Political Repression in Syracuse
from No Compromise Issue 6
 

By Joel Capolongo

So what is it like in Syracuse? No article could ever fully explain just what goes on in this city. It's probably not that much different from your city actually. The United States government is engaged in an undeclared war on activism all over the country and animal liberation activists seem to be a major target for the government.

Knowing this, we should knowledgeable about each other's experiences and ready to handle various forms of government intimidation and harassment. The following are just a few examples, that my roommate, Jeff Watkins, and I have had with these agents of repression.

Most recently, I awoke to nearly ten of these agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Marshalls and local police in my bedroom. After surrounding our house and knocking on the door several times, the landlady let these goons in our apartment. They probably have their own key now. Still in bed and in my underwear, I asked if they had a search or arrest warrant. I was presented with an arrest warrant with my name on it. I asked what I was being charged with, and they told me they'd fill me in at the police station. I was allowed (surprisingly) to put some clothes on and then was handcuffed in my living room to be led outside to the police cars.

Before I left the house, I reminded Jeff to first and foremost call my lawyer to immediately inform him of what was happening and then to contact the National Activist Network in California to draw some more attention to the wayward practices of these modern day Gestapo agents.

On the way to the police station, I was mentally preparing for a lengthy interrogation session as I have have been previously subjected to by A.T.F. and F.B.I. agents. The two cops in front of the police car were obviously playing the "good cop" routine with me, trying to be courteous and friendly as to loosen me up to make me more susceptible to questions they may ask. When we arrived at the police station, they filled out a routine arrest report and I was then brought before a local judge to be arraigned.

Still not having the remotest idea for what I had been pulled out of bed for, I learned from the judge that I was being brought into custody on a 2nd degree harassment charge. Technically, in NY, harassment in the 2nd degree isn't even a misdemeanor, but a violation, much like a traffic infraction. The judge released me on my own recognizance and that was that.

So basically, the whole reason our house was surrounded and I was arrested by about ten officers and agents in my own home over a charge that doesn't even constitute a crime, was to serve as a "shakedown" or intimidation tactic. The government needed to assert their power with this outlandish display to remind us that they still felt they had us under control and could do so at any time. I'm sure our 80 year old landlady was impressed and I bet this lent a lot of credit to our character as good tenants.

Then about three weeks later, true to federal government protocol, the ridiculous harassment charge was dropped. Oops - sorry we told your landlady you guys were terrorists and then broke into your house and arrested you in your bed - our mistake.

Then, on the very same day, on his way to pick me up from the police station, Jeff noticed a blue pick up truck that had been following him almost from the time he left our driveway. After noticing "I love NY state trapping" bumper stickers on the back of the cab, Jeff pulled over to confront whoever it was that was following him.

After getting out of his car, and the other driver getting out of his truck, Jeff recognized him to be none other than Al LaFrance, murderer extraordinare, who heads the Independent Fur Harvesters of Central New York. A heated exchange ensued but ended shortly thereafter without physical confrontation, even after Al goaded Jeff to punch him. Now, over a month later, Jeff just learned that another harassment charge has been tacked onto his ongoing list of charges as a result of this incident with Al LaFrance.

Also during January, Jeff was stopped by local police on his way home from work. They initially pulled him over for going 5mph over the speed limit. Upon seeing who they had on the side of the road, two more squad cars rolled up and Jeff and his passenger were ordered out of the car. The police officer openly admitted to Jeff that he knew who he had pulled over and knew about his animal rights activities and upcoming jail sentence. The police officers then made a complete search of Jeff's car looking in every possible place for anything they could label "suspicious" and further harass him about.

Jeff's passenger was also asked ridiculous questions about her involvement in the A.L.F. after a cop noticed she had a "Fur is Dead" patch on her backpack. The incident ended with the police towing Jeff's car, supposedly because his license had been suspended a mere 12 hours before he was pulled over. Jeff was also issued six petty traffic tickets and was left on the side of a country road in sub-zero temperatures by the officers. Jeff and his friend ended up having to walk over an hour to a friends house to call for help.

Along the same lines, I was pulled over during the summer on my way to work three days before Jeff, my girlfriend and I were scheduled to leave for Memphis, Tennessee to visit J.P. Goodwin of the CAFT. Like Jeff's incident, my car was towed and impounded because my license had been suspended just six hours previous to my being pulled over. I was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car while the cop and several of his buddies that had since arrived, made a complete search of my car. They ended up confiscating all of my animal rights related literature I had in the car, a knit cap, a can of unused spraypaint and my day planner which contained activist addresses and phone numbers, saying they were being held as "evidence." I payed over $600 to retrieve my car and very nearly had to cancel our travel plans.

Then, upon returning from our week long trip to Memphis, we arrived home to find the door handle on our apartment-almost completely severed off the door. Sometimes agents will intentionally do things like this to let you know that you are being watched and are under surveillance in attempts to discourage you from further activity. In cases of break-ins, where nothing is apparently taken or disturbed, you can usually find electronic listening devices in the receivers of your phones, behind wall switches or in overhead light fixtures to name a few favorite hiding places of federal agents.

Also in the beginning of January of this year, I was fired from my job at Wal-Mart. My boss determined that "I had conduct unbecoming of a Wal-Mart associate." He was referring to my part in the events of January 2nd that took place in downtown Syracuse in which eight activists were assaulted and arrested during the course of an "attempted" fur protest. I missed two days of work because of the responsibility I had to the jailed activists and the ensuing media interviews and court proceedings that required my full attention.

Any other time I missed two days of work, I would have been verbally warned, but due to the intense nature of the events surrounding the January 2nd protest, several of my co-workers had been clamoring for the boss to fire me once and for all due to my repeated involvement and arrests surrounding animal rights in Syracuse. So, my boss, not wanting to create an atmosphere of debate or disagreement at the workplace by employing a politically and socially active member of a radical animal rights group, finally gave in and fired me, despite my two year history of excellent work performance and supervisory position.

About a week after I was fired, I learned A.T.F. agents had been in the store, meeting with my former boss and asking him questions about a 12 gauge shotgun I had purchased 2 weeks previous to my termination. I suppose now they'll use that as an excuse to add an "armed" status to the already existing "dangerous" status Jeff and I have been so graciously awarded by Syracuse area law enforcement agencies.

The fact of the matter is Jeff and I, along with the other committed and hard working members of the A.D.L. in Syracuse, probably could write a full length novel about what it's like fighting for animal liberation under a regime that systematically violates your rights and has a stranglehold on a corrupt and brutal police force and judicial system.

At times one can feel depressed and isolated to their breaking point due to the repetitious and psychologically draining nature government attacks can have on us. These are the times when we need to draw strength from the fact that we are not alone in our struggles and effective activists all over the world face repression by agents who attempt to protect the vested interests of big buSINess and animal murdering industry.

We would not face such persecution if we were not effective and did not pose a viable threat to their lecherous lifestyles. Never forget to speak out and let other activists know about the diseased government tree and all it's crooked branches that attempt to neutralize and subdue our movement. The government relies on silence and ignorance to continue it's war on activism and it is our duty to rise up to the challenge and march defiantly on to our ultimate goal of animal liberation. NO SURRENDER, NO COMPROMISE, KEEP FIGHTING.