As most of you know by now, I am officially behind bars serving out my additional 10 month sentence for my refusal to testify before a grand jury that was set up to harass and intimidate the local animal rights movement of Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ll go into more detail about grand juries in a second. It was a huge surprise when the dozen or so United States Marshals showed up to storm my parent’s house to arrest me. An hour before visiting my house, they showed up at my work, harassing my friend to the point of tears. I was expecting a visit from my girlfriend just days away on the 14th of January. I feel this was a blatant move by the government to shatter my spirits. But as David Barbarash once wrote while behind bars, “They have my physical body for this relatively short period of time. They will never have my spirit, or my mind, or my will. And that’s where the real power lies.” Unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true for the billions of animals who are imprisoned, sitting on death row, living in horrible conditions, waiting to die for their skins, meat or simply because they are of no use anymore. So, while I sit here reading and writing letters, I’ll have the real prisoners on my mind, the ones who are awaiting their death sentence, just because they were born a certain species. Let none of us forget the “true prisoners” in the war.
Now back to grand juries, I won’t go into much detail about my case, as I have already written about it in the past and you can view it on my support page. But, basically I was called to testify in front of a grand jury because I helped re-start the Salt Lake City chapter of the Animal Defense League. We had been looking into ways to legally get local fur farms to close their doors for good. We looked into possible stricter legislation for fur farms in regards to what the state considered “livestock.” As of current, mink and other fur bearing species used for clothing are NOT considered “livestock” and therefore are NOT required to be tended to at least once every 24 hours, as is the case with “livestock.” We were working to pass legislation to reclassify fur bearing species as “livestock” and also looking into stricter pollution and contamination laws for fur farms.
While doing this Utah was hit with a series of fur farm liberations. Days after the first mink farm raid, my father was visited by the FBI. They asked him questions pertaining to breeding cards and my activity. He unfortunately informed them I no longer lived there and the next day I was visited at my work. I told them to leave, they threatened me with a grand jury subpoena and 6 months later followed through with that threat, subpoenaing me and another person. Being well read on the use of grand juries to intimidate local above ground grass roots activists, I was shocked to see a lack of understanding and the urge to have me comply from the local community, so that support for any suspects if caught wouldn’t be affected. This was severely disheartening and one of my many reasons I chose to disassociate myself from many people in the community.
So here is my message to you: It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know anything about ANY underground animal rights activities, or any illegal activities for that matter. Modern day grand juries are used to harass, terrorize and to intimidate. That’s it, plain and simple, don’t buy into the governments lies that they are investigating crimes. The truth is, if they had any information, they wouldn’t be coming after above ground activists like myself. It’s a witch hunt, all political and social movements should maintain a strong stance of non-cooperation when faced with a grand jury subpoena. The more we resist, the less likely they will subpoena future activists. In my case, my testimony wasn’t even needed (not that I had anything to offer anyway) they were still able to indict 2 activists for their roles in the 2008 mink farm raid. They were also able to successfully cripple the local, and let me remind you, LEGAL organization ADLSLC.
As Eli Rosenblatt once wrote, “With the grand jury the state built into it’s laws a mechanism to cover up it’s true motivations of quashing dissent and threats to oppressive institutions by claiming some great threat to public safety or national security from terrorist activity, the state can imprison anyone who refuses to talk, anyone who doesn’t provide information to the government about themselves or others. The justice department and intelligence agencies have thus targeted, disrupted and caged numerous people in recent decades, simple for their opposition to US government policies.” Although written nearly 2 decades ago it still holds true.
While I will always remain a legal activist, it’s no wonder we are seeing a huge jump in underground animal rights actions. When current activists see a case like mine, where I’m serving over 14 months for nothing, it’s obvious why they would slip into the underground where they are effective and the chances of getting caught are less likely, because they aren’t publicly showing their faces at protests.
To summarize, we need to educate and publicize the repressive and illegal use of grand juries and we need to know our rights in general and inform others. I urge, urge, urge you to PLEASE read up on grand juries and inform others so when, not if, a grand jury subpoena presents itself to you or your community, you’ll be prepared… and you’ll RESIST! RESIST! RESIST!
Though they did get one thing right, I do have contempt for the grand jury system.
P.S. Please write, I would love to hear from you. Letters are like oxygen to prisoners, They help us know people are out there and they care. Please check the support page often as I will be heading to a new location shortly. Thanks again for all the support. I can’t wait to build many more friendships. Even if you don’t know what to say a postcard that says “SUP?” is enough to let me know someone is out there.
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