles

From the Center for Constitutional Rights:

April 8, 2013, New York – Today, attorneys for activist Daniel McGowan at the Center for Constitutional Rights released the following update on his situation:

Daniel McGowan is back at the halfway house where he has been residing after a week that was by turns difficult, disturbing and ridiculous. To recap: on Monday, April 1, Daniel published an opinion piece on the Huffington Post titled “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech.” On Thursday, April 4, Daniel was picked up by U.S. Marshals from the halfway house and taken into custody at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He was issued an “incident report” indicating that his Huffington Post blog post violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from “publishing under a byline.” The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010. On Friday, April 5, after we brought Daniel’s unjust detention to the BOP’s attention, he was released from MDC, and the incident report was expunged.

That same day, Daniel was provided with a list of prohibited activities by halfway house staff, which he was required to sign. The list forbids him any media contact without BOP approval, though BOP regulations only require preapproval of in-facility interviews. It also prohibits him from publishing any writing of his own without prior BOP permission. As far as we know, this is a made-up rule applied only to Daniel, in a further attempt to chill his freedom of speech.

McGowan, who was released from prison in December and is serving out the last six months of his sentence at a halfway house, is a plaintiff in a Center for Constitutional Rights lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) experimental Communications Management Units (CMUs) where he was kept for four years. New documents uncovered in the case indicate he was placed in these highly restrictive experimental units as retaliation for his political writings on current events and issues while he was in prison.

Aref v. Holder challenges the violation of prisoners’ fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to due process. Attorneys say that because transfer to CMUs are not based on facts or discipline for infractions, a pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation for prisoners’ lawful advocacy has emerged. Daniel McGowan recently amended the complaint to include claims of retaliation for First Amendment protected speech.

For information about CCR’s federal lawsuit challenging CMUs, visit the Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al case page orwww.ccrjustice.org/cmu.

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.

NYC ABC Update on Daniel McGowan’s Reimprisonment

NYC ABC:

We got word late yesterday that Daniel McGowan was told he wouldn’t be issued a pass to go to work the next day. According to his keepers at the halfway house, this denial came at the direction of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). When he followed up, Daniel was told that it wasn’t merely a denial of a work pass, but a restriction on all movement. When asked if that meant federal marshals were coming to get him the next day, the halfway house administrators told him they didn’t know.

The state, and its for-profit halfway house minions, were clearly in collusion. This is just another way that opacity is used to mindfuck folks left to twist in the wind, not knowing what the future holds.

From our understanding, the reason for his re-imprisonment is directly related to an article Daniel recently wrote for the Huffington Post. An attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights has been to visit Daniel at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Once we know more, we’ll pas the information on.

For now, take time to send Daniel a card or letter. Let him know that regardless of how the state treats him, we have his back.

Write to Daniel at:Daniel McGowan #63794-053
MDC Brooklyn
Post Office Box 329002
Brooklyn, New York 11232