On Monday, five activists locked down at the headquarters for Florida Power and Light in Juno while one-hundred other protesters held a subsequent action protesting a proposed power plant in Florida. We have the great pleasure of having spoken with two organizers of the action, one of which locked down alongside four other activists using U-locks on the site, and was subsequently arrested.
In the following interview we speak with two individuals who were part of Monday’s action.
Wiley, an organizer from Earth First! Journal was interviewed by Because We Must about the overall action, and filled us in on some essential background information about the company they organized against. Wiley as well has explained their tactical strategy for this action.
Grayson, an activist from Everglades Earth First! and editor of the Earth First! Journal was one of the individuals who organized the protest and also locked down on site Monday. Grayson gave us a brief exit interview upon their release from custody.
BWM: Can you summarize for people the protest on Monday, where it took place, and what it involved?
Wiley: The demonstration on Monday took place at the headquarters of Florida Power and Light, one of the largest energy companies in the U.S. The headquarters are located in Juno, Florida, North of Palm Beach. The majority of the people involved in the protest held a legal (though unpermitted) rally outside of the headquarters. It was a very family friendly event—people held signs, danced, chanted, and found playful ways to disrupt the everyday business of the complex. Amidst the jubilant rally, five people sat down in front of a gate and locked their necks together with U-locks (bike locks), blocking the main entrance to the facility. As I write this those five individuals are in custody.
There were over a hundred people who participated in the action in a variety of roles both on and off site. The action was the culmination of the Annual Earth First! Winter Rendezvous, which took place in a cypress swamp East of Lake Okeechobee over the weekend. There were quite a few people at the rally hailing from Palm Beach County, but there were also Earth First!ers from all over the continent who came here for the “Rondy”. It was cool especially to see people who are fighting fossil fuel infrastructure all over Turtle Island connecting their struggles and working together on messaging.
BWM: Is there a reason you have targeted Florida Power and Light for this protest–do you have a history of action in Florida against this company?
Wiley: The main thing that makes FPL a target right now more than any other time is their plan to build a power plant next to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. This project has already been challenged in court by members of the Seminole Tribe, and there are indigenous folks (Independent Traditional, Miccosukee) outside of the federally recognized reservation lands who also oppose the new plant.
FPL wants to promote itself as the wave of the energy future, with its “Next Generation Clean Energy Centers.” But we think environmental racism, genocide, and development are old, dirty news for Florida. In addition to the new power plant proposal, FPL is working with Spectra to build a natural gas pipeline across Northern Florida and looking into building power lines across Everglades National Park.
To summarize, FPL is totally evil and it would feel good to protest them even if it wasn’t timely. Between 2007 and 2009 over 50 people were arrested in a variety of blockades and other protests against the West County Energy Center and the Barley Barber plant in Martin County. The Hendry County plant will be modeled after the West County and Martin County Plants. A strong coalition is already forming among Hendry County Power Plant opponents, and we expect the resistance to be even fiercer this time around.
BWM: Can you explain to us the significance of the location of the proposed power plant, and what kind of repercussions it’s construction might have to the environment and people nearby?
Wiley: We already have an idea of what the impact to people and ecosystems would be like from the the West County Energy Center and the Barley Barber Plant. Each of those plants use over 20 million gallons of water daily, and water is the basis of all life in the Everglades. Imagine a giant straw (or three) sucking the water out from under the last remaining ancient cypress swamps. The power plants emit thousands of tons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, including SO2, NOx, mercury and chromium which poison the air and increase rates of asthma and lung disease in surrounding communities.
BWM: For people who may not be familiar, can you explain the tactic of locking-down and what it can achieve as far as goals and objectives are concerned when dealing with a corporation of this size?
Lock-downs are a way of holding space for a long time (usually hours, sometimes whole days) with a relatively small number of people risking arrest. In some situations this tactic can be very practical for actually stopping construction or extraction where it happens. When extractive industries have work stoppages it can cost them thousands, sometimes millions of dollars.
At a company headquarters, however, this tactic is mostly used in a symbolic way, to draw attention to the ecocidal criminals who like to hide in office buildings, country clubs, legislative offices, etc. It may still cost them a lot of money; the public image of a corporation is part of its bottom line. But essentially it is to create a really awkward spectacle that brings light to the bad decisions made by people in charge.
Today FPL public relations people actually responded to the press and tried to defend themselves against our media. Our rag tag volunteer-run movement can put the second largest energy company in the country on the defensive, and that’s awesome.
BWM: Aside from the five protesters who locked themselves together, what other forms of protest and types of tactics were employed on site? Can you describe the diversity of the day besides the lock-down?
Wiley: I was pretty amazed by all the street theatrics that multiple affinity groups pulled together over a fairly hectic weekend of action planning. There were radical clowns, a “panther block” with cardboard masks, and a conga picket line. I wasn’t there for it, but I guess people were having wheel barrel races in front of the entrance gate. Earth First!ers are natural pranksters because usually when we’re not thinking about how the Earth is dying we’re trying to figure out how to pull the rug out from under people who take themselves too seriously. The last few big Earth First! protests I’ve been to have had a notable element of mirth. It’s obviously fun, but I think it’s also strategic. It diffuses tension and keeps more people around to support our friends who have made themselves vulnerable to the cops. And it makes a protest a party that everyone wants to be at.
BWM: How are those people who did lock-down feeling about the day, what type of charges did they receive, and are they slated to be released, and under what conditions will they be let out of custody?
Wiley: We have heard from them and it seems like they are doing ok. But they are still in jail and that obviously sucks.[**Editors note, all five activists are now released and awaiting further information about charges and outcomes. We'll keep people updated on ongoing support calls and ways to help those arrested.**] We’re expecting misdemeanour charges, and usually people who do things like this get out within 48 hours. Mostly we just don’t know yet.
BWM: Is there any way that individuals outside of Florida can help you with your fight, or support your work?
Wiley: Right at this moment it would help if people donated to the legal fund. Bigger picture—research Florida Power and Light and Spectra and organize against them in your own community. If you live in the Southeast especially it is likely that there are targets around—banks, subsidiaries, contractors, frackers etc, who are connected to the struggle down here. The things that we did today are most affective as a part of a larger campaign and movement, and we all need to participate in that.
BWM: Grayson, as one of the individuals who locked down on Monday, how do you feel the protest went?
Grayson: I think the protest went excellently. It brought attention to one of the dirtiest energy companies in the nation, Florida Power and Light, and made public their plan to build a giant new frack gas refinery adjacent to the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, and to damage critical endangered panther habitat in doing so. The protest was covered by local media and spread widely online, and the exposure pressured FPL to respond with a shallow public statement declaring their concern for human life. Obviously they only felt the need to go on the defensive publicly because their actions and plans contradict such a concern.
I was also pleased with the amount of disruption we were able to cause at FPL headquarters. The lockdown of the main entrance lasted over two hours and resulted in police closing off the road adjacent to the property–effectively shutting down the other two entrances that led out onto the street. Corporate executives may not open our letters or return our phone calls, but it’s hard to ignore frozen traffic and missed appointments.
The support for our group and action was also better than we could have anticipated. Seminole tribal members and independent traditional people expressed thanks for our action and for our solidarity with them. We have strong reason to believe that this action will inspire more like it to come in the future.
BWM: Since being arrested, how has the support for your group and your actions been? Is there anything you need from the community right now?
Grayson: Thank you for asking this–good jail support is one of the most vital components in keeping our movements strong and consistent. It can also make all the difference in the mental and emotional state of those arrested.
Our support has been amazing. Folks on the ground were available to answer our phone calls from inside the jail and update us on any information they had, as well as to share updates with arrestees who weren’t in contact with one another. They also called the jail constantly for updates on charges, bail and conditions. Thankfully, we were all released on our own recognizance (i.e. without bail). Although we don’t have bail to pay, we still have court dates to travel to (some of us from quite far away) and court costs to pay, so donations would of course be greatly appreciated. You can donate here https://www.wepay.com/donations/114656034.
BWM: What would you say to individuals who may be on the fence about using a diversity of tactics at demonstrations, the way your group did on Monday? Is this a positive or negative thing in your opinion?
Grayson: I think I would ask such individuals to consider what their goals are, and how to best accomplish those goals in a way that doesn’t conflict with their message. For instance, Everglades Earth First! is attempting to stop a violent company from embarking on a project that endangers ecosystems, human health, and the territory of people who have been resisting colonialism for over 500 years. One strategy for halting construction of this refinery is to bring attention to these issues in the media. Non-violent direct action tactics like lockdowns inevitably draw attention to the inherent violence of the state, which uses weapons to protect similarly violent corporations. In my mind, the use of these tactics is a positive thing. It has a natural flow to it, and all the images just fall into place. All we had to do was sit down in the road–FPL and the cops did the rest for us.
Of course, this is only one strategy, and I am by no means putting down others. Each group and individual should assess its own targets, goals, and boundaries, and then do whatever they feel comfortable with, and whatever they feel is necessary, to accomplish what needs to be done.
BWM: Do you have any future actions planned, either on site or online that individuals might be able to participate in?
Wiley: Yeah, probably! Everglades Earth First! has weekly meetings in Palm Beach County. If you live in South Florida and want to plug in, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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UPDATE: All five people who were arrested are out of jail. All were charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The Earth First! Newswire has reported that this morning protesters locked down Florida Power and Light after they have proposed a power plant near a Seminole Reservation. In Juno, FL over 80 activists showed up to protest, and 5 locked their necks together and blocked the entrance to the building, stalling operations at one of the largest power corporations in the state.
“This proposal is an act of environmental racism against indigenous people and an attack on the Everglades. If we stand by and do nothing, we are also complicit in this injustice,” says Christian Minaya of Everglades Earth First!, a group based in Palm Beach County. (Source, Earth First! Newswire)
The proposed plant would threaten panther habitat, the lives of those living on the reserve, as well as land and water quality. Further the source of power for the plant will utilize the fracking technique, which is highly controversial and irresponsible for the environment as well as the communities with proximity to the sites.
“This FPL proposal would be one of the biggest plants in the country. There’s a good chance that the gas could come from poisoning the water around where I live,” said a protestor named Ryan, from New York, where there is a push for more gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region. (Source, Earth First! Newswire)
UPDATES From Earth First! Newswire
For more info please visit http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2014/02/24/breaking-earth-first-disrupts-florida-power-and-light-company/
Update 1:20 PM — All locked-down protesters have been cut out and arrested. We don’t know yet what they are being charged with, but we expect they will need support.
Support our friends who have put their bodies on the line!
Update 1:00 PM — First person has been cut out of the lock-down and is now in police custody.
Update 12:20 PM — Sheriff Emergency Force Team has arrived on site. Locked-down individuals have been told that if they do not unlock they will be charged with trespassing and resisting arrest nonviolently.
Joel Bitar, an American present for the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010 was sentenced on Thursday February 13 to 20 months in prison for his alleged role in the destruction of police cars, and other property destruction during the protesting on the Saturday of the weekend. During his sentencing, Joel read the following statement, which was met with applause after he completed it.
Here is his statement:
I have not been able to speak much since my arrest last February so I appreciate the opportunity to make a statement today. I only plan on taking a small amount of your time. At the end of my statement I am going to to issue an apology to some of the individuals who were affected by my actions. It is my hope that this statement better contextualizes the choices I’ve made that have led me to this courtroom.
I came to Toronto four years ago for many of the same reasons as the tens of thousands of other people who marched on the streets that day. These are many of the same reasons why hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, in Genoa against the G8, in Quebec City against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, in Gothenburg against the EU summit, in Rostock against the G8 and in Pittsburgh against the G20. They are many of the same reasons why people are now protesting in the streets of New York, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain. It is only really possible to understand the events that took place in Toronto in the context of the global movement against neoliberalism and the corporatization of the planet. It is my belief that this movement is best explained as an individual and collective response to various forms of domination and exploitation. My politics are inseparable from my own life experiences, which I would like to briefly speak about now.
I grew up in an environment where I had access to many of the things required for conventional success. I had – and have – an extremely loving family, I played tennis competitively and had a working-class, but generally supportive upbringing. I graduated from high school with honors and then got my bachelors degree in Economics from the City University of New York. My plan in college was to work on Wall Street with the goal of making a lot of money. That goal was widely reinforced and encouraged by society at large. Trying to get rich and focusing on my own personal comforts seemed right when everyone else was chasing the same thing. However, two events occurred during this time that fundamentally changed the way I now see the world.
The first event was the global financial crisis of 2008. During this time, banks that engaged in predatory lending practices were given billions of dollars to keep their businesses afloat while millions of people lost their homes. It was shocking how closely government officials who once worked on Wall St. collaborated with the financial sector to organize the bailout. It seemed profoundly unjust to me that those who precipitated the crisis were rewarded, while masses of people were literally tossed to the street. I came to the conclusion that Wall Street’s obsession with profit comes at the expense and detriment of the majority.
The second event took place in December, 2008, when Israel launched an invasion into the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of 800 civilians (many of whom were women and children). This destruction was carried out with weapons manufactured by U.S. Corporations and was paid for with U.S. taxpayer money. During this invasion, banned weapons like White Phosphorous (made in the U.S.) were fired at Palestinian schools and hospitals in contravention of international humanitarian law. I saw images of innocent children killed by missiles, tank shells and bullets. At the same time many of these people suffered, weapons manufacturers and government officials profited from their obliteration.
From these two events I developed an opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died in these wars while corporations like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin have secured billions of dollars in government contracts. George Bush erected a worldwide torture regime, that Obama has only expanded, and has since been immune to any prosecution for his crimes. It is evident that those who commit crimes at the top levels are government are immunized while someone like Chelsea Manning, who revealed the extent of government criminality, is banished to a cage for decades. It is apparent to people, all throughout the world, that the real motivations for these wars is rooted in the economic interest of a few and that masses of innocent people have needlessly suffered as a result.
This led me to see more and more about the world that I could not unsee, including how the continued exploitation of the environment is connected to the same economic interests mentioned above. One notoriously brutal example of environmental exploitation is happening here in Canada at this moment. In Alberta, pristine boreal forestland the size of Florida has been turned into a toxic wasteland for the extraction of oil. James Hansen, a professor of climatology at Columbia University believes that the tar sand project is “game over for the climate.” He says: “If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities.” It should not be acceptable to us that private corporations and western governments regularly exploit natural resources for profit while simultaneously destroying the environment and injecting pollutants into our air and water.
Financial crises, war and environmental degradation share a common thread. They are born of the prevailing economic system, which is only interested in maximizing profit and increasing growth. This system is predicated on maintaining vast levels of inequality, where a small number of people have incredible amounts of wealth while the masses are locked in poverty. A recent report published by Oxfam International states that the 85 richest people possess the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people combined. Rather than providing wealth and opportunity, or having a trickle-down effect, the current system enriches the few at the expense of the many. This is not a particularly radical analysis, this is the only rational interpretation of how society is structured. Even such a mainstream figure as the Pope recently said: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.” Rather than addressing these structural causes, Western governments do everything they can to foster the status quo that leads to the problems.
The current situation in the world is urgent and much needs to be done. I truly believe we can build a new system that puts human need and the needs of the environment ahead of the interests of business. At some point, we need to decide if profit, innovation and economic growth are more important than the long-term sustainability and well-being of our species and planet. I understand that this proposition might not sound so good to someone who is financially benefiting from the current system but we are running out of time. We have enough resources to make sure every person on this planet has health care, food, an education and a place to live. There is no reason why people should be homeless and begging on the streets while food is thrown away en masse and foreclosed houses remain empty. There is no reason why such massive levels of inequality should persist in the modern age. These systems are antiquated and must be fundamentally transformed.
It was not, and has never been, my intention to scare or hurt anyone. I want to build a world based on the values of love, compassion and understanding; not fear and intimidation. I take responsibility for my actions and apologize to anyone who felt fear as a result of them. Before closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to my family, friends and supporters. This process has taken an incredible toll on myself and especially my loved ones. It means the world that they have stood by me through it all.
Kevin Chianella received a 2 year prison sentence today for his participation in the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010. Chianella, 18 at the time, got a heftier sentence because he attacked a police cruiser driven by Staff Sgt. Graham Queen with a canvas bag full of rocks, which was also photographed by a newspaper reporter at the scene. He is also stated to have fuelled and helped sustain the fire that was set upon another police vehicle. Chianella, from Queens, N.Y., was supported in court by his family, among them, his 90-year-old grandmother who raised him.
His statement to the court has not been transcribed yet. This article will update with it when it has been.
Neither Joel nor Kevin have mailing addresses yet. The Guelph Anarchist Black Cross has extensive coverage of the G20 and the legal outcome for protesters. Stay up to date by checking back often!
There are a lot of legal action happening in the Animal Liberation community right now. In South Florida, an active group against the import and export of primates and other animals to labs is facing charges that were laid on nine of their activists recently. The first of the South Florida Smash HLS defendants have started going through their first court dates, and we caught up with Kyle Krakow, one of nine, after his most recent court appearance to get an update on the situation with their group, as well as a bit of background information about what they do and how people can get involved, show support, or help them stand up to these accusations.
BWM: First, can you explain who you are, and what South Florida Smash HLS is about, and the kind of work you guys have done in the past.
Kyle: My name’s Kyle, and I’m an activist living in Palm Beach County, FL. For close to three years now I’ve been involved with South Florida Smash HLS, a grassroots group that primarily works to shut down key suppliers of monkeys for the vivisection industry. Since its birth in 2010, the group has been all about effecting real, measurable change for animals imprisoned in labs. We share the view that nonhumans deserve to live free from oppression, free from torture in the name of fraudulent science. To that end, we fully exercise our First Amendment rights and protest often.
Employing a variety of tactics, we’ve been very effective thus far. Smash HLS was instrumental in convincing five airlines to stop transporting nonhuman primates for research purposes. We also successfully shut down a monkey quarantine facility operated by the notorious Primate Products in Miami. The building, which for decades had served as a prison for defenseless primates, was closed after a three-year campaign. In addition to pressuring the company’s business partners to cut their ties, the campaign included protesting outside the facility itself and its executives’ homes on a consistent basis. Visits to the president’s country club. Early morning surprise protests. Even a ’50s/’60s themed demo in front of the manager’s house! It was a lively three years that ended with an unprecedented victory last summer. We then shifted our attention to another leading primate supplier in Miami, and during the less than four months preceding our arrest, that campaign too was full of excitement and concrete success.
BWM: Can you explain for people who might not be familiar what the charges are against yourself and the 8 other activists who have been charged in this case?
Kyle: On October 30th, 2013, eight fellow activists and I were arrested by a gang of undercover cops during a public protest outside a monkey breeding facility in Miami. Currently, the charges are disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and assault. I was charged only with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, but three of my codefendants are facing felony charges and potentially serious prison time. The charges themselves are, on the surface, unremarkable. What’s unsettling is that they fall within a broader context of state repression against animal rights and environmental activists. For a more detailed look at this heightened state of repression—as well as a firsthand account of the shoddy sting operation that endangered our lives and lead to our arrest—check out [this article] written by one of my codefendants.
BWM: You recently had a court appearance on January 6, 2014 and the state was granted a continuance. This has been happening with all the defendants that have seen the inside of a courtroom from South Florida Smash HLS, what does this mean for you and the other activists?
Kyle: It means a few things. The longer our cases are open, the longer the state has to devise and tack on more dubious charges. So there’s that concern. But the most immediate trouble for us is financial, as making the trek to court isn’t cheap and neither is compensating attorneys. Whether the prosecutor is dragging out the ordeal deliberately or out of incompetence is unclear. Either way, the entire process is very resource-draining, and we’d be out of luck if not for those who continue to support us.
BWM: Is there anything that people can do to help you or any of the other defendants right now?
Kyle: Absolutely! We are in desperate need of donations to help us fight off these charges and hopefully get back to work. (Donations can be sent via PayPal by clicking the link on the right at www.smashhls.com.) Even if you’re not in a position to help out with funds, spreading the word about the battle we’re facing can go a long way. Also, if you’re interested in hosting a benefit of some kind in your area or have similar ideas, that would be rad and immensely appreciated!
BWM: Have you been deterred in your activism since these charges came down? Has anyone in your group decided to quit fighting for animals because of them?
Kyle: I think I speak for all of us when I say that we remain wholly committed in our passion and fight for animal liberation. Granted, there’s no denying this turn of events is a game changer, but I doubt any of us will head for the hills to never return. That being said, when a group of activists is outnumbered and isolated, they are particularly vulnerable to harassment and repression from the government. It’s unfortunate but true. With that knowledge we have a choice to make: Either we shun any model of activism that might attract the state’s attention, or we opt to foster a more focused, coordinated network of activists that poses a greater challenge to the repressive forces that be. I’m rooting for the latter.
BWM: Is there anyone who particularly inspires you right now, or a campaign that you really relate to or support?
Kyle: It’s difficult to single out campaigns. In terms of animal rights activism, I personally find the Gateway to Hell campaign very inspiring. I’m partial to campaigns against animal transporters because transport is such a weak link in the vivisection industry, so it makes a lot of strategic sense to target that aspect. Generally speaking, I’m heartened by any act of resistance in defense of the earth and its oppressed inhabitants. I’m especially heartened when that resistance transcends symbolic gesture and/or takes the form of a hard-hitting campaign.
BWM: Do you have any final words that you’d like to leave with people about your case or South Florida Smash HLS?
Kyle: Endless thanks to all those who’ve supported us thus far! Whether you’ve donated, shared our story online, or offered your talents and time, it means everything to us. Thank you. Stay tuned, and keep up the fight!
Today we have the great pleasure of sharing with you all an interview with the awesome folks currently on The Bunny Alliance Gateway To Hell Tour that began on the West Coast last year, and has recently been making it’s way up the Eastern Coast of the United States. This leg of the tour began on the 27th of December, 2013 and was slated to go until only January 11th, but we are happy to report that you haven’t quite missed it yet! If you are in Portland (January 18) or Seattle, those two dates have recently been added to the schedule, and the tour is slated to go around again in the summertime, so if this is resonating with people on a personal level, there are still many opportunities to become involved.
BWM: Briefly, can you explain for people who aren’t familiar, what the Bunny Alliance/Gateway To Hell Tour is, what you do, and the nature of your work?
BA: The Bunny Alliance Gateway to Hell Tour is organized as part of the global Gateway to Hell campaign against airlines and other companies that transport animals such as primates, cats, and dogs to animal testing labs. The reason for targeting these airlines is that airlines are a weak link in the vivisection industry. If you can cut off the transportation companies, then the labs simply cannot get the animals they need for experiments. Since airlines don’t have any real interest in animal testing, but do have an interest in public opinion and customer relations, tons of successes have brought the campaign to a point at which China Southern Airlines and Air France are now the only commercial airlines actively transporting animals. For a full list of victories in the campaign, please visit GatewaytoHell.net (http://www.gatewaytohell.net/our-network/victories/).
We choose to focus on Delta for this tour and as part of the Gateway to Hell campaign because Delta is the North American representative of Air France and in a joint-venture with the airline. They share the scheduling and profits of transatlantic flights on which frightened animals are locked away in the cargo holds for thousands of miles just to arrive at a life of pain and suffering. Delta has the power to pressure Air France to enact a permanent ban on the transportation of animals to labs, and we have set out to make sure they do so. Delta’s relationship with Air France could not be made clearer when Delta ticket counters across the country read “Delta KLM Air France” in bold letters spanning the walls behind them.
BWM: What is a highlight for you presently? Has a certain date or action stood out for you? What made it memorable?
BA: So far the highlight of the tour was showing up at the house of Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson and seeing the expression on his face when we told him we were from The Bunny Alliance and would like to have a meeting with him. It was clear immediately that he was well aware of The Bunny Alliance and our campaign against Delta Air Lines and Air France. The whole tour had been leading up to this point, with actions happening against Delta literally across the nation on our way to their headquarters and executives’ homes in Atlanta, Georgia.
BWM: Why did you choose the name “The Bunny Alliance”? Does the name hold some kind of personal significance for you?
BA: We picked the name The Bunny Alliance for one because we want to help foster a network of grassroots activists across the country from various social movements and form alliances with other animal rights, environmental, and anarchist organizations. The reason for choosing bunnies for the name and logo is because rabbits are animals who are hyper-exploited by the capitalist system, in which they are used for their skin, their hair, their meat, as well as over-bred and neglected as companion animals and used for cruel experimentations for cosmetics, cleaning products, and pharmaceuticals.
8.Can you explain a bit about yourself and your own background in activism, how did you get to this point in your own work?
Jordan: My main form of activism in the beginning was working with Food Not Bombs a lot in Whittier and Long Beach, and then getting involved in antifascist and anarchist organizing around Southern California. Eventually I started getting involved in animal rights work and quickly started organizing on campaigns against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a contract animal testing facility. After multiple lawsuits and various victories, myself and my co-organizers started shifting our focus to the Gateway to Hell campaign and got involved in targeting airlines that transport animals to labs. With Empty Cages LA, we were part of the efforts against El Al Airlines and China Eastern Airlines (both of which stopped shipping animals) and have a hard-hitting campaign against China Southern Airlines that we are still working on with ECLA and The Bunny Alliance.
Amanda: I’ve been involved in animal rights activism since 2006. I’ve engaged in extensive vegan and animal rights educational activities, including tabling and leafleting, writing articles, organizing speaker events, and touring, and I’ve also planned a number of anti-vivisection and anti-fur protests and been involved in several long-term campaigns against the exploitation of animals, which brought me to working on the Gateway to Hell campaign. I’m also currently in law school and actively involved in making legal resources and information more accessible to activists. I’m the mom to an amazing little dog named Suzanna, who in her first couple years of life suffered abuse and then ended up on death row at an animal shelter, and she is now my constant reminder that every animal deserves to be rescued from a life of hell and she inspires me to always keep fighting.
Tyler: My activism career started in 2008 when I started attending UCLA home protests and quickly transitioned into focusing on campaigning against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and their affiliates. The first major campaign victory I was a part of was in 2009 when Fortress Investment divested 70 million dollars from HLS. I remember after the victory was confirmed, I felt so empowered by the fact that a small group of ambitious kids could force a corporation to make real changes for animals through creative campaigning and pressure tactics. From that point on, I have not looked back and have been a part of various hard-hitting campaigns in the Los Angeles area, some resulting in a victory and some in lawsuits and criminal charges. But all the ups and downs over the years have taught me one important fact: campaigns are most effective when our movement works together and adapts to the challenges with which we are faced, which is exactly what The Bunny Alliance is about, creating a network of activists and winning campaigns.
BWM: Are there right now any future plans to extend the tour, or re-visit any spots you’ve already been to?
BA: We are extending the tour to include stops in both Portland (https://www.facebook.com/events/518688151584266/ ) and Seattle after our LA dates and are going to start working on organizing a longer, more comprehensive tour for the summer. We are going to revisit a lot of the cities that we went to on this tour in order to connect more with the local activists and show support for their projects as well spend more time on Delta and Air France targets. On this tour, we have been able to work with some amazing groups and help out on other campaigns along the way. We worked with Alliance for Medical Progress in St. Louis by having a home demonstration with them against Bo Kennedy, one of the last “doctors” who still uses live cats for cruel intubation trainings. We were able to stop by the China Southern Cargo (http://thebunnyalliance.com/2014/01/04/surprise-demo-at-china-southern-cargo-office-at-ohare-international-airport/) Office in Chicago, and even made a stop by the homes of two ABX Air executives (http://thebunnyalliance.com/2014/01/04/756/) in Ohio after a friend asked for some help on that campaign (ABX Air are a small cargo company that have started shipping primates from China to the US ).
BWM: If people want to follow the tour or lend support, what are the best ways for them to do that?
BA: The best way to follow the tour is to visit our website at TheBunnyAlliance.com. We have been updating it on daily basis after each demo and action. The best way to support the tour and the overall campaign is to come to the events we have organized in your city, make donations so we can keep doing this work, and organize your own protest, leafleting event, or benefit in your city.
BWM: If there were one thing that you could wish for on the tour, what would it be, what is the best thing you could hope for while you are out on the road?
BA: One of the main goals of this tour is not just to have one time protests in each city, but to be able to empower activists to take organizing and planning into their own hands. So in that respect, one of the best things that we can hope for is to have groups work with the Gateway to Hell network and organize their own actions against Delta and Air France, or even to just feel inspired by our work and strategic campaigning and put that motivation onto their own projects and struggles.
BWM: Any final thoughts about vivisection, the tour, or anything else you’d like to leave people with?
The grassroots animal liberation movement is getting stronger across the world every day, and with the increasing closures of
breeding facilities and laboratories along with the victories of the Gateway to Hell campaign, we can and will see an end to vivisection; however, this end cannot be fully realized while a global capitalist system still prevails, and the end to vivisection or even the “liberation” of all non-human animals does not equate to an end to suffering or the overthrow of all oppressive institutions and ideologies. Lastly, a note to anarchists who have no real interest in animal liberation and won’t expand their moral framework to include non-human animals: a friend of ours from the New York City Anarchist Black Cross pointed out that our strategies and tactics as animal rights activists work. The animal liberation movement gets results, tears down the capitalist framework of domination over other beings, has one of the strongest prisoner support networks in the world, and operates from a frame of practical action that is based on a theory of total liberation.