As I wrote last December, Scott DeMuth, a young Dakota activist from Minneapolis, has been charged with conspiracy to commit “animal enterprise terrorism.” I have talked with some of my lawyer friends who have no knowledge of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). In fact, AETA was passed with little fanfare in 2006, at the behest of “animal industry groups, corporations, and the politicians that represent them,” according to journalist Will Potter.
Potter has written extensively on the “Green Scare” (greenisthenewred.com), the effort by federal authorities to paint environmental and animal rights activists as among the most dangerous of criminals. DeMuth, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent and superseding indictments, is alleged to have been involved in a 2004 raid on an animal research laboratory at the University of Iowa, in which rats and mice were taken and equipment was damaged, and in another animal liberation raid at Lakeside Ferrets, Inc. in Minnesota.
DeMuth’s trial is set to begin Sept. 13, in Davenport, Iowa, federal court. Apparently some of the government’s evidence against him, such as it is, was seized during a SWAT team raid on a house in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis on the weekend before the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC). Over the past two years, I have become well informed about the legal aftermath of the RNC, as my son, Max, 21, is one of the RNC 8 defendants. Max and his codefendants are charged with conspiracy to riot and to damage property, two felony counts; the RNC 8 trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 25 in Ramsey County court – it is a state-level prosecution.
Although the cases of the RNC 8 and Scott DeMuth are in state and federal court, respectively, and involve separate sets of facts, they are linked by the regime of political repression that preceded the 2008 RNC. The RNC Welcoming Committee, the anarchist group that organized protests against the Republicans, was infiltrated by an undercover deputy and informants from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, and by an FBI informant.
On the morning of Aug. 30, 2008, heavily armed SWAT teams raided three homes in South Minneapolis; the previous night, the Convergence Center, a meeting space for protesters near the High Bridge in St. Paul, also was raided. Max missed the raid at his house on Harriet Avenue and 35th Street; but the house was under surveillance by Minneapolis cops and FBI agents. On the morning of Sept. 1, before the RNC began in St. Paul, Max was arrested while riding in a van, in a targeted traffic spot about two blocks from his house.
The government’s current efforts to crack down on anarchists, environmentalists and animal rights activists represent a continuation of historical waves of government repression going back to the Red Scare of the early 20th century and COINTELPRO, the FBI’s program to disrupt anti-Vietnam War student groups, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, etc. And in the post-9/11 era, everything has been conflated with “terrorism.”
The original charge against the RNC 8 was “conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism” – the first time charges were brought under Minnesota’s version of the USA PATRIOT Act. The charges with “terrorism” enhancements, which could add 50 percent to the length of a sentence, were dropped in April 2009.
The politically motivated prosecution of the RNC 8 will likely cause Minnesota taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, as the upcoming trial is expected to last for two months. The RNC 8 Defense Committee has raised more than $100,000, most of which is going to pay the defendants’ lawyers.
The coming months will provide an opportunity for those who want to oppose the criminalization of dissent to support Scott DeMuth (davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com) and the RNC 8 (rnc8.org).
Alberta tar sands forum
A variety of local environmental groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), will sponsor a forum, “Alberta Tar Sands: Minnesota’s Dirty Oil Secret,” 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22 at O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. A reception with sponsor information tables will take place from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation and IEN, will speak. He will be joined by Simon Dyer, of the Pembina Institute in Calgary; and Michael Noble of the local group Fresh Energy.
The environmental activists will discuss how the massive oil-from-tar sands project has destroyed thousands of acres of boreal forests and endangered community health in Alberta, Minnesota’s role in tar sands oil, and ways to reduce our need for oil.