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spokesman familiar with devices
Local environmentalists: Violence not
By RYAN OLSON
The Daily Mining Gazette
November 6, 2001
HOUGHTON While no group has taken responsibility
for planting two bombs at Michigan Tech Universitys forestry
buildings Monday, officials are looking into whether radical environmentalists
might have been targeting genetic research at the facilities.
Researchers in the universitys forestry department
received threatening e-mails around Earth Day in April from someone
who claimed to be representing the Earth Liberation Front. That
organization is believed to be responsible for a number of eco-terror
attacks around the nation in recent years.
Forestry department research includes the genetic
manipulation of trees, which the ELF has targeted at other universities.
Apparently theres a group that opposes
that kind of research, said Dean Woodbeck, director of MTU
News and Informational Services. But no one has claimed any
responsibility for what happened (Monday).
The ELF has claimed responsibility for attacks on
research projects at universities and research areas for more than
a decade. The shadowy group does not currently have a spokesman,
according to David Barbarash, a spokesman for the North American
Animal Liberation Front the ELFs sister organization.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United
States, the two organizations have taken responsibility for setting
fire to a maintenance building at a primate research facility in
New Mexico, twice releasing minks from an Iowa fur farm and firebombing
a federal wild horse corral in Nevada.
What the ALF and ELF do is something that is
totally different than what anyone else is trying to do take
action to immediately end whatever atrocities are being committed,
Recent attacks in the Midwest include an attack on
500 research trees at a federal forestry laboratory near Rhinelander,
Wis. in July 2000 causing about $750,000 of damage. The ELF also
claimed responsibility for setting fire to an agricultural biotechnology
program at Michigan State University in East Lansing in December
1999, causing $400,000 worth of damage.
Although Barbarash said no ELF or ALF member has taken
responsibility for the devices left at MTU Monday, he acknowledged
the devices left behind the U.J. Noblet Forestry Building and the
U.S. Forest Search Engineering Laboratory are similar to bombs used
by the two organizations.
He said the goal when using such devices is to
burn it down. He said the ELF generally opposes genetic research.
The organizations hope that by destroying property they set back,
and ultimately derail research.
We see that the illegal actions taken by the
ALF and the ELF at this time are part of a larger process, larger
protest movement, Barbarash said. We need all aspects
of protest to achieve social change.
Barbarash, who relays anonymous information about
the ALFs actions to the public, said the ALF and the ELF do
not have a leadership structure, leaving local terrorist cells to
act on their own.
The only people who know who are involved in
an action are those who took part in an action, Barbarash
Barbarash, who no longer participates in ALF actions,
served four months in a Canadian jail in 1991 for releasing cats
at a Canadian university. He said he stopped taking part in ALF
actions because he lost his anonymity.
He said the groups arent concerned about breaking
the law; he compared their actions to those of abolitionists who
broke the law to free slaves. Both the FBI and Congress are investigating
Local environmental groups are scratching their heads
about who locally would be involved in planting such devices.
I dont know of any violent actions on
the part of any environmentalists that I know of in the Copper Country
ever, said Janet Avery, the retired president of the Association
Working Against Keweenaw Exploitation.
She said she and her husband may have seen more radical
environmentalists at meetings, but they have not met anyone from
the Keweenaw who fits the description.
Weve been accused of being radical and
we actually havent done anything radical and we dont
know anyone radical, she said.
Susan Harting, A.W.A.K.E.s current president
and a Tech instructor, said environmental groups in the region are
The primary mission for an environmental group
in this area is to educate people and to empower them to take control
in their community in terms of land-use planning and educate people
on possible problems when a development project is proposed,
MTU students who attended a regular Students Against
Violating the Environment meeting Monday night expressed concerns
that eco-terrorism apparently has reached their school.
Jason Grubb, a fifth-year geology major, said it hurts
It ... scares people that environmentalists
are just wackos, and thats not the impression that we try
and give, he said.
Barbarash said he rejects the use of the word eco-terrorist
to describe the members of the ELF and ALF.
Its true that what these people are doing
is destroying property, but I dont think that that is terrorism,
Barbarash said the aim of the radical environmentalists
is to protect animals and the environment, not to harm people. He
said the organization considers actions against the environment
and animals as terrorism.
The Sept. 11 attacks were horrific acts, but
we also have to remember that the atrocities against the earth continue
unabated, Barbarash said.
On the Net:
Earth Liberation Front, http://www.earthliberationfront.com
Animal Liberation Front, http://www.animalliberation.net