activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: tyler lang

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2013 posts

Natan Blanc: After petitions and demonstrations, Natan Blanc was released in June, after spending six months in jail for refusing to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Food Not Bombs: Although state health officials in New Mexico threatened in June to seek a court order to stop Food Not Bombs from serving free meals without a permit, Keith McHenry reports that “the state never returned and the meals continue without incident.”

Uriel Alberto: After beginning a hunger strike in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Charlotte on July 4, to protest his deportation, Uriel Alberto was approved within two weeks for a one-year stay of removal.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Following legislators’ announcement that they would hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that led to another prisoner hunger strike in July, hunger strikers suspended the strike in September, 60 days after it began.

Washington Ballot Initiative: The GE labeling initiative in Washington, which would have required retail food products and seed stocks that had been genetically engineered to be labeled, was defeated by a small margin in November. Corporations spent $22 million, more than in any prior campaign in the state’s history, to defeat the initiative. Monsanto was the largest single contributor. According to a Grist blog post by Nathanael Johnson, the money made a difference, just like it did in a similar attempt to pass a labeling bill in California last year:

In each case the labeling bills started out with big leads. In each case those leads shrank as the food industry and agribusiness paid for massive amounts of advertising. The moral of the story seems to be that money really can change the outcome of elections.

Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff: On November 6, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff had their second pretrial conference. Lang accepted a plea deal and was released. Olliff attempted to accept a plea deal, but the judge rejected it; so he remains in Woodford County Jail. He was in court again today in front of a different judge.

Jeremy Hammond: On November 15, anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In response to the sentence, WikiLeaks released all of the remaining Stratfor files.

Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett: At a court hearing on December 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett, dropping the more serious charges and reducing the remaining offenses to misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly.

Kimberly Rivera: On December 12, Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera was released early for good behavior and performing extra work. She had been scheduled for release in early January 2014.

Jerry Koch: On December 20, attorneys for Jerry Koch filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John Keenan to release the 24-year-old philosophy student, because Koch has shown he has no intention of cooperating with the grand jury to which he’s been subpoenaed.

Pussy Riot: On December 23, the two women from Pussy Riot nearing the end of their two-year prison terms were released under a new amnesty law. The law was also expected to bring about the release of many people arrested after an anti-government demonstration in May, and close the cases of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists arrested in the Arctic Sea in September while occupying an oil rig to call attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. According to a December 19 New York Times editorial,

In pardoning these prisoners, Mr. Putin gave no indication that they may have been wrongfully tried and imprisoned, nor that more people will not be treated similarly in the future.

woodford county jail bans books in response to activists posting wish list

Arrested in rural Illinois on August 14, two animal rights activists, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff, have been charged with “possession of burglary tools.” Police allegedly found bolt cutters, wire cutters, ski masks, camouflage clothing, and muriatic acid – a substance that can be used to destroy masks or clothing or damage documents or vehicles – in their car. They are being held at Woodford County Jail, a small jail in Eureka, Illinois.

On August 17, the judge set bail for Lang and Olliff at $100,000 and $200,000, respectively. Lang is apparently not receiving vegan food, meaning he’s had to purchase expensive food from the jail commissary. He’s also being held in a small cell block with three other prisoners, apart from the general population, perhaps because this is the only way to keep him separated from Olliff.

Now, hours after the activists’ book wish list was posted, the jail has announced a new rule banning books. Yet the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court with jurisdiction in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, ruled in King v. Federal Bureau of Prisons (2005) that while there may be valid reasons for limiting an inmate’s access to certain kinds of books, the refusal to allow an inmate to obtain a book, without evidence justifying the restriction, infringes on the inmate’s freedom of speech. According to a subsequent Seventh Circuit opinion, Munson v. Gaetz (2012), which quotes the opinion in King,

A prison’s refusal to allow an inmate access to a book “presents a substantial First Amendment issue. Freedom of speech is not merely freedom to speak; it is also freedom to read.” … Forbidding someone the right to read shuts “him out of the marketplace of ideas and opinions,” which is what the Free Speech Clause protects.