Direct actions and agents provocateur
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2001:
HUNTINGDON, U.K.–Admitting concern that bombings and arsons put assets at risk, the Royal Bank of Scotland on January 19, 2001 recalled $33 million in loans to Huntingdon Life Sciences–one of the world’s largest contract testing labs. The vehicles of 10 Huntingdon employees had been bombed since May 2000. Five bombs exploded; flames from two bombings also damaged employees’ houses.
Five other banks and investment firms earlier cancelled investments in Hunting-don. On January 21, however, the Arkansas-based Stephens Group kept Huntingdon solvent with a five-year loan. The group holds 15.7% of the Huntingdon shares. Worth a reported $540 million in 1990, with about 850 staff, Huntingdon fell in estimated market value to just $8 million after BBC-4 reporter Zoe Broughton caught workers abusing animals on video in 1997. Then-PETA investigator Michelle Rokke at almost the same time obtained similar video from inside a New Jersey subsidiary.
Procter & Gamble quit hiring Huntingdon, but the firm kept contracts with major European clients. Hitting the clients next, the British group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty on February 10 rallied about 1,000 protesters at nine sites. Police said 150 people broke windows at the GlaxoSmithKline offices in Wey-bridge, while 100 others “smashed windows, upturned cabinets, and destroyed machinery,” at the Bayer offices in Stoke Poges. Police arrested 87 people and seized three vehicles.
Scotland Yard gained a new weapon against violent direct action on February 19 when the new Terrorism Act took effect, empowering the Home Office to ban organizations suspected of violence and interdict help from their support groups. The Home Office list of banned groups is expected to include the Animal Liberation Front, the Irish Republican Army (already banned under other legislation), the Tamil Tigers, and Islamic Jihad.
Home Secretary Jack Straw has proposed further legislation to prevent activists from demonstrating at the homes of protest targets. Straw himself is a target, as the member of the Labor government most responsible for delaying and diluting a promised ban on fox hunting. Straw attacked the pending ban again on February 15 with a proposed amendment to exempt mink hunting. Meanwhile, on February 14 an “unexplained” but suspect fire razed the desk of pro-hunting cabinet minister Jeff Rooker.
The Huntingdon car bombings were probably ALF work, and the January 10 firebombing of a car owned by a prominent hunt supporter, ALF spokesperson Robin Webb said. The ALF also claimed arsons that in December 2000 destroyed one truck and did minor damage to seven others at two meat firms near Vancouver, British Columbia.
But neither the ALF nor any other animal rights faction claimed at least 10 parcel bombings that began on New Year’s Eve when the six-year-old daughter of an exterminator in Congleton, Cheshire, suffered leg wounds. East Yorkshire auction employee Janet Blythe, 43, suffered serious eye injuries from a similar bombing on January 5, and a 58-year-old farmer in North Yorkshire, suffered facial injuries in another bombing the same day. Other targets included a fish-and-chips shop and two thrift stores whose proceeds support medical research.
ANIMAL PEOPLE noted parallels between the recent bombings and several that in June 1990 wrecked two researchers’ cars and severely injured a 13-month-old boy. Those attacks ended after South Somerset Hunting Preservation Group and British Hunting Exhibition founder John Newberry-Street, then 51, confessed to setting up hoax bombings “to discredit the animal rights and Hunt Saboteurs organizations,” and was sentenced to serve nine months in prison.
The 2001 British bombings coincided with arsons in the U.S. claimed by the Earth Liberation Front. As ELF actions tend to produce public backlash, and sometimes kill animals, ANIMAL PEOPLE has suspected since the first ELF actions in 1997 that the main perpetrators are agents provocateur.
After the Phoenix New Times interviewed an anonymous self-described ELF-style arsonist who claimed to have razed nine new homes near Phoenix, ANIMAL PEOPLE on January 24 pointed out hints that he might have had an ulterior motive to fellow members of the Society of Environmental Journalists and E-Journal online forums.
The possibility that agents provocateur are working in the name of ELF became more sinister on January 25 when Frank Ambrose, 26, Midwest coordinator for the American Lands Alliance, was charged with allegedly spiking trees last June at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest near Bloomington, Indiana, in an action claimed by the ELF. Ambrose admitted visiting the forest in June 2000 to inspect proposed timber sales, but declared that he had never spiked trees.
Ambrose at the time refused to condemn the tree spikings and a local ELF arson, but associates said that as a high-profile mainstream activist, he was an unlikely suspect. His attorney, Richard Kammen of Indianapolis, suggested that Ambrose was framed.
Alleged ELF activity erupted around Bloomington in January 2000, after the American Lands Alliance and other “green” groups delayed logging and construction projects with lawsuits on behalf of the endangered Indiana bat. ANIMAL PEOPLE was already aware of the frequent presence in the area of a suspected wise-use operative who has often rented premises in proximity to ELF actions.
Formed by ex-Congressional Rep-resentative Jim Jontz (D-Indiana), the American Lands Alliance would appear to be a prime target for agents provocateur because the ALA board includes representatives from 11 of the “green” organizations most active in suing federal and state agencies. If Ambrose were to be found guilty, all 11 groups could be hit with “guilt-by-association.”
In Portland, Oregon, a federal grand jury on February 8 questioned Josh Harper, 25, about alleged ELF and ALF actions. Harper has openly praised the ELF and ALF, but claims he does not know who they are. He was charged with criminal contempt for refusing to appear before the grand jury in May 2000. Harper finally did testify, wrote Portland Oregonian reporter Bryan Denson, “in hopes he might escape prosecution for dodging the panel last year.”
In Central Islip, New York, 17-year-olds Jared McIntyre and George Mashow Jr. and 16-year-old Matthew Rammelkamp pleaded guilty to arson on February 14. Related charges remain pending against a fourth suspect, Connor Cash, 19. Claiming to be the ELF, the four allegedly torched nine new homes on Long Island and vandalized 10 other sites including a plot of genetically modified corn planted by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory researchers. Investigators believe they had no links to other ELF groups.