What 35 bus-riding activists did and didn’t do on their summer vacation
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1999:
WASHINGTON D.C.––The 1999
Primate Freedom Tour ended quietly on
September 4, in cold rain resulting from
Hurricane Dennis. About 200 people attended a
rally, and three activists were arrested for
unfurling a banner from scaffolding set up by a
repair crew at the Washington Monument.
Starting from the Washington
Regional Primate Research Center in Seattle on
June 1, the Freedom Tour won more media
attention to primates in laboratories than any
other event or campaign since 1985, when the
Animal Welfare Act was amended to require
labs to provide for the “psychological wellbeing”
of dogs and primates.
Most of the coverage was sympathetic
and focused on new findings about the intelligence
and human-like social behavior of chimpanzees,
bonobos, and orangutans. But violent
incidents, some of them possibly orchestrated
by agents provocateur, several times threatened
to change the tone.
The first such incident was an alleged
June 13 window-breaking during a protest at the
University of California in San Francisco.
Freedom Tour coordinator Linda Howard told
ANIMAL PEOPLE that tour participants
didn’t do it.
On June 25 the North American
Animal Liberation Front press office distributed
an e-mail stating, “The ALF takes responsibility
for the firebombing of a truck at Worldwide
Primates Inc., the business of modern-day slave
trade/primate dealer Matthew Block and his
family. The action is in support of the 1999
Primate Freedom Tour.”
Said Howard, “That was bad enough,
but the property [in Miami] where the truck was
parked had been sold over five years ago, and
does not belong to Block. It could have been a
daycare center by now!”
The truck actually belonged to
Primate Products, a California firm using the
former Worldwide Primates property as headquarters
of its live animal sales division.
“At the time of the ALF release,”
Howard continued, “the Freedom Tour bus was
nowhere near Florida, but coincidentally
enough our ‘performance tour’ was there.”
The ‘performance tour,” Howard
explained, was “punk rock bands traveling
around doing Freedom Tour benefits, led by
Neil Robinson, owner of Tribal War Records,”
a British immigrant who is now associated with
the Liberation Collective in Portland, Oregon.
Liberation Collective cofounder Craig
Rosebraugh, 27, along with Howard and Ape
Army founder Rick Bogle, 46, were the chief
Freedom Tour organizers.
The trouble escalated on August 2,
when the ALF claimed credit for releasing
3,000 mink from the Richard Krieger fur farm
in Bristol, Wisconsin, most of whom were
recaptured soon afterward. The Freedom Tour
was then in Columbus, Ohio, with
Northwestern University in Chicago and the
Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center in
Madison as the next two stops.
The tour reached Madison for three
days of protests on August 7. On the night of
August 8, purported ALF members claimed to
have released 2,000 mink from the Gene Myers
fur farm near Plymouth, Wisconsin, also mostly
recaptured, and set fire to United Feeds, of
Greenbush, Wisconsin, a major regional supplier
of feed to mink farms. The arson reportedly
did $1.5 million in damage.
Rosebraugh in 1997 and 1998 relayed
messages from the ALF and “Earth Liberation
Army” to media, including the one in which the
ELF claimed to have burned a ski lift at Vail,
Colorado. That drew notice from the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The Dane
County Sheriff’s Office sent eight cars to detain
the Freedom Tour bus and all occupants.
BATF and Wisconsin Justice Department
Division of Criminal Investigation then
searched the bus for more than an hour before
allowing it to depart for Ann Arbor,
A month later, on September 7,
police in Hasselt, Belgium arrested Justin
Clayton Samuel, 22, who was indicted in
September 1998 along with Peter D. Young,
still at large, for allegedly releasing mink at
four Wisconsin fur farms in October 1997.
Samuel was to be extradited to the U.S. It
was not clear whether BATF and the FBI
think either Samuel or Young were involved
in the most recent Wisconsin incidents.
The Freedom Tour was again transiently
associated with violence while in the
Boston area. Eight activists ranging in age
from 18 to 23 were arrested on August 23 for
allegedly yelling death threats and throwing
stones at the Northboro home of former New
England Regional Primate Center employee
Geoff Akita––who hadn’t worked at the facility
in two years. Citing the MetroWest Daily
News, Associated Press reported that the suspects
were part of the Freedom Tour.
According to Howard, only one of them was
an actual tour participant.
“That protest happened when the
Freedom Tour was in Boston, not as part of
the Tour,” confirmed arrestee Ethan Jason
Wolf, 20, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Both Howard and Wolf objected to
descriptions of the Northboro incident in
press releases issued by volunteer publicist
Cres Velucci, of Sacramento, California,
who throughout the Freedom Tour emphasized
numbers of arrests at demonstrations.
(The final total was apparently 64.)
Though the arrests rarely drew
much media notice, and Velucci’s releases
were seldom quoted in the heavy coverage
gathered by ANIMAL PEOPLE, Velucci
claimed credit for the success of the tour in
an ensuing exchange among the Coalition to
End Primate Experimentation e-mail list.
Velucci also claimed to have had
prior knowledge of the Northboro incident in
an August 30 reply to Campaign for
Responsible Transplantation founder Alix
Fano, who had sided with Howard and Wolf.
Velucci said he had “advised
against it,” because it “could turn into something
negative, and besides, there was no
chance of getting media of a demonstration
late on a Saturday night.”
On August 27 the ALF allegedly
took a 27-year-old Vietnamese stumptail
macaque from BTJ’s Jungle Pets in West
Islip, New York. Though a primate was
involved, and activist organizations associated
with the Freedom Tour were accused of
involvement by BTJ personnel, A N I M A L
P E O P L E found no coverage linking that
event to the Freedom Tour.
“The liberation of Annie was the
end result of more than 20 years of observation,
complaint, negotiation, and concern by
representatives of at least three animal rights
organizations,” summarized W e s t c h e s t e r
Weekly reporter Robert Masterson.
The first to complain, in the late
1970s, was apparently then-American SPCA
investigator Mark Jurnove. Jurnove was the
lead plaintiff in a 1998 U.S. Supreme Court
ruling giving individual activists the right to
sue institutions over alleged noncompliance
with the Animal Welfare Act.
The most recent to raise public
protest was In Defense of Animals regional
director Barbara Stagno.
“Stagno is behind the kidnapping of
our pet monkey,” longtime BTJ employee
Denise Coppola, 30, told Robert D.
McFadden of The New York Times. “I don’t
think she came to the premises to remove her,
but she had the ALF do it.”
Stagno told McFadden that she
knew nothing about the theft, but had been
told of it afterward by an anonymous caller.
The ALF also claimed to have
taken 46 dogs from Bio-Devices Inc., of
Orange, California, on August 2