In this week's Santa Fe Reporter, I have a
about Katherine Christianson, a local massage therapist who was picked up by the Feds last summer for some Earth Liberation Front sabotage she committed eight years ago when she was a teenager. Christianson--and co-defendant Bryan Lefey--pled guilty in federal court and are serving two and three year sentences, respectively.
In a way, Christianson and Lefey lucked out with their court appointed attorneys, both of whom keep environmentalism and direct action close to their hearts. Christianson's lawyer Mark Maciolek explained in a court filing asking for leniency in her sentencing that he himself had been involved in civil disobedience when he was younger:
On February 20, 2000, at 21 years of age, counsel was present at a sit-in at the University of Wisconsin Chancellor's office, in sympathy for the cause of the sit-in.
Counsel was co-owner of a coffee house that provided food and coffee to the demonstrators. Students, led by the chair of the student government, were protesting the University's affiliation with Bucky Badger apparel manufactures that used
sweatshop labor. These students were impatient with incremental change and impatient to see results. They had a simple solution: don't use sweatshops. They had a slogan: "Sweatshops are yucky, Bucky."
The occupation protest lasted for four days. At four a.m., law enforcement entered the part of Bascom Hall where the protesters were sleeping. Law enforcement officers were dressed in full riot gear with gas masks, a tear gas cannon in tow. They forcibly removed the protesters. Those who minimally resisted were arrested and bound. Those who complied, like counsel, were only placed in pain compliance holds and bodily escorted from the building, then released.
During the sentencing hearing, Maciolek went even further to suggest that had he been in Christianson's shoes, he would've gone on the lam.
"Kate came over a thousand miles to be here today knowing that she faced a guideline range of the maximum sentence," Maciolek told the judge, according to court room transcripts. . "I don't know many people that would do that, Your Honor. I have tried to think about it myself and I have to say, you know, perhaps it's a weakness of my character, I don't think I would be here. I think I would have left the country if I had the opportunity."
Meanwhile, Lefey's attorney Reed Cornia, completed a masters degree in Environmental History, which included in-depth study of social movements and ecological philosophies. As SFR researched the cases, I couldn't help but be impressed by the level of thought provoking discourse in Cornia's appellate brief; a 37-page document that debates the semantics of "wildness" and terrorism in the modern age. Here's an excerpt:
Wilderness has, for Americans, contradictory meanings. There are those, such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Edward Abbey, who view wilderness as vital and important to humankind and more importantly vital in and of itself. There are also those, such as Gifford Pinchot, James Watts, and Ron Arnold, who view wilderness as an obstacle to be overcome in the pursuit of wealth. Additionally, the meaning of wildness continues to be hotly debated. On one end of a sliding scale, there is the notion of
untouched nature, free from the contaminating influences of humankind. On the other end of the scale one finds the purely synthetic conditions that exist in a metropolis. In
between these two poles exists a wide array of meanings for "wilderness."
The word "wilderness," itself, has evolved over time. The word "wildness" as interpreted by the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas, proved different from the
meaning of "wildness" or "wilderness" used by the first westward immigrants leaving St. Louis for California and Oregon. Even now, wildness has many meanings. Of growing concern for many, is not just humankind's impact on nature and the natural world through encroachment and exploitation, but rather through the manipulation of the genetic code of plants and animals. This goes to the very heart of what "wildness" means. The debate on the ethical use of genetic modification to "enhance" nature continues today, just as it did in the summer of 2000 when Bryan Lefey found himself in the center of this debate when approached by Ian Wallace and Daniel McGowan in late June of 2000.
And on terrorism:
The methods used were misguided, but these were not acts of terrorism. None of the actions and actors now before this court ever engaged in any activity in which the aim was to injure any individual. Moreover, no harm ever occurred to anyone, and has never occurred in the history of ELF actions.
Terrorist acts center on hate and foremost to generate fear. A terrorist seeks to create an environment in which the populace lives in fear; in which the institutions ofgovernment are moved to redirect resources and the patterns of personal behavior are altered. A terrorist's goal is to cause death, because death is the ultimate tool. Death is the ultimate source of fear. Hatred is the motive. A terrorist has contempt for the lives of his enemies. The terrorist wishes only the death and the destruction of his enemy and their institutions and government.
The government, and in particular the former Bush Administration's, use of the term "eco-terrorism" and their efforts to tie these actions to domestic terrorism proves misplaced. Essentially, the government seeks to place the actions of a loose group of environmental activists on par with Timothy McVeigh, and Al Qaeda. Even Ted Kaczynski was not considered a terrorist.
Fascinating stuff, yeah? You can download the briefs right here: