couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with Marlene Samuel, Justin's mother.
It was a difficult phone call, and it reminded me of the pain and worry my own
mother suffered when I was captured and sent to prison.
Despite my disagreement
with Justin's decision to testify against Peter Young, I found it hard to feel
anything but sympathy for him and his family. The animal liberation movement should
use Justin's case as an example of what not to do when captured for ALF actions.
That Justin could be found, arrested and extradited from another country
for opening cages of doomed wildlife speaks volumes about the U.S. Government's
resolve to capture and imprison ALF warriors.
In Justin's case, there was
once again the spread of misinformation, some from our own movement, that Justin
and Peter faced over 60 years in prison (based on the maximum sentence allowable
for each indicted offense and not on an actual sentence computation). Justin also
suffered the trauma of nearly a year of pre-trial imprisonment and the denial
of a vegan diet.
These factors led Justin to agree to testify, hoping cooperation
would win him an instant release. A review of court transcripts reveals no such
promise. Instead, what is said is that the prosecution and defense attorneys recognized
that despite the plea agreement, the sentencing judge would retain the legal right
to punish Justin to the full extent of the law. That happened on November 3rd,
when Justin was sentenced to the maximum prison time allowable under federal sentencing
Justin violated the first code of conduct for ALF warriors
when captured -- never cooperate with the enemy against fellow activists. Another
lesson once again painfully learned by Justin is that the U.S. Government is an
immoral and unethical oppressor that historically has broken any and all promises
in order to further its own objectives. Our credo must remain that when asked
to incriminate our comrades, we will never negotiate with government terrorists
and hostage takers.
Another key mistake was that Justin, under the advice
of his lawyers, asked that his name be removed from prisoner lists and that no
activists write to him in the hopes that disassociation would improve his odds
at sentencing. By doing that, Justin instead cut himself off from the immense
international support our movement has for direct action prisoners. Instead of
receiving large amounts of mail that improve one's psychological strength and
well-being, Justin faced his opponents alone and was deceived by the government's
Rather than direct vindictive energy towards Justin, we
must focus on the need to strengthen the resiliency of our warriors so they can
endure the intimidation faced once captured. It helps no one, least of all the
oppressed animal nations, to allow ourselves to harbor the kind of anger and hatred
we are supposed to be against. Having seen for himself that nothing can be gained
by cooperating with the U.S. Government, Justin has months to think about his
Don't get me wrong. As the subject of past grand jury investigations
I know what it's like to have former friends testify against you. But rather than
having hatred for those responsible, I instead choose to recognize that some of
us in the animal liberation community do not have the strength one needs to remain
unbroken in prison or close-mouthed in front of grand jury interrogators.
of that, it's vital to remind direct action warriors that if you can't do the
time, don't do the crime. You help no one if you can only carry out actions but
cannot remain tight-lipped about them. ALF actions are about more than getting
the animals out and destroying the tools of their torture; ALF actions require
warriors to be ready to be treated like violent criminals in the courtrooms of
the earth and animals' destroyers. We must be prepared to go to prison for years
rather than utter a word about our still free fighting comrades.
Ellerman brothers' case in Utah and now with Justin, we've seen the damage down
when warriors break and testify against each other. And ironically, it's those
who cooperate who end up in prison for years, not those they testify against.
An old friend once told me, "...nobody talks, and everybody walks..."
Now we must exercise some damage control and build support for Peter Young
who faces an uphill battle when and if he's captured. Justin's testimony doesn't
help, but it may not be enough to convict Peter as the 1998 Utah ALF case illustrated.
We must also organize and raise awareness and funds to aid Josh Harper
and Andy Stepanian. Josh is facing imprisonment for contempt while Andy's sentencing
for fur shop actions in New York should have passed by print time. Both of these
brave warriors are deeply committed to the causes of freedom, but their strength
cannot be a substitute for the very real support they need from us.
while the Fur Information Council touts Justin's conviction as a victory and the
first successful application of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, it's encouraging
to see that despite earlier threats, a multi-state ALF campaign that resulted
in the release of over 6,000 mink and hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial
loss to fur farmers netted Justin only 24 months and not the ten years or more
some feared under this draconian legislation.
It remains the obligation
of every ALF warrior: Be prepared to accept the negative and unpleasant ramifications
of your actions. Be ready to do your time bravely and positively rather than compromise
your comrades and the larger struggle with your inability to do so. In addition,
a movement that engages in illegal tactics must ensure that its participants have
total support before, during and after their sacrifice for the earth and her animal
nations. Only then will cooperation with all our oppressors no longer be an option.