When the pain hits home – Tristan Anderson shot at Palestine wall protest

Oakland, California is ground zero for many members of the Slingshot collective, but on March 13, Oakland felt like a distant outpost, really far away from Ni’ilin, in the West Bank, where our friend Tristan Anderson, who also lives in Oakland, was struck in the forehead and almost killed by a high-velocity tear gas grenade. Suddenly the Israel/Palestine conflict had new shades and hues, new depth and angles, wrought by personal connection and pain.

The news that Tristan had been critically injured in the West Bank fell like an emotional bomb on our community. When the news was announced on the local Pacifica radio station it detonated somewhere above us in the atmosphere and radiated outward in waves. It settled around us in a thick cloud that constricted our breathing for a time and tied our stomach in knots. For a week afterward, meeting someone you hadn’t seen since hearing the news was sufficient cause for a new round of tears.

It wasn’t just the what, but the how. News of Tristan’s injury came across the AP news wire around noon on Friday, March 13 and from there seemed to spread within minutes. The wire report said he had been injured at a protest near the Apartheid Wall. It said that Tristan had been struck in the forehead at close range, and that after he had been rushed to the hospital part of his frontal lobe had been removed in order to get out all the fragments of skull lodged in his brain. The International Solidarity Movement released a video of Tristan being put on a stretcher as tear gas canisters continued to fall all around him. His head was bloodied and lolling back and forth unconsciously. His girlfriend Gabby, a familiar voice in the chaos, could be heard in the background shouting, “Tristan! Oh God, oh God oh God….”

Tristan has hundreds, if not thousands of friends here who have shared a meal with him, or laughed in appreciation at his stories of triumphs and near-calamities at protests in Oaxaca, El Salvador or Iraq. His nose arcs to the side like a water slide, slipping off at a most improbable angle — once broken, now a healed-up testament to his penchant for daring feats. He has this way of telling stories that involves his whole, wiry frame, and a laugh that is infectious, not least of all to himself. It seems to catch him by surprise and shake his shoulders to and fro. He has lived in the Bay Area for most of his adult life, though most of us have also heard stories of his childhood in Grass Valley, California, and of his family there.

Although Tristan has been arrested at protests more than forty times, he has only twice been brought to trial and has never been convicted. He is not the sort to get angry or confrontational; he is never among the belligerent egotists yelling at the riot police. He takes it for granted that inequality, injustice, and environmental degradation are things to be exposed and eliminated — it is not in his character to shout about something so obvious. Instead he comes home with stories about the amazing collective processes he witnessed, of people realizing their own power and gathering in cramped rooms to attempt all the work of self-governance, of escaping confrontation with armed police by running from showers of rubber bullets and scuttling under barricades to escape being crushed by army vehicles.

When Tristan goes on an adventure to attend a protest near or far, he brings back stories, but he also brings back pictures. I have on my hard drive dozens of pictures Tristan uploaded from his camera to post on the internet during the early days of the tree sit on UC Berkeley Campus. Tristan took a few pictures of hand-lettered signs hanging from branches, and smiling portraits of people in the trees, but the vast majority of his photos were of mushrooms, fungus, and lichen, the grove’s least obtrusive form of life, growing green and brown in lovely fractal patterns. He never posted those pictures or spoke of them. They are just beautiful close-ups he created, spiritual and ethereal in their beauty, not the kind of thing every activist takes time to appreciate. Tristan spent a lot of time at the grove in those early days, reading and talking to people under the canopy.

I don’t think many of us knew how Tristan’s injury would affect us even as we first heard about it, and began eagerly scouring the web to find out all we could about the circumstances and conditions, only to learn the gory details, and not much more, until the story broke in local media as “Former Tree Sitter Tristan Anderson Critically Wounded,” which in the collective psyche of many around here translated to, “Dirty Hippy Downed.”

The tree sit ended last September, but a week after Tristan was shot, Debra Saunders, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote an opinion piece that said as much. She opened her opinion piece, titled “Tree Sitter not in Berkeley Anymore,” with a mocking and inaccurate characterization of the protest. “When Tristan Anderson, now 38, was living illegally in the trees at UC Berkeley to protest the administration’s ultimately successful bid to cut down the trees to build a sports training center, life was good. For 21 months, Berkeley’s tree sitters happily fouled their nests with little interference from the authorities. Their biggest fear was falling….”

She then went on to condemn “Tristan’s friends” for staging a “violent” protest after he was wounded that closed down Market Street in San Francisco when we “could have used the awful occasion of Anderson’s situation to contemplate how wonderful it is to live in a safe country.” She was referring to a protest that came together just three days after Tristan was shot, ironically on the anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, an American killed by Israeli troops during a protest in Palestine. Hundreds turned out, for Tristan or Rachel or Palestine or all three. Eight people were arrested — ambushed on the sidewalk by dozens of cops after the protest had mostly dispersed, for what provocation we do not know. To characterize the protest as “violent” in this context seems to mean disruptive or provocative, not violent in the sense of the police treatment of the demonstrators — physically throwing people on the pavement and locking them in pain holds.

The media reaction accentuated two things. First, how truly horrible violence, especially state-sponsored violence, is. And second, how absurdly at odds mainstream culture is with protest culture — setting itself against all of us hooligans hell-bent on obstructing the movement to “get on with things.” Needless to say, here in Tristan’s circles–with Tristan still in a hospital half a world away recovering from pneumonia, infection, half a dozen operations, and an egregious head injury–we felt a range of things about the world’s indifference and lack of sympathy. Personally, I felt embattled: privileged with the kinds of knowledge only available to those willing to witness things first-hand, and traumatized by what I have seen.

It becomes wearying to point out that Tristan was not a threat to the Israeli Defense Force soldiers who shot him, something his friends know automatically because we know Tristan, know protest situations, and know Tristan in those situations. The media will have already made their pronouncements and moved on by the time the details are confirmed: that the IDF was firing on an already dispersed crowd, that the soldier could have fired up (not straight) with his launcher, and that at the time Tristan was shot he was, as usual, taking pictures.

Tristan was in the trees at the oak grove in Berkeley when the final siege began in May of 2008. For six months they had been surrounded by eight foot fences with barbed wire. Several gas generators roared all night long from the guard posts the University had created and the protesters were bathed in floodlights. Then one day, the University raised up cherry pickers full of men with knives, shears and trimmers to cut ropes and branches and to try to get the tree sitters out. A few were
extracted, including Gabby, Tristan’s girlfriend. The University reported to the media that they were just trimming the trees and removing unoccupied structures they had deemed “a safety hazard.” The reporters raised no questions about the irony of trimming trees you planned to cut down. Nor did they report much about the horrific way the scene unfolded day after day, with the tree sitters yelling and scrambling from branch to branch, tree to tree as the men in the cherry pickers tried to corner them by cutting rope supports, ramming trees, yelling derogatory insults, and doing everything they could to get them out of the trees short of getting blood on their hands.

Tristan negotiated surrender and came down in early June. He was hallucinating from lack of sleep and dehydration, and had been separated from the rest of the tree sitters during the struggle so that he was hanging out solo on a branch near the road. Physically and emotionally, he was out of stamina. He needed to work the next day, and wanted to download and preserve the over 300 pictures he had taken during the siege, but he still felt enormously guilty for giving up–even though he didn’t give up. He and Gabby sat vigil by the grove day and night for months after, providing ground support and talking to the media. Tristan stayed there even though he got little sleep. He told me he was plagued for months with nightmares of the men in cherry pickers menacing them by pounding their perches and threatening to knock them down.

Out of the hundreds of people who were arrested during the two-year campaign to save the oaks, Tristan was one of the few to go to trial. The day after he surrendered, he was arrested for coming back to the oak grove. The police testified that after he came down from the trees, he had been told he was banned from campus for three days. The prosecution alleged that he had returned as an act of flagrant disobedience, to show the campus cops he had not been beaten. In fact, the arresting officer had forgotten to tell him he was banned from campus–an embarrassing mistake, had she admitted it. She did admit that she forgot to give him the paper copy, and that she planned to present him one at the Berkeley jail where he was held overnight, but that by the time she got around to it he had been released.

The prosecution’s contention that Tristan was an angry radical could not bear the weight of Tristan himself when he took the stand, or when he was shown standing in handcuffs at the time of his arrest carefully explaining, “They are saying I had a stay-away order, but they never gave me one.”

The whole embarrassing waste of public funds resulted in an acquittal for Tristan, a brief triumph in a long and grueling campaign against state power and largess.

Of course he is now once again a symbol of the abuse of state power, this time on a much larger stage, but also a symbol of how divided the world has become when people are unsympathetic towards anyone killed or injured at a protest–even if they were nonviolent, even if they were members of the press. It seems so banal and brutal to me.

We are getting regular reports on the progress of Tristan’s recovery, and among the community of friends here, I would say the mood is cautiously optimistic. The larger picture of facing down tyranny and oppression is harder to view. I think of the pain and reverberations Tristan’s injury has caused here in Oakland, and then I think of the thousands of people injured in the occupied territories, and the multiplicative reverberations those casualties must cause in an Arab population of just 3.7 million, and I can honestly see why people work so hard to dehumanize these people as terrorists. It is impossible to rationalize their oppression otherwise.

Viva Women's Choice clinic – budget cuts close feminist health center

Women’s Choice Clinic in Oakland, California was forced to close April 8 after running out of money. Women’s Choice was the oldest feminist health center in the United States — performing abortions since 1972, a year before the Roe vs. Wade decision made abortion legal. Women’s Choice Clinic performed low cost, sliding-scale abortions, as well as offering gynecological exams, STD testing, and birth control, all in a supportive, comfortable environment. Volunteers made sure women could learn as much about their health care options as possible, and that doctors listened to the concerns of women and paid attention. The clinic provided feminist health care centered on compassion, dignity, and respect. These subversive practices ran counter to the practice of professional medicine, where male experts distanced themselves from women’s bodies and voices.

“Coming to a feminist health care center feels like coming home,” noted Linci Comi, an activist who has worked with the clinic for over thirty years and is currently its executive director.

The state’s chronic failure to reimburse for Medi-Cal (California’s supplemented medi-caid) payments forced the clinic to close. Ninety percent of the clinic’s clients received free abortion services through Medi-Cal, and the clinic no longer had the money to cover basic supplies and licensing fees. “It’s heartbreaking, class warfare on poor women,” says Comi.

“Unfortunately, relying on Medi-Cal has put us under the thumb of the state,” according to Annah Wilson. And the State’s thumb is stingy and ugly, barely providing money to cover the cost of supplies, often over six months late in payments, and refusing to pay on the slightest grounds. “We had to survive on private donations for over thirty years, and the community did as much as it could to support us.” Unfortunately the economic slump means that the community couldn’t really step up once more and rescue the clinic.

The clinic’s dedication to providing care to low-income women was no accident, but an integral part of the politics of reproductive justice. The battle must be fought not just to keep abortion legal, but to make free abortion available on demand. This is a part of the broader battle to give all of us access to the free health care we need to live. The Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976, chipped away at abortion access by taking away Medicaid funding for abortions, but California and Hawaii still provide Medicaid abortions with state funding. While nothing has changed legally, the state tightened the screws by reducing the rates of payment on Medi-Cal abortions and delaying payments.

I have seen the revolutionary banner of Women’s Choice Clinic literally out on the streets demonstrating for women’s freedom, and against war and oppression, and it’s so important that we continue to struggle now, and stand up for truly free, truly universal health care, and for women seeking reproductive freedom. A seated pro-choice president doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax, and the clinic’s closure should be a wake up call. It’s time to demand systematic changes and free up resources sucked down by the war, quiet the carping of anti-choicers and keep them from carving away at abortion access by putting political and economic pressure on the fourteen feminist health centers operating today. It’s great if political changes can provide us with renewed hope and inspiration, but the work remains to be done to make the vision of reproductive freedom clear and real.

Clinic volunteers actively worked against forced sterilization, helped pioneer informed consent, put the health of women above all other considerations, and analyzed the larger structures of oppression in their work. We need voices like these to speak out loud and strong, because of the history of birth control being a tool of population control, white supremacy, and eugenics, extending into the birth control options pushed on low income women and women of color offered in clinics today. This activist voice is especially needed when anti-abortions critics are becoming more sophisticated, by co-opting real fears of racist genocide.

Women’s choice used a loophole in Medi-Cal to provide abortion funds to more women: pregnant low-income women are immediately eligible for temporary Medi-Cal, without having to go through quite as many hoops. Women’s Choice was one of the last stops for women short on cash seeking an abortion, since the big box abortion clinics prioritize the bottom line, and cut corners to make more money and leave low-income women out in the cold. Comi gave an example of big box clinics creatively adding to Medi-Cal billing by inserting unwanted Intra Uterine Devices, an involuntary birth control device, just to tack on charges. What a fucked up excuse for limiting reproductive freedom!

The clinic has faced round after round of budget shortfalls bravely, responding to previous Medi-cal cuts by trimming down to a skeleton crew of paid staff and relying almost completely on volunteers. In some ways, this switch back to volunteers rejuvenated the activist culture at Women’s Choice, as young women with no formal health care training, but as dedicated to learning about health care as the clinics founders, began performing duties such as blood work, counseling, sonograms, and assisting surgical procedures. This is more involvement than the passive roles (paperwork) interns are usually subjected to.

“Women’s Choice Clinic showed us a whole new way to approach health care that valued patient education and empowerment. And they have left an important legacy — there are literally hundreds of health care professionals now in the field who did their clinical hours and certifications at Women’s Choice Clinic. We are better off for WCC’s work, and it is a crying shame that they can’t continue,” according to Kim Barstow, a former clinic volunteer.

“I feel stripped of hope,” laments Annah Wilson, the clinic’s volunteer coordinator, “but I also feel a renewed sense of urgency, and a need to funnel people away from the mainstream health system. The counter-narrative of Women’s Choice made it possible for me to work with the mainstream health system in what I felt to be a subversive way. I needed a place where I could speak out frankly against oppression.”

Carol Downer, Lorraine Rothman, and other women, started a self-help group in Los Angeles, which became the Feminist Health Center in 1971. These women studied women’s anatomy, physiology, and abortion techniques, and started providing abortions on their own, as well as teaching women to do their own cervical exams and inventing a technique called Menstrual Extraction, which women can use to empty the contents of the uterus manually. Northern California women caught on quickly, starting the Oakland Feminist Health Center and a network of clinics.

The new self-help clinics broke new technical ground in women’s health care, as well as breaking barriers to women becoming involved in their own health care. Vacuum evacuation was pioneered by the newly legalized self help clinics and based on the insights and research done by women’s self care groups. This is why abortion is so safe today, and women should never have to face the immense physical and emotional danger of an unwanted pregnancy. When challenges to abortion reached a fever pitch in the 1990s, Rothman again began distributing information about how woman could directly take control of their own health care, as the services at clinics deteriorated in the climate of fear, writing A Woman’s Book of Choices. Young women responded by forming new self-help groups to learn about their own bodies (Slingshot was a part of this new generation and has published information about menstrual extraction and do-it-yourself women’s health consistently.)

The clinic’s work isn’t over. As a licensed medical clinic, they must continue to provide medical records for seven years, and clinic workers plan to keep providing health informati
on, unwanted pregnancy prevention, reproductive health information, on a street level, as the West Coast Feminist Health Project. “There is still a lot we can do without a licensed clinic,” according to Comi. This means the community can’t just mourn the loss of the clinic, but needs to keep helping to carry the burden, and organizing for reproductive freedom. “There is still hope that something will change in the political situation, or we can get a new source of funding.” The clinic is looking for storage space, legal support (the nonprofit may need to file for bankruptcy), design work, and people who want to help come up with a strategic vision.

So if you are ready to get back to the basics of grassroots feminist work, meeting in living rooms, contact them and offer you support at WCFHP, P.O. BOX 70432, Oakland, CA 94612. They also love to hear from former volunteers, and are keeping an archive, so drop a line if you were one of the many people who did everything from clinic defense to counseling, and have recollections or snapshots. “We’re not going to let them destroy us,” said Comi.

Is chanting terrorism? 4 charged under Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope, and Adriana Stumpo were arrested by the FBI February 20 on trumped-up terrorism charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Each faces ten years in prison if convicted. The alleged crime? Attending protests in the Bay Area in 2007 and 2008 against animal experimentation at the University of California and allegedly publishing the names and addresses of UC researchers who experiment on living animals, known as vivisectors.

According to In Defense of Animals, “Every year, tens of millions of animals are dissected, infected, injected, gassed, burned and blinded in hidden laboratories on college campuses and research facilities throughout the U.S. Still more animals are used to test the safety of cosmetics, household cleansers and other consumer products. These innocent primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents and other animals are used against their will as research subjects in experiments and procedures that would be considered sadistically cruel were they not conducted in the name of science.”

In the news release and associated criminal complaint the FBI lays out the basis for the arrests and the case against the defendants, alleging that:

• Three of the defendants attended protests at the homes of vivisectors working at UC Berkeley where, “…extremists dressed generally in all black clothing and wearing bandanas to hide their faces marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks in front of the residences.”

• Three of the defendants attended a protest at the home of a UC Santa Cruz vivisector whose husband came outside to confront the activists and allegedly engaged in a “struggle” with one or more of the protestors. Of special interest in this charge are the facts that (1) the husband appears to have initiated any sort of confrontation that took place, (2) the defendants are not alleged to have engaged in any sort of struggle themselves, and (3) the basis for the claim that they were even present for the protest is based on DNA evidence off bandanas seized from a car that was alleged to have been used for the protest.

• Two of the defendants were observed via video surveillance footage looking up public information on vivisectors at UC Santa Cruz.

• Two of the defendants were observed via video surveillance footage standing near the location where a stack of flyers was later found at a café in Santa Cruz. The flyer was entitled “Murderers and torturers alive & well in Santa Cruz,” which the FBI alleged in their news release listed the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of several University of California researchers.

The way the FBI has turned a case that wouldn’t even warrant a misdemeanor arrest into a Federal felony case is by charging Maryam, Joseph, Adriana, and Joseph with conspiring to interfere with an animal enterprise. More specifically, the four now face two federal charges – Conspiracy and violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), each count carrying a maximum sentence of five years.

These arrests mark the first batch of prosecutions under the newly expanded AETA. The modified version of the law was introduced in 2006 at the urging of animal industry groups and snuck through congress while only a handful of Representatives and Senators were present.

The AETA makes it illegal to “interfere” with an animal enterprise, in an overly vague and extremely subjective way. As a result this law not only endangers these four defendants charged with violating the AETA themselves, but also has the potential to have a chilling effect on free speech and protest. In fact, the FBI news release announcing the arrests indicated the charges were designed to “send a message” by making an example of the defendants.

We too can send a message – whether we are animal liberationists, civil liberties advocates, anti-authoritarians, or human beings of any sort. We will not stand idly by while federal agents begin witch-hunts, kick in doors, subpoena people to grand juries, and seek to eliminate dissent wherever it threatens corporate interests. Instead we must stand tall — continuing to speak out, protest, and resist government repression.

While these four young people (known as the AETA4) face the full force of the US Justice Department, they have the truth on their side and a skilled team of attorneys to fight for their freedom. But with the deep pockets of the US Attorney’s Office opposing them, they need tens of thousands of dollars to finance their defense. If you can offer any assistance, whether large or small, please consider donating to their defense fund. Donations can be sent to:

The AETA Defense Fund PO Box 99162 Emeryville, CA 94662. For updates on the case or to donate online please visit: AETA4.org


The AETA4 are:

Joseph Buddenberg (age 25) currently residing in Oakland with his wife. Joey hopes to return to school and work once his home confinement conditions are lifted.

Maryam Khajavi (age 20) is a recent UC Santa Cruz graduate who lives in Oakland, California and hopes to attend law school and become a civil-rights attorney.

Nathan Pope (age 26) and Adriana Stumpo (age 23) are engaged and currently residing in southern California. Adriana is a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Nathan a student at Cabrillo Community College.

Introduction to issue # 100

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

This issue is numbered issue #100, which is some kind of a milestone, but we decided not to make such a big deal of it. Numbers are arbitrary anyway — if we had 6 fingers on our hands and not 5, we would probably count in base 12 and the significant issue number would be 144. Moreover, due to a numbering error when some collective members left and the new collective got confused about which issue number they were on, our numbering jumped from issue #35 to #38 — there are no issues 36 and 37.

Even if it has only been 98 issues, making Slingshot for one issue or for 21 years is a wild ride. When we write about the sense of cooperation, engagement and freedom we seek in the larger society, we’re informed in a tiny way by getting to experience life making the paper. Working in a volunteer collective where everyone is there freely because they want to be is so radically different from how the world works outside the Long Haul.

In the “real world” you work a job you hate to scrape together some money because you know you live in a cold, lonely, hostile world and no one is going to help you out unless you can pay. In a collective, we try to help each other and share. It isn’t perfect and it doesn’t always work, but making Slingshot we at least get a chance to try to live based on different rules and assumptions for a few days every few months. And the infrequent bouts making Slingshot tend to seep out and inform our lives all the time. If you want to glimpse a different world, the best place to start is doing some tiny thing differently and see how far it can go.

• • •

At Slingshot’s 21st birthday party, we gave our annual Golden Wingnut award for lifetime achievement to Gerald Smith. Gerald has spent his whole life struggling for freedom and justice and we hope to feature his biography in the next issue.

This summer we’ll be working on making the 2010 organizer calendar. Please send us artwork, info for the radical contact list, your ideas for historical dates, cover graphics and anything else you want to see in the Organizer. The deadline for historical dates is June 26 and the deadline for everything else is July 31. If you’re in the bay area in early August, join us for 2 fun weeks to make the organizer. It will be available October 1. By the way, we still have a bunch of leftover 2009 organizers — let us know if you could help us get them to folks who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them like prisoners, youth, homeless, etc.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors & independent thinkers to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to being edited.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to all who made this: Aaron, Ayr, Bryan, Canyon, Chelsea, Compost, Crystal, Eggplant, Enola, Gregg, Kathryn, Kermit, Kristy, PB, Rezz, Samantha, Stephanie, Will and all the authors and artists.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 101 by September 12, 2009 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 100, Circulation 18,000

Printed April 24, 2009

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Avenue. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca • www.slingshot.tao.ca

Circulation Information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. Outside the Bay Area, we’ll mail a free stack of copies of Slingshot to you if you give them out free. Or visit our office.

Back Issue Project

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage: send us $3 for 2 lbs or $4 for 3 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office. Send cash or check to Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705. Special issue #100 deal — send us $100 and we’ll send you the 90+ issues we have in our file including some very rare ones, plus a back copy of available organizers. About 10 lbs of reading!

People's Park still blooming – 1969-2009

New Book about People’s Park!

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the construction of People’s Park in Berkeley, local author and activist Terri Compost has compiled People’s Park: Still Blooming, a 200 page full-color coffee table book that documents the Park’s evolution from 1969 to the present day.

People’s Park, located between Haste Street and Dwight Avenue, half a block East of Telegraph Avenue, is in many ways the spiritual and inspirational nexus of radical activism in the East Bay. Since a diverse coalition of activists seized a vacant lot to build the Park in 1969, the Park has been a model for do-it-yourself direct action. In the years since 1969, generations of activists have fought to permit the users of the Park to decide how it should be developed, operated and maintained — embodying the principal of user development — in the face of constant police repression. Amidst all the riots and protests, the park still blooms.

As the silent narrator, Terri weaves together interviews, news clippings and book excerpts to tell the story of the Park’s past, present and future. The book features hundreds of historical images and photographs of the Park’s present uses: as a community garden and native plant repository in a dense urban area; as a liberated zone for concerts and political rallies; and as one of the few places open to all people — rich and poor, homeless and housed — in an increasingly consumer-dominated Berkeley. Daily free food provided by Food Not Bombs and others draws a constantly shifting band of punks, travelers, artists and marginalized people to the Park.

It is fitting that People’s Park: Still Blooming is the first book published by the Slingshot Collective. Slingshot traces its roots to the Park — the ideas that inspired it and the street protests that have kept it alive. The book is not a dry historical text nor mere picture book — its conception and actualization are intimately tied to a living struggle with implications far wider than just Berkeley or just a Park. The struggle for the Park is the same as the global struggle for freedom, cooperation and ecological balance over hierarchy, corporations and a throw-away world.

Look for People’s Park: Still Blooming in your local indy-bookstore or infoshop, or order from the slingshot website: slingshot@tao.ca.

Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act – Overbroad, Overreaching, overboard – we're over it

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) is a dramatic example of how industry groups are using the rhetoric of the War on Terror to attack activists who protest business activities. For most people, the term “terrorism” refers to injuring or killing human beings in particular contexts — perhaps blowing up a car bomb or flying an airplane into an office tower. To be a “terrorist” under AETA — and guilty of a felony — you don’t need to hurt or kill anyone. You can be guilty under AETA just for planning activities “for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise” (as defined in the law) — even if those activities are otherwise entirely legal.

On its face, it is clear that AETA was drafted by industry groups to target activists who have protested the animal industry. It appears to focus on protest tactics that industry found particularly annoying — or effective. Should activists trespass, damage property, or injure an individual, they could be arrested under regular laws that prohibit those acts, with penalties related to the seriousness of the crime. For example, simple trespassing is not a felony. The only rationale for AETA is to turn protest tactics that would otherwise be legal, or minor offenses, into felonies — while seeking to demonize activists by erroneously labeling these protest tactics as “terrorism.”

AETA is peculiar because it only targets protest activities against “animal enterprises.” Thus, activities that would be criminalized by AETA would be entirely legal if the target was an oil company, weapons manufacturer, or abortion clinic — just so long as they don’t in any way connect to a very broadly defined “animal enterprise.” This begs the question of whether each social movement will eventually get its own “terrorism” bill — drafted by industry lobbyists — to protect each particular industry against the most effective protest tactics employed by its critics. How about the Lumber Enterprise Terrorism Act to criminalize tree-sitting, the Mountaintop Removal Terrorism Act or the Freeway Expansion Terrorism Act?

To understand just how absurd AETA is, it is helpful to look at the precise language of the law and how the “terrorism” label on the surface of the act isn’t matched by any “terrorism” in the actual law.

The law states:

Whoever . . . (1) for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and (2) in connection with such purpose:

(A) intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transaction with an animal enterprise;

(B) intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation; or

(C) conspires or attempts to do so;

shall be punished as provided for in subsection (b).

Sub-section (C) is the loosest part the law and the most subject to government abuse since it makes it a felony just to “attempt” to interfere with an animal enterprise, or to conspire to interfere where the plan involves a violation of (A) or (B). To understand how little is required to violate AETA, one has to understand conspiracy law. Under the law, it appears that anyone “conspiring” to “interfere with the operations” of any of the “animal enterprises” where the plan involved any of the acts in (A) or (B) could be labeled a terrorist and guilty of a felony. A conspiracy can involve as little as entering into an agreement with one other person with one “overt act” (which can be totally legal, i.e. making a flier) taken to further the “conspiracy”. You don’t have to actually do an action to be guilty of conspiracy.

Since conspiracy is such a flexible charge, it is hard to say what might result in charges under the law. Would agreeing to engage in petty vandalism like spray-painting at an industry conference be conspiracy to damage property to interfere with an animal industry? Would agreeing to trespass in front of a circus in a symbolic act of civil disobedience be conspiracy to interfere with the circus, and thus be defined as terrorism? What about if you’re involved with a group that organizes a protest and someone you don’t even know damages property? What about making signs for a home demonstration against a vivisector where the resident claims to be terrified?

While sub-section (C) is the worst part of the law, sub-sections (A) and (B) aren’t much better. Both criminalize legal acts, very minor infractions, or conduct so subjective and in the eye of the beholder that it is impossible to know what might be illegal under AETA.

Under sub-section (A), any action intended to interfere with an animal enterprise is a felony if “in connection with such purpose” the defendant “intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property.” While intentionally damaging property sounds scary and bad, the language of the law is very vague. Presumably, pasting a sticker on a window during a demonstration would be an “intentional damage” to property. Or painting graffiti. Or petty vandalism. If these acts were prosecuted without AETA, they might be punishable by a fine or community service, if they were prosecuted at all. But under AETA, they become a terrorist act because of the intentions (the thoughts) of the activists doing them. Under the conspiracy portion of AETA, a whole group of people who planned a symbolic action that incidentally resulted in minor property damage could be prosecuted on federal charges as terrorists.

The penalty section of AETA links the severity of the criminal penalty with the level of “economic damage” or harm associated with a particular AETA violation, ranging from a year in jail to life in prison. The severity of the punishment hinges in part on whether a particular action “instills in another the reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death” — a vague and potentially subjective standard as to what is “reasonable” fear. The definition of the term “economic damage” is geared right towards what industry cares about most: the bottom line. “[T]he term ‘economic damage’ (A) means the replacement costs of lost or damages property or records, the costs of repeating an interrupted or invalidated experiment, the loss of profits, or increased costs, including losses and increased costs resulting from threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, trespass, harassment, or intimidation taken against a person or entity on account of that person’s or entity’s connection to, relationship with, or transactions with the animal enterprise.”

Under sub-section (B), intentionally placing a person in “reasonable fear” “by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation” for the purpose of “interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise” is illegal. The “course of conduct” language is vague because it mixes illegal acts with undefined and potentially free speech activities. One person’s “harassment” is another person’s persistent protest campaign. Most of the illegal “course of conduct” acts — vandalism, trespassing — would be minor infractions, not felonies, but for AETA. The government can already prosecute activists for vandalism or trespassing under existing laws, with penalties fitting the seriousness (or lack of seriousness) of the crime.

None of the acts prohibited under subsections (A), (B), or (C) rise to the level of terrorism because none of the prohibited acts involve physical violence against anyone — none of the sub-sections involve the injury or death of anyone. Which
raises the question: why does AETA use the word terrorism? Perhaps to scare the public and to smear activists? Why does the government need AETA in the first place if acts like property destruction, vandalism, trespassing and violence against individuals are already illegal? Because it is designed to prosecute activists who can’t be prosecuted for an actual crime? And why does the law only go after activists who protest “animal enterprises”? Because animal industry lobbyists wanted to portray animal protesters as somehow scarier than other activists, and they had the political muscle to get the law passed?

The definition of “animal enterprise” in the law is particularly instructive. The law defines it as:

(A) a commercial or academic enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products for profit, food or fiber production, agriculture, education, research or testing;

(B) a zoo, aquarium, animal shelter, pet store, breeder, furrier, circus, or rodeo, or other lawful competitive animal event; or

(C) any fair or similar event intended to advance agriculture arts and sciences.

The list, undoubtedly written by industry lobbyists, is a neat summary of American animal rights protest actions over the last 30 years. Animal rights activists have protested fur farms, zoos, rodeos, factory farms, animal research labs, and national conferences like the annual Bio-industry conference. The intent presumably has always been to interfere with business operations that exploit non-human animals, and in fact to shut down businesses to the extent they exploit animals.

When AETA was enacted in 2007, it was widely criticized as overbroad. Now with the February 20, 2009 arrest of four California animal rights activists and the March 5th arrest of William “BJ” Viehl and Alex Hall in Utah, AETA is getting its first test in real world conditions. The government’s use of AETA against the AETA4 demonstrates the key problems with the entire law. The indictment filed March 12 charges that the four engaged in a conspiracy to interfere with animal enterprises by intentionally attempting to place protected individuals in fear. None of the four are charged with any crime other than the AETA charge — none are charged with trespassing, vandalism or hurting anyone. Under the government’s theory, the AETA4 are somehow “terrorists” even in the absence of any involvement in a violent act. The AETA4 case is a dangerous over-extension of government power and a reckless misuse of the term “terrorist.” It should be exposed.

For info on the Utah AETA case, visit supportbjandalex.com

Where won't they take a dump? proposed toxic dump site in Mexico

The Mexican government and a corporation called Centro de Gestión Integral de Residuos S.A. (CEGRI) want to build a hazardous waste dump in O’odham territory, near the sacred site and village of Quitovac, with the implicit support of the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA).

The proposed dump would desecrate the ceremonial site of Quitovac and devastate the culture, traditions, sacred sites and spiritual well-being of the O’odham Indigenous peoples in both Mexico and the U.S. The dump would also expose children and nearby communities to dangerous toxins and could contaminate the underground well that the communities depend on. Transport of hazardous materials through the nearby roads also causes O’odham activists concern. They point out that a spill or accident would have lasting impacts on the health of the traditional communities.

“When our sacred places are exploited and mined and lost to development and globalization we are severed from the very essence of our people and our original strength,” declared traditional O’odham activist Ofelia Rivas during the December 2008 Festival de la Dignia Rabia of the Zapatistas in Mexico City, “Our land and water rights have been depleted and privatized.”

Centro de Gestión de Residuos Integrales proposed the dump on the sacred site of Quitovac over 2 years ago. O’odham community activists, along with allies, O’odham Solidarity Project and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, were notified in July 2008 that the company was no longer actively pursuing the permit. In recent months, CEGRI reopened negotiations to build the facility. The federal government in Mexico, as well as the state government of Sonora, has already approved the project. Only the local government of Sonoyta has not issued the permits that CEGRI needs to break ground.

“The US EPA has failed to speak out to protect the O’odham who are US Citizens and would be affected by the dump,” states supporter Bradley Angel of the San Francisco-based Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. He continued, “The US EPA has the power to inform the Mexican government of the true impacts of this proposed waste facility and pressure them to stop this proposal for good.”

Take action!!

Please contact the following entities to let them know you oppose the building of this toxic dump: The Mexican Embassy Washington, DC; Tel: 202.728.1600 Fax: 202.234.4498. The Mexican Consulate in San Francisco Tel: 415.354.1700 Fax:415.495.3971. Alfonso Flores, Mexican Secretary of the Environment: Tel:+52 5556 243342 Fax:+ 52 5556 243589

For more information, contact: the O’odham Rights Cultural & Environmental Justice Coalition and the O’odham Voice Against the Wall: (520)349-5484, uyarivas@hotmail.com. The Dry River Collective in Tucson, AZ: info@dryriver.org. Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, SF: (415)248-5010, greenaction@greenaction.org

More information on the issue can be found at the O’odham Solidarity Project website, http://www.tiamatpublications.com/odham_solidarity_project.html.

Down with patriarchy – trans & womyn's action camp

Trans’ and Womyn’s Action Camp 2009 is a gathering of eco-activists, who are also working to bring down patriarchy. Come to the RRR site a week early(June 20th-26th, 2009) for a 6-day training and workshop event in the Cascadia bio-region..

This will be a safe(r) space where transgender, intersex, genderqueer, androgynous and womyn identified folk will be able to share skills in an empowering environment. We will be exploring the land before all the RRR attendees arrive, and we will also be providing skillshares on how to help set up large camps for gatherings. There will also be tons of other workshops and trainings on many diverse issues- central theme here- FUN!

We are now putting out a call for workshop presenters and trainers! If you are transgender, intersex, genderqueer, androgynous and womyn identified and would like to get involved in the organizing, or would like to give a workshop, please get in touch!

twac@riseup.net http://twac.wordpress.com”

Earth First! summer time roadshow

A band of eco-rebels is crossing the US Empire to renew a fighting movement that can stop this industrial nightmare from choking the life out of the earth: the Earth First Roadshow!

The need for resistance in solidarity with the wild has never been louder or clearer than it is today; the roadshow is a tool for growing that resistance. There are countless examples to draw from in the story of radical movements before us: militant labor organizing tours, anti-fascist resistance recruitment and international speaking tours to build cross-border solidarity. The origin of Earth First! itself is credited to a few roadshows that kicked it all off in the early 1980s. We are building on this tradition; akin to a fellowship crossing Middle Earth to amass insurgents to face Mordor head-on.

Where are we going?

If you live in the US, there is a good chance that we will be coming close enough to your home for you to get involved. The roadshow started at the Organizers’ Conference in Arizona and will end at the Round River Rendezvous in Cascadia. The schedule so far looks roughly like this:

May- across the Great Lakes and the Great Plains

June-around the Wild Rockies out to the Pacific Coast

Does your community want to plan a 3-day regional weekend gathering with direct action trainings and sessions on Earth First! history, vision and strategy? Are there pending action plans that we could lend support to en route? The Roadshow will be traveling with a variety of skills, topics and resources, including: forming affinity groups and planning direct action; blockading, climbing and occupations; bioregional news from campaigns and projects around the country; tools for challenging oppression; up-to-date news on resisting the Greenscare; independent and corporate media work; community organizing strategies; and more. A primary goal of the tour is to build the skill-base of our network. If you are looking to have specific areas of interests covered, let us know and we can tailor the stops to meet local/regional desires. We are also looking to travel with an array of art and culture, including musicians, puppet shows, and merchandise (stickers, books, shirts, etc.), to promote the vibrancy and visibility of radical ecological resistance.

List-serves and websites aren’t enough

This Roadshow’s primary intention is to strengthen our radical grassroots ecological network. For almost 30 years, Earth First! has been an organized voice bridging conservation biology with grassroots community organizing, road blockading and eco-sabotage. In the past 5 years we have seen numbers and experience in the EF! movement decline drastically. Yet, our place has never been more urgent. New groups are popping up across the country, but they are detached from many of the groups, history, and skills that came before them. We can’t afford to stumble and make the same mistakes over again.

Now that the reality of climate change is finally sinking into the mainstream consciousness, the same superpowers that push so-called ‘free trade’ policies to exploit wild nature more efficiently are promoting carbon trading in attempt to make a profitable industry out of the disasters they’ve created. The spineless Big Green environmental NGOs are scrambling for crumbs and cutting deals with the industry for shallow public relations victories. Earth First! must rise and recognize that its presence is a strong component of making the broader environmental movement truly effective. As an EF! co-founder, Howie Wolke, has put it, we are the lions of a movement “ecosystem”. Our niche is critical, and its presence (or absence) is felt deeply by our surroundings.

Building a Broader Movement

We need to reconnect to the multi-generational aspect of Earth First! that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. We need to broaden our network’s base–from radical rural grandparents to revolutionary urban youth. We need to re-establish lost relationships with scholars and scientists whose ideas resonate with ours. We need to re-inspire musicians and artists to contribute their passion to our battles. When it comes down to it, solid movements are based on strong personal relationships; and real relationships don’t go very far over the internet. We need face-to-face interaction to build trust with–and support for–each other.

Fight for the Life of the Earth First! Journal

In a time where internet communication is facilitating the end of print media, including many mainstream news outlets, we are challenged to sustain our movement’s basic, primary medium of communication: the printed Earth First! Journal. Doing this means boosting the subscription/distribution base, plain and simple. And the roadshow is a chance to do that across the country. If , or when, the lights go out, we will have the inspiration of photos and stories spanning 3 decades that we can hold in our hands and read out loud to each other by fire light, and pass on to the next generations. We shouldn’t let go of that, no matter how tempting the allure of free online publishing might get. If this publication is lost, it will be a blow to all of our efforts in defense our land, our water, our neighborhoods, the animals, and the entire amazing wild process of life’s evolution on this planet.

To book a stop in Cascadia, please contact Stephanie@RisingTideNorthAmerica.org

West Coast Schedule

6/13- HQ- 528 Sinclair St, Reno, NV

6/14- Station 40- 3030B 16th Street, SF. 7-10p

6/15- Long Haul Infoshop- 3124 Shattuck, Berkeley, CA

6/16- 6/18- Arcata, CA

6/19- 6/22- Trans & Womyn’s Action Camp

6/23- Eugene, OR

6/24- Evergreen State College- Olympia, WA

6/25- Reed College, Portland, OR

6/26- Astoria, OR

6/27- Red & Black SE 12th & Oak, Portland, OR

6/28- Let Live Conference, PSU, Portland, OR,

6/29- Cascadia Earth First! Round River Rendezvous

Earth First! summer time roadshow

Imagine a land with lush ancient forests, infinite shades of green, exotic creatures and a picturesque rocky coastline. Cascadia is the portion of the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascade Mountains that ranges from northern California up to the southern tip of Alaska. It is also a land scarred by a history of ongoing conflict between timber barons and grassroots environmental movements. Within the zone of an internationally recognized biodiversity heritage site (the Klamath-Rogue-Umpqua Watersheds) we are preparing for the onslaught of thousands of acres of clear-cuts and devastation this summer.

In western Oregon we are launching a forest defense campaign that will include many creative tools such as non-violent direct action (tree sits and more!), picnics, education, colorful community creation, media outreach, double dutch competitions, broad outreach, hikes, puppet shows, engaging representatives, and lobbying. We will be here fighting together for the forests we love. We will have a camp in the forest and friendly houses in the city and we’re inviting comrades young and less young, experienced and less experienced to join us for a summer, a month or just a few days.

We are currently faced with the implementation of the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) enacted on Dec. 31, 2008; a last attempt by the Bush Administration to attack what remains of this nation’s ancient forests. The WOPR allows the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to completely renege on its responsibilities under Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) and increase logging by 436%! 70% of this new logging under the WOPR would be clearcuts! Of our last remaining old growth stands, 100,000 acres would be cut and existing riparian zone protections would be cut by half. With over 30,000 official public comments against the WOPR, the BLM is clearly ignoring public opinion with these plans. This summer we shall make them listen.

Unfortunately, the WOPR is not the only thing we have to worry about. The BLM has also auctioned and awarded the ‘rights’ to slaughter more than 25,000 acres of public forests this summer, altogether separate from WOPR plans. Since 2004, the Oregon BLM has been found guilty of breaking federal law by 9th Circuit federal courts in at least six separate cases involving timber sales in southern Oregon. When breaking the law becomes tiresome one can always change the law, with enough money, as we have seen with the WOPR. Another imminently threatened area, Elliot State Forest, has sometimes slipped under the radar. State forests are managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry and unlike federal forests have no public input process at all. Much of the Elliot is speckled with clearcuts and herbicides but nearly half of the Elliot has never been logged. This summer 500 acres of Elliot State Forest are set to be cut.

In the times of Oregon past, such policy changes have met with tangible, on-the-ground resistance. After Clinton passed the Salvage rider in 1996 (a 16 month suspension of NWFP protections) defenders of Warner Creek mounted the longest road-blockade in U.S. history, the largest mass arrest in Eugene since the Vietnam War. The first Cascadia Summer was organized in 2003 to confront similar erosions of environmental laws on public forest lands inspired by Judi Bari (rest her soul) and the work of Redwood Summer. This is only the latest season of resistance here in Cascadia; our heritage is rich.

In these bleak times we stand with the last 5% of this country’s old-growth. Countless sister and brother creatures and their homes in the forest are in danger. The spotted owl continues its 4% a year descent into extinction. Approximately 40,000 rural Oregonians live within one half-mile of BLM land and the security of their homes, drinking water, and local economies are already under assault. In the face of these concerns WOPR timber harvesting would further scar 1 million acres.

As long as the forests are threatened and we are able, every summer will be Cascadia Summer. The government repression of the last few years has weakened our communities, and many of our comrades are held hostage by the prison state; but our resistance cannot, and shall, not fade away. With the global economic crisis we have a window of unique opportunity: the compulsive building has slowed and timber prices are severely slumped. These companies cannot afford to deal with costly opposition. We invite you to join us in joyful resistance and ecological defense. Where will you be this summer when the chainsaws roll and the trees cry out?

Important Dates in Cascadia this 2009 summer

May 23-25 Cascadia Summer Campaign Action Camp

June 20-26 Trans and Womyns Action Camp

June 29-July 6 Earth First! Round River Rendezvous

July 8-July 15 EF! Climbers Guild Intensive Climb Camp

To contact your Cascadian welcoming committee, for more information, or to get involved in any capacity, please visit forestdefensenow.org or email forestdefensenow@gmail.com. We’ll see you in the woods, we’ll see you in town, in the legislature, on the street or wherever you frequent, there we shall meet.