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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Animal Liberation | Police State and Prisons
Bay Area Activists From SHAC Arrested for Domestic Terrorism
Federal agents have accused three local animal rights activists of domestic terrorism.
Wednesday, the Justice Department indicted members of the animal rights group SHAC, or Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. Seven people were arrested, with three from Pinole, including SHAC president Kevin Kjonnas, Lauren Gazzola, and Jacob Conroy.
Prosecutors say the group orchestrated a nationwide campaign to terrorize managers, employees, and shareholders of Huntingdon, a New Jersey company that uses animals for laboratory research and testing.
Authorities say SHAC's website encourages members to harass research firms and destroy property. Investigators believe the group bombed the Emeryville biotech company Chiron last August.
NEWARK, N.J. -- Federal agents in four states on Wednesday arrested seven people charged with organizing a campaign of intimidation and harassment against a British company that tests pharmaceuticals on animals.
Those arrested are charged in an indictment against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA that was unsealed with the arrests.
The nonprofit group and the individuals are charged in a multiyear conspiracy to terrorize Huntingdon Life Sciences, which has labs in New Jersey. The charge carries up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Their actions included "telephone and e-mail blitzes, fax blitzes and computer blockades against HLS in order to divert HLS employees from their regular work," the indictment charged.
The group and three of the suspects are also charged with conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking and three counts of interstate stalking. Each of those charges carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The stalking charges accuse the activists of placing three people, and their families, in fear of death or injury.
The investigation into SHAC is continuing, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said.
"My view of these people is that they are violent fanatics and that any type of fanaticism that leads to violent acts is wrong, and that the people who engage in that must be brought to justice," Christie said.
The indictment cites inflammatory Web postings by SHAC, which Christie said crossed the line from free speech to criminality.
"We believe that the conduct they've engaged in is not a lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights," he said. "People were frightened by what was being done to them. It's no question that it created an atmosphere of fear."
SHAC could not immediately be reached for comment. Phone and e-mail messages were not immediately returned.
Huntingdon Life Sciences issued a statement from its U.S. base in East Millstone. "So many people have been victimized by this lawless campaign. These indictments are in keeping with this nation's long tradition of standing up to bullies and demonstrate the United States' continued determination to insure the safety of its people," it said, in part.
The indictment charged that SHAC targeted Huntingdon workers and shareholders, as well as companies that provide services to Huntingdon, by posting personal information about targets on its Web sites and encouraging followers to "operate outside the confines of the legal system."
Protesters have appeared at the homes of at least three Huntingdon employees after such postings, overturning a car at one house and slashing tires and spray-painting slogans at another, the indictment said.
In December, computer hackers disabled the Huntingdon Web site. The SHAC Web site attributed the attack to Russian computer hackers, the indictment said.
Three greens at the Meadow Brook Club in Jericho, N.Y., were damaged on the eve of a Senior PGA golf tournament in July 2002 after the SHAC Web site announced that a director with Huntingdon's insurance broker would be attending, the indictment said.
The Web site later posted a message in which the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the vandalism. Less than two months later, the director's home was spray-painted after a demonstration.
Other attacks described in the indictment included a barrage of more than 2 million e-mails sent in a few hours on July 11, 2001, to a Jersey City brokerage that handled Huntingdon stock, damaging its operations.
The brokerage, which was not named, got a letter Sept. 10, 2002, from one of the suspects, asserting that if the brokerage stopped handling Huntingdon "this should bring a prompt end to the phone calls and faxes and e-mails your company is receiving."
Although the indictment did not give the names of any targets, it mentioned a smoke bomb attack in Seattle on July 10, 2002, that caused the evacuation of a high-rise building.
Police there have said two smoke bombs were set off on the 20th and 23rd floors, by offices for two subsidiaries of Marsh. The worldwide risk and insurance firm has come under attack elsewhere SHAC.
The indictment cited that attack as among those that were part of the conspiracy by SHAC and the seven individuals. It did not identify who placed the smoke bombs.
The arrests came just over a year after the members of the FBI's domestic terrorism squad raided SHAC's headquarters in Franklin Township as well as a house near the University of Washington in Seattle, seizing computers and printed materials.
Among those arrested Wednesday in Seattle was a resident of that house, Joshua Harper, 29, a self-proclaimed anarchist and longtime animal-rights activists.
Arrested in California were former New Jersey residents Kevin Kjonas, 26, identified as president of SHAC; Lauran Gazzola, 25, SHAC campaign coordinator; and Jacob Conroy, 28. They now live in Pinole, Calif., authorities said.
Agents in New Jersey arrested Darius Fullmer, 27, of Hamilton, and John McGee, 25, of Edison, while Andrew Stepanian, 25, of Huntington, N.Y., was arrested on Long Island, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark said.
On the Net: U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nj/publicaffairs/NJ_Press/break.html
SHAC ACTIONS REACH TO THE TOP!
On May 18th, 2004 the Senate Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony on the topic of Animal Rights: Activism vs. Criminality… and guess who the focus of 75% of the hearing was – Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty!
This hearing confirms not only the heavy impact that the SHAC campaign is having on vivisection, but the near crisis level shockwaves it is sending to animal abusers everywhere. Story after story captured the grip the SHAC effort has had on the lifelines of the vivisection industry and how the campaign’s tactical ingenuity has left the FBI stumped time and time again.
Besides the obvious [demands for] longer sentences and increased fines, these repression zealots are advocating that campaigns like SHAC, that legitimately strive to end abuses and businesses it finds morally repugnant, not just be restrained, but made completely illegal (and they call *us* extremists!). In their Orwellian world, trying to shut down a fur shop, boycott the sponsors of a rodeo, or placing too many calls to veal-serving restaurants is akin mafia-like activities, and even worse – terrorism.
Make no mistake however, as pathetic as these Senate hearing rantings are, and as much of a testament to the campaign’s effectiveness as it is, it also serves as the clearest warning to date that our opposition is on the attack. The confines of their assault will not be restricted by constitutional impediments (you can buy your way around that), media objectivity (ahem… Fox News), or unholy alliances with those in our own ranks (just ask Iams what the Humane Society’s sale price was).
Be proud to support animal rights and be proud to fight tooth and nail to achieve it.
SHAC: http://shacamerica.net Huntingdon: http://www.INSIDEHLS.com