activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: greenpeace

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2014 posts

NATO 3: On February 7, the jury in the NATO 3 trial acquitted the defendants of all the terrorism charges and the solicitation to commit arson charge. The jury found the defendants guilty of mob action, possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson, and possession of an incendiary device with the knowledge that another intended to commit arson. On April 25, Brian Jacob Church was sentenced to five years, Brent Betterly to six years, and Jared Chase to eight years. Church is now in a halfway house.

Debbie Vincent: Following the conviction of SHAC activist Debbie Vincent in March, she was sentenced to six years in prison in April.

Robert Birgeneau: After Haverford students planned to protest former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who Haverford College invited to speak at commencement, Birgeneau backed out in May. Condoleezza Rice, who Rutgers University invited to speak at commencement, also backed out this year after students and faculty organized a campaign citing her role in the Iraq war. International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, who Smith College invited to speak at commencement, backed out too after nearly 500 people signed an online petition.

Holly Nguyen and Maya Land: On September 8, Holly Nguyen and Maya Land, the two UC San Diego students who allegedly set fires to prevent a Starbucks from opening on campus, pled guilty to reckless endangerment. They were ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations and spend 20 days in jail. They will also be on probation for 18 months and have to spend 30 days doing “public service.”

School of the Americas Watch vigil: Although Fort Benning officials and the Columbus police tried to shut down the 25th annual School of the Americas Watch Vigil in November, they backed down following a coordinated grassroots pressure campaign.

Food Not Bombs: After Ft. Lauderdale approved an ordinance outlawing most food sharings in public parks, people protested, tried to meet with city officialswere cited for giving out food, temporarily stopped eating, and crashed Ft. Lauderdale’s website. On December 2, the day after Anonymous crashed the city’s website, a judge in Florida issued a 30-day ban on enforcement of the ordinance.

Procter & Gamble protest: Initially charged with two felonies and facing up to nine and a half years in prison, most of the activists who protested against rainforest destruction at Procter & Gamble headquarters this past spring pled guilty to misdemeanor trespassing on December 12. They were sentenced to complete 80 hours of community service. (One of the activists accepted a previous pleas deal, and another, Tyler Wilkerson, passed away on October 6.)

November 2011 Occupy Cal lawsuit: On December 12, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed claims against several police officers and one UC Berkeley administrator in a lawsuit regarding excessive force during the November 2011 Occupy Cal protests. Claims against other officers and administrators, including former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, will proceed.

No-Tav: On December 29, the additional charges recently brought against three No-TAV activists currently in custody were dropped. This court decision followed disruption of rail services last week in many parts of Italy after an arson attack, blamed on protesters, on Bologna’s Santa Viola station. Four other activists facing similar charges were recently convicted and sentenced to prison terms of three years and six months each.

Christopher Wahmhoff: After spending approximately 10 hours inside an Enbridge oil pipeline in June 2013, Christopher Wahmhoff was convicted on December 16 of trespassing and resisting police. On December 29, Wahmhoff was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay fines and costs of $908. Restitution has yet to be determined. According to one of the protesters outside the courthouse before Wahmhoff’s sentencing,

When the state convicts people who are protesting for the health of the community, … it’s betraying the community.

activists involved in banner action against proctor and gamble scheduled to go to trial

In May 2013, Greenpeace contacted Proctor & Gamble regarding its palm oil sourcing practices. After a year-long investigation into P&G suppliers, Greenpeace linked P&G to palm oil suppliers in Indonesia that apparently engaged in destructive deforestation, clearing of endangered animal habitat, and potentially illegal forest fires. On March 4, activists slipped into P&G in downtown Cincinnati and hung banners from the company’s office towers that criticized its palm oil sourcing practices.

The nine activists allegedly involved in the March 4 action faced felony burglary and vandalism charges. Only one of them was willing to accept the plea deal offered by the prosecution, so the rest are scheduled to go to trial on October 27. According to an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) publication titled Criminalizing America,

… the size and scope of criminal law has expanded so greatly that it has become a tool for regulating behavior that elected officials and unelected bureaucrats deem undesirable.

(ALEC is a pro-business organization comprised of legislative and corporate members who espouse free-market, limited-government policies. It is one of the groups that pushed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act through Congress.)

In April, P&G agreed to have 100% sustainably purchased palm and palm kernel oil by 2015, and 100% recycled or third-party certified paper products by 2020.

undercover police officer co-wrote leaflet that harmed reputation of mcdonald’s

In the mid-1980s, activists with London Greenpeace (unrelated to Greenpeace) began handing out a leaflet critical of McDonald’s. The corporation hired private investigators to infiltrate the group and sued five activists over the leaflet in 1990. Three of the activists apologized but two took the case to trial, which turned out to be the longest civil trial in English history. The judge ruled that the activists failed to prove all the allegations in the leaflet, but according to today’s Guardian article,

It was a hollow victory for the company; the long-running trial had exposed damaging stories about its business and the quality of the food it was selling to millions of customers around the world. The legal action, taking advantage of Britain’s much-criticised libel laws, was seen as a heavy handed and intimidating way of crushing criticism.

The story resurfaced today because a new book, to be published next week, will reveal the role of an undercover police officer in co-writing the leaflet at issue. The undercover officer, Bob Lambert, posed as an animal rights activist in the 1980s. Like several other undercover officers in the UK between the mid-1980s and 2010, he 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 last year. She is now one of 11 women who are suing for the trauma they suffered after having intimate relationships with undercover officers.

On a related note, Greenpeace Canada promised yesterday that it wouldn’t be intimidated by a $7 million defamation lawsuit filed by Canada’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products. The lawsuit echoes previous lawsuits against activists, such as the McDonald’s lawsuit, TransCanada’s $5 million lawsuit, and EDF Energy’s £5 million lawsuit. One of the 21 environmental activists EDF sued writes that although Resolute thinks the lawsuit will silence Greenpeace, it won’t work.

nestlegate: nestle and securitas found liable for illegally infiltrating swiss activist group

On June 12, 2008, a Swiss television channel revealed that activist group ATTAC had been infiltrated in 2003 by a Securitas employee on behalf of Nestle. The specific ATTAC group that had been infiltrated was working on a book about Nestle’s global policies. On September 26, 2008, ATTAC discovered another Securitas spy who was still active in the group that year.

After the television program aired, ATTAC filed criminal and civil cases against the two companies. The criminal case was dropped in 2009, but last Friday a Swiss court rendered its decision in the civil case, finding that Nestle and Securitas had illegally infiltrated the ATTAC workgroup. The court ordered the companies to pay about $3,250 to each of the nine claimants, totaling approximately $29,250.

Activists have often expressed disagreement with Nestle. According to the CorpWatch post discussing the court decision,

The company has frequently been criticized for marketing baby food in poor countries in violation of a 1981 World Health Organization code that regulates the advertising of breast milk substitutes. It has also come under fire from Greenpeace for using palm oil grown on deforested land in Borneo and buying cocoa beans from plantations that used child labor in Cote d’Ivoire…

ATTAC is an international organization that opposes neoliberal globalization. It has branches in roughly 40 countries. The organization’s press release announcing the court decision mentions the importance of fighting “for a just and egalitarian society, to oppose injustice around the world by means of free and independent research into the dealings of transnational corporations, without being surveyed or spied on.”