activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

appeals court reverses dismissal of charges against activist who spent hours in pipeline

On January 13, the trespassing and resisting charges against Christopher Wahmhoff, who spent 10 hours inside a new oil pipeline in Michigan last June, were dismissed. Circuit Judge James Kingsley ruled that officers did not order Wahmhoff to leave the pipeline. According to today’s Battle Creek Enquirer article,

Wahmhoff entered a section of Enbridge Inc. pipeline near Division Drive and 16-Mile Road in Fredonia Township on June 24 to protest construction. The company is installing a new line to parallel one that broke and spilled about a million gallons of oil onto the ground and into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

This week an appeals court reversed Judge Kingsley’s decision to dismiss the charges. The appeals court ruled that there was evidence to establish probable cause that Wahmhoff committed the offenses. The case will now return to Judge Kingsley for trial.

novartis obtains extended court order to restrict anyone protesting against animal research

Novartis, which already had an injunction against members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), obtained an extension today to cover anyone protesting animal research. The court order blocks animal rights demonstrations at the company’s U.K. facilities or against any of its employees. According to a Bloomberg article,

The order bars harassment or intimidation of Novartis employees, including abusive or threatening posts on websites or social media. The order also restricts demonstrations to six people or fewer, in designated protest zones, with no amplified sounds, and forbids costumes, face-coverings or “blood-splattered costumes.” Anyone breaching the injunction can be arrested.

At least 18 companies have obtained injunctions from British courts against SHAC. After the conviction of SHAC activist Debbie Vincent last month, Novartis allegedly wanted protection from any backlash. The injunction is temporary and there will be a trial to determine whether it remains in place.

washington state court of appeals affirms dismissal of lawsuit regarding co-op’s boycott

In 2011, five members of the Olympia Food Co-op filed a lawsuit to end the Co-op’s boycott of Israeli-made products. In 2012, the trial court dismissed the lawsuit. Today the Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, stating as follows:

… the nonviolent elements of boycotts are protected by the First Amendment.

one person arrested as activists blockade a nato conference in the united kingdom

To greet delegates to a NATO conference that started yesterday, activists hung banners off bridges near the venue and temporarily blockaded the event. Police had to escort cars into the conference. One protester was arrested, apparently for violating the Public Order Act. According to Chloe Marsh from Smash EDO,

Senior NATO and member state officials, parliamentarians, and defence and security experts – responsible for untold death, illegal torture flights, and wars purely to protect Western interests – are gathering right now in Steyning. We are here to oppose them.

Smash EDO is a campaign against the arms trade. Activists have carried on a long-running campaign specifically calling for the closure of EDO, a US-owned arms company that has a factory in Brighton, England.

police detain hundreds of people during annual march against police brutality in montréal

Police detained and ticketed 288 protesters yesterday, at $638 apiece, for participating in a march against police brutality. The march apparently violated Montréal’s bylaw P-6, because no one provided the route to police for approval 24 hours in advance. According today’s Montréal Gazette article,

Police gave protesters at the annual demonstration against police brutality just minutes before the riot squad encircled the crowd and detained 288 people on Saturday. … The protesters were charged under municipal bylaw P-6, which requires organizers of a protest to provide their itinerary to police. … The 288 people detained under bylaw P-6 will receive a ticket for participating in an illegal protest.

First introduced in 2001, a new version of bylaw P-6 went into effect in May 2012. Montréal police have consistently used it against protesters. For example, police ticketed approximately 300 protesters on April 5 and 447 protesters on May 1. In addition to prohibiting masks and blunt objects, bylaw P-6 stipulates that any demonstration can be declared illegal if police have reasonable grounds to believe it will cause a “commotion” or endanger public order.

animal rights activists to appeal their convictions due to the involvement of an undercover police officer

Two members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have decided to appeal their convictions for planting incendiary devices at department stores, because evidence suggests that former Special Demonstrations Squad officer Bob Lambert played a key role in the events that led to their convictions. Green Party politician Caroline Lucas has named Lambert, who infiltrated the ALF, as the undercover officer who allegedly planted a bomb at a third department store around the same time. According to today’s BBC article,

Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard were convicted of planting incendiary devices at Debenhams stores in Romford and Luton in 1987. An undercover police officer allegedly planted a third device at a branch in Harrow to help convict the men. The officer has denied this and said he would not have committed such a crime.

While posing as an animal rights activist in the 1980s, Lambert also co-wrote a leaflet critical of McDonald’s that led to the longest civil trial in English history. During the four decades that the secret Special Demonstrations Squad existed, police officers infiltrated hundreds of protest groups. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, Lambert apparently deceived women into developing long-term sexual relationships with him.

Though already married with two children, Lambert fathered a child with one of the women before disappearing in 1989. The woman didn’t discover he was an undercover officer until 2012. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

prosecutors allege two students set fires to try to prevent a starbucks from opening on campus

Two University of California San Diego (UCSD) students, Holly Nguyen and Maya Land, have been charged with arson for allegedly setting fires to prevent a final vote that would have allowed a Starbucks coffee shop to open on campus. Nguyen and Land have pled not guilty. According to this morning’s KFMB article,

Prosecutors allege that the two undergrads, who were captured on surveillance video entering the Price Center on the UCSD campus shortly before the fires were set in two separate restrooms, were part of the ‘Earth Liberation Front’ or ELF, the collective name for individuals or factions that resort to “eco-terrorism” to stop, in their view, the exploitation of the environment. … The attorney for Maya Land told CBS News 8 unequivocally that her client is not affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front, and claimed that Land did not even know what ELF was.

Starbucks apparently violated the university’s fair trade policy, making the proposal to open one controversial. Yet the Starbucks was ultimately approved. No one was injured by the fires.

federal bureau of investigation will use billboards to find daniel andreas san diego

Animal rights activist Daniel Andreas San Diego was allegedly involved in politically-motivated bombings in 2003, targeting two Bay Area corporations because of their ties to the animal-testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences. The bombings didn’t harm anyone. Yet on April 21, 2009, the FBI placed San Diego on its list of most-wanted terrorists.

Having failed to locate San Diego for more than 10 years, the FBI announced yesterday that his image will appear on electronic billboards throughout the U.S. for a week. Although San Diego was indicted in July 2004, he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. According to a Los Angeles Times article from October 2003,

Rod Coronado, a spokesman for the radical animal rights group Animal Liberation Front and the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front, said he could understand the frustration that might lead activists to bomb businesses associated with Huntingdon. But he did not believe that San Diego had committed the crimes.

texas appeals court rejects brandon darby’s attempt to revive his defamation suit

Austin activist-turned-informant Brandon Darby traveled with a small group of protesters to the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota. A February 23, 2011 New York Times article stated that Darby “had encouraged” a plot to make firebombs and hurl them at police cars during the RNC. (The plot didn’t come to fruition.)

Darby never contacted the New York Times to request a retraction or correction. Instead, he sued the newspaper and the author of the article, James McKinley, for defamation. According to a Nolo post by attorney Emily Doskow,

“Defamation” is a catch-all term for any statement that hurts someone’s reputation. … A defamatory statement must be false — otherwise it’s not considered damaging. … People who aren’t elected but who are still public figures because they are influential or famous … have to prove that defamatory statements were made with actual malice, in most cases.

McKinley said his statement about Darby was based on conversations with Scott Crow and Jeffrey DeGree, the attorney who represented RNC protester David McKay. Crow told McKinley that Darby encouraged McKay and another RNC protester, Bradley Crowder, to take actions beyond peaceful demonstrations during the RNC protests. DeGree also told McKinley that Darby encouraged McKay and Crowder, both of whom pled guilty to federal criminal charges related to Molotov cocktails and were sentenced to years in prison.

Darby’s defamation suit was dismissed. On Wednesday, a Texas appeals court upheld the dismissal, finding that McKinley’s statement was not made with actual malice. On March 16, 2011, the New York Times published a correction regarding the February 23, 2011 article.

herman bell, member of the san francisco eight, denied parole for the sixth time

Former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army member Herman Bell went before a New York parole board for the sixth time last week. After four decades behind bars, he was seeking an end to a sentence of 25 years to life. According to Sunday’s KQED article about Bell and Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom),

Bell and Anthony Bottom were both convicted of murder in 1975 for shooting New York police Patrolmen Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini to death. In addition, Bell took a plea deal of manslaughter in 2009 for the 1971 killing of San Francisco police Sgt. John Young. … Bell and Bottom recently admitted to ambushing the New York patrolmen, Jones and Piagentini, as they responded to a fake 911 call.

Even though Bell has an exemplary record in prison, having earned a master’s degree and started a program to teach urban and rural communities to grow organic produce, the parole board denied his request again yesterday. At the behest of the police, the parole board is effectively turning Bell’s sentence into life without parole. This is contrary to the wishes of Jones’s son, Waverly Jones Jr., who wrote a letter to the parole board in 2009 saying that releasing Bell and Muntaqim would “bring some peace” to Jones’s family.

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