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Context of 'December 20, 1998: New York Times Profiles ‘Ecoterrorist’ Group Spokesman'

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A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front.A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front. [Source: Animal Liberation Front]The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) forms. It is widely considered the US’s most active “ecoterrorist” movement (see 1970s) and focuses primarily on attacking companies that perpetuate cruelty to animals, often in the form of animal experimentation. It is very loosely organized, and composed of anonymous underground cells that mount operations to rescue animals from what it calls “places of abuse” and, it says, to “inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.” ALF traces its origins to a group of British activists in the late 1960s called the Hunt Saboteurs Association, whose prime goal was to disrupt fox hunts. In 1972, according to the anonymously published “ALF Primer,” “after effectively ending a number of traditional hunting events across England, members of the Hunt Saboteurs decided more militant action was needed, and thus began the Band of Mercy.” The Band of Mercy went farther than its parent organization, and in 1974 two of its members, Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, were jailed for firebombing a vivisection research center in Great Britain (see 1974). When Lee is released from prison in 1976, he and some of his Band of Mercy colleagues found the ALF. The organization first begins operations in Great Britain, but quickly moves to America and begins escalating events. Its first known operation will be in 1979, when ALF activists break into a medical school and release animals being used for research (see 1979). Before it establishes a small press office in 1991, ALF’s activities will be publicized and praised by a somewhat more mainstream animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] The ALF primer explains the “leaderless resistance” model followed by the group: “Due to the illegal nature of ALF activities, activists work anonymously, and there is no formal organization to the ALF. There is no office, no leaders, no newsletter, and no official membership. Anyone who carries out direct action according to ALF guidelines is a member of the ALF.” The primer states the following as ALF guidelines:
bullet To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. fur farms, laboratories, factory farms, etc. and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives free from suffering.
bullet To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
bullet To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations.
bullet To take all necessary precautions against hurting any animal, human and nonhuman.
The primer states: “In the third section it is important to note the ALF does not, in any way, condone violence against any animal, human or non-human. Any action involving violence is by its definition not an ALF action, any person involved not an ALF member. The fourth section must be strictly adhered to. In over 20 years, and thousands of actions, nobody has ever been injured or killed in an ALF action.” [Animal Liberation Front, 2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hunt Saboteurs Association, Cliff Goodman, Band of Mercy, Ronnie Lee, Animal Liberation Front, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A 2000 photo of Craig Rosebraugh.A 2000 photo of Craig Rosebraugh. [Source: Doug Beghtel / The Oregonian]Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activist Craig Rosebraugh, a Portland, Oregon, native who has long been involved in the animal rights movement as well as opposing the Gulf War, joins another activist, Leslie James Pickering, in forming the Liberation Collective in Portland. Rosebraugh says he believes that “animal rights issues, environmental issues, social justice, are all related,” and his collective is a way to bring together a variety of independently operating organizations, tied together, he says, “by our main ideological structure in the country, which we continue to operate under, and in my view that is capitalism.” Rosebraugh successfully infuses some of the various movements, particularly ELF, with a strong anti-capitalist and anti-government ideology. Rosebraugh becomes ELF’s public spokesman in late 1997, and coordinates ELF efforts with its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Craig Rosebraugh, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Leslie James Pickering, Liberation Collective

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The original Earth Liberation First logo.The original Earth Liberation First logo. [Source: Original ELF (.com)]The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an extremist offshoot of Earth First! (see 1980 and After) founded in Britain in 1992, steps up the vandalism and violence of its parent organization. It consciously models itself after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) in having little to no hierarchical organization, and consists of what it calls “autonomous groups of people” who are “anonymous not only to the public but also to one another.” The ELF writes that it exists to “inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment,” and “to reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the earth and all species that populate it.” In a promotional video, “Igniting the Revolution,” ELF says it now knows “that to be successful in the struggle to protect the Earth, more extreme tactics must be utilized. Thus the Earth Liberation Front was born.” It first garners major US public attention in 1997, when ELF activists burn down a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) horse corral in Oregon (see 1997). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]

Entity Tags: Bureau of Land Management, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Earth First!

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The Vail resort in flames.The Vail resort in flames. [Source: Mark Mobley / Colorado Independent]Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activists set fire to a Vail, Colorado, ski resort, causing $12 million in damage. At the time, the Vail attack is the costliest ecoterrorist attack in US history. The attack consists of seven separate fires, which destroy three buildings, including the “spectacular” Two Elk restaurant, and damage four chairlifts. In a press release, the ELF says: “[P]utting profits ahead of Colorado’s wildlife will not be tolerated.… We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Resort Threatens Lynx Habitat - The ELF justifies the bombing by claiming that the resort encroaches on the natural habitat of Canada lynx in the area, an endangered species; an 885-acre planned expansion would, the group claims, virtually destroy the habitat. The resort and other construction have virtually eliminated all lynx from the area. [Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Activist Says ELF Not a Terrorist Group - In a 2007 jailhouse interview, one of the activists, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, will discuss her role in the bombing. An activist since her mid-teens, she began by getting involved with “above ground” protests with Earth First! (see 1980 and After), a less overtly militant environmental organization, and became disillusioned when she saw how little effect such protests had on corporate depredations. She will say that she and her colleagues were extremely careful about buying the materials for the firebombs, not wanting to raise suspicions. They built the actual devices in a Utah motel room, with group leader William C. Rodgers, whom Gerlach and the others call “Avalon,” doing the bulk of the work. After performing a final reconnaisance of the lodge, some of the ELF members decide the bombing cannot be done, and return to Oregon. Rodgers actually plants the devices and sets them off; Gerlach, who accompanies Rodgers and others to the resort, later emails the statements released under the ELF rubric. Gerlach will say: “We weren’t arsonists. Many of our actions didn’t involve fires at all, and none of us fit the profile of a pyromaniac. I guess ‘eco-saboteur’ works. To call us terrorists, as the federal government did, is stretching the bounds of credibility. I got involved at a time when a right-winger had just bombed the Oklahoma City federal building—killing 168 people—(see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and anti-abortionists were murdering doctors (see March 10, 1993 and July 29, 1994). But the government characterized the ELF as a top domestic terrorism threat because we burned down unoccupied buildings in the middle of the night. It shows their priorities.” [Outside, 9/2007]
Apprehensions, Convictions - The Vail firebombing focuses national attention on the organization, as well as on other “ecoterror” groups that use vandalism, arson, and other destructive methods to further their agendas. In December 2006, Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff will plead guilty to federal arson charges. Gerlach and Meyerhoff have already pled guilty to other arsons committed between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based ELF cell known as the Family, which disbanded in 2001. (Gerlach will say that the Family took great pains to ensure that while property was destroyed, no one was injured; “In Eugene in the late nineties, more than a couple of timber company offices were saved by the proximity of neighboring homes.”) The FBI learned about them from an informant who enticed friends of the two to speak about the crimes in surreptitiously recorded conversations. Both are sentenced to lengthy jail terms and assessed multi-million dollar restitution fines. Two others indicted in the arson, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin, who do not directly participate in the Vail firebombing, remain at large. Rodgers will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in December 2005 after being apprehended. Several others will later be arrested and convicted for their roles in the assault. [Associated Press, 12/14/2006; Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Firebombing Detrimental to Local Activism - Gerlach will later say that the Vail firebombing was actually detrimental to local environmental activism. [Outside, 9/2007] In 2008, Ryan Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild, will agree. He will say that the fires damaged the trust the community once had in the environmental activist movement, and will add that the federal government used the fires to demonize the entire environmental movement. “I don’t think it really changed the Bush administration agenda, but it probably made their job easier by lumping those actions onto the broad umbrella of terrorism over the last decade,” Bidwell will say. “I don’t think that’s been effective at all, but every time that someone lumps groups here in Colorado under the same umbrella as ELF it’s really disingenuous. In places like Vail that have a history it’s made it more important for the conservation community to communicate what its objectives are.” [Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]

Entity Tags: Rebecca J. Rubin, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Earth First!, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Earth Liberation Front, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Wild, Bush administration (43), Ryan Bidwell, William C. Rodgers, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The New York Times prints a lengthy interview with Craig Rosebraugh, who serves as an unofficial spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997). Rosebraugh, who claims to sympathize with the group even though knowing little about it, has spent weeks sending out statements and press releases on behalf of the ELF after the recent firebombing of a Vail, Colorado, ski resort (see October 19, 1998). Rosebraugh, who was contacted by unidentified ELF members about the Vail fires, says the ELF takes credit for the incident, and defends it by saying the resort has caused extensive damage to the area’s lynx habitats and a planned expansion would all but destroy those habitats. “They don’t want this to be seen like an act of terrorism,” he recently told a reporter on behalf of ELF. “They instead want this to be seen as an act of love for the environment.” The firebombing was not an instance of so-called “ecoterrorism,” he told another reporter: “To me, Vail expanding into lynx habitat is ecoterrorism.” Many mainstream groups such as the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have condemned the Vail firebombing; Jonathan Staufer of the Colorado group Ancient Forest Rescue, who has been working to stop the Vail resort’s proposed expansion, says: “It marginalized all the enviromentalists in Colorado who have been fighting it. I can’t condemn it more completely.” Rosebraugh became active in extreme environmental movements in June 1997, when he was contacted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and asked to be its “aboveground” spokesperson. Since then, he has formed a group called the Liberation Collective, which he says is intended to bring the ELF, ALF, and other “direct action” groups together to make common cause (see 1996 and After). Lieutenant Jeff Howard of the Oregon State Police says of the two groups, “If the truth be known, there are members that are probably members of both groups.” Because of the decentralized, “cell” structure of both ELF and ALF, federal investigators have had difficulty determining even the most basic facts about the two organizations. Recently, Rosebraugh said of the federal investigations into ELF, ALF, and the Vail firebombing: “This is a very hot topic not only for the media, but most important it’s a hot topic for the FBI and government agencies. The FBI just had a big meeting on animal rights terrorism. So there’s obviously going to be a big crackdown soon. It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen but you can only look at history, and history shows that there is going to be a lot of pressure and my feeling is the best way to act is to resist.” [New York Times Magazine, 12/20/1998]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Animal Liberation Front, Ancient Forest Rescue, Craig Rosebraugh, Jonathan Staufer, Defenders of Wildlife, Jeff Howard, Sierra Club, Liberation Collective, Earth Liberation Front

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the US Forest Industries headquarters in Medford, Oregon. In mid-January 1999, the group will take credit for the blaze in a fax sent to the Associated Press. The ELF fax claims the fire was set “in retribution for all the wild forests and animals lost to feed the wallets of greedy” corporations. ELF spokesperson Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) will say: “They have a clear political and social purpose. That’s to end the exploitative and abusive industry practices at hand.” The ELF fax reads in part: “On the foggy night after Christmas when everyone was digesting their turkey and pie, Santa’s ELFs dropped two five-gallon buckets of diesel/unleaded mix and a one-gallon jug with cigarette delays, which proved to be more than enough to get this party started.” The office that burns serves as the offices for four wood mills. Damage is estimated at $500,000. [New York Times, 1/17/1999]

Entity Tags: Craig Rosebraugh, US Forest Industries, Earth Liberation Front

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the Oregon offices of the Boise Cascade Corporation, a paper manufacturer. A statement from ELF activists says the group started the fire with four buckets of diesel fuel and a kitchen timer. Boise Cascade has “ravaged the forests of the Pacific Northwest,” the group claims. The ELF statement comes with a similar statement from the Liberation Collective, which brings together environmental and animal rights activist groups under a common rubric. Liberation Collective spokesman Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) says he receives “anonymous communications” from ELF and other groups. “I just pass that information along to the press and public,” he says. The Liberation Collective describes ELF as “an underground environmental organization that uses economic sabotage to end the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment and its inhabitants.” Because ELF, which is classified as a domestic terrorism organization, has taken credit for the blaze, the FBI will head up the investigation. [New York Times, 12/31/1999]

Entity Tags: Boise Cascade Corporation, Liberation Collective, Earth Liberation Front, Craig Rosebraugh

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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