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!
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