In February 2009 in California, Nathan Pope, Adriana Stumpo, Joseph Buddenberg, and Maryam Khajavi were arrested by the FBI and charged with violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. This is a new piece of legislation that aims to suppress speech and advocacy by criminalising activities protected by the First Amendment, including protests, boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing. It’s meant to target animal rights activists but the language used is vague enough to potentially be used against any kind of dissent.
As justification of the charge, the indictment lists three specific acts, two of which are protests at animal researchers’ homes, and the use of the internet to find information on biomedical researchers. No clandestine activity, no big conspiracy, no criminal damage or attacks but protest actions that thousands of people have engaged in.
At the moment, all four defendants are out of custody, with Joseph under house arrest. A coalition of civil rights attorneys and organisations have moved to dismiss the indictments and the AETA as unconstitutional.
The AETA 4 need our support as they are facing a long trial that could have potentially wide reaching effects on protest. The next hearing is scheduled for July 13th.
See www.aeta4.org for more information.