OH Earth First Organizer Scared It's Like for Judi Bari All Over Again

The email came from my friend Willie on on February 8 that Marie Mason, an EF! organizer in Cincinnati area had been targeted by police. According to an email I received from her friend after I asked if I could get in touch with her in order to write an entry for this blog, attorneys have advised her not to talk to the press and have issued no statements.

This made me think of the troubles suffered by another EF! organizer, the late Judi Bari who posited she was targeted by the FBI because of the growing coalitions being built for Redwood Summer. In an interview in Albion Monitor, she talked about tree spiking and how EF! came to disavow it:
as I began to work more and more with the timber workers, they brought it up; they didn't let me forget it. They didn't let me ignore it. And eventually, at their urging (and once I had got enough sway within Earth First! to have this much influence to do it) I led northern California and southern Oregon into publicly denouncing tree spiking.

Now the workers could ally with us. Even workers who supported us before, had to be very quiet about it because of tree spiking. This really opened up the alliance between us. If we could disassociate from tree spiking (even advocating other forms of monkeywrenching -- which are quite different: those are attacks on machines, as opposed to something that could target a person), it would give Earth First! a lot more opportunity to expand its base. And Redwood Summer was a very conscious and deliberate expansion of our base and a coalition action.

We'd never initiated violence, but we were too macho to call ourselves "non-violent" before that. Now we openly embraced non-violence, we openly rejected tree spiking, and now the peace movement could ally with us. Now Seeds of Peace, now what was left of the Acorn Alliance -- the long-term peace activists in our communities could now comfortably ally with Earth First! And we could call for national actions and spread this message in that way.

That was a threat to them for several reasons: for now Foreman's ideas were being spread, not only to a broader audience, but to an audience that included blue collar workers. One of the ways they limit the influence of the environmental movement is by keeping us ghettoized to professionals and privileged people, even though environmentalism is very much in the interest of blue collar workers. They're the ones who bear the brunt of the destruction of the earth. The Wise Use movement seeks to portray environmentalists as espresso-sucking pavement dwellers...

In the Indy media report Willie forwarded, at 11:30pm February 7, Mason's 16-year-old daughter discovered a plainclothes police officer
fumbling underneath the backside of her car. He showed his badge and claimed to be searching for prowlers. A short time later the same plainclothes officer--accompanied by a uniformed officer--was found attempting to enter the front door of the home without knocking. When confronted they exited the house and claimed the reason why they were looking under the car is to see if her catalytic converter was stolen. They soon left.

With memories of Judi Bari still fresh Marie and a friend went out to check under the car and discovered a GPS unit connected to the car with magnets (the device clearly said GPS on its backside). They removed the unit and were able to inspect it for a couple moments before a large pickup truck came speeding over the curb into the front yard with 4-5 plainclothes police officers who jumped out with guns drawn. They ordered Marie, her 16 year old daughter, and a male friend to the ground and took the GPS unit back by force. They then played good cop, bad cop routine for 20-30 minutes, claiming they knew what Marie was up to and generally terrorizing/interrogating the three. At one point, one of the officers called Marie's daughter by name and made the comment: "Shouldn't you be at your dad's tonight?"
The report continues that plainclothes officers

who claimed they were with the narcotics division of district 5 (4-5 plainclothes and 1 Cincinnati uniformed in a maker car) showed up shortly after. She was able to make a short call to friends before they literately wrestled the phone from her. When we arrived the police had left claiming they were going to secure a warrant after being denied consent to search the house. Shortly after we arrived the plainclothes police showed up and demonstrated some rather bizarre behavior. They were in a large pickup truck and were squealing out in front of her house stopping once to allow a passenger to jump out who ran into the back yard to places unknown. They were not seen or heard from for the rest of the night.
The story adds that for over a year the FBI has repeated requested that she
discuss Midwest ELF [Earth Liberation Front] actions. Their claim for requesting the interview is to remove her as a suspect. The general local assumption (though no confirmation or proof of this assumption has yet to be obtained) is that last night's incident was part of some Joint Terrorism Task Force.
You may have read about the FBI's Operation Backfire:

On 7 December 2005, the FBI began ‘Operation Backfire’, a multi-state sweep of environmental and animal rights activists. Fifteen people have since been indicted by Grand Jury on 65 charges in connection with Earth Liberation actions between 1996 and 2001. The arrests sent shockwaves across the activist community in the US, with the constant threat of new arrests and legislation resulting in the spread of fear and caution.

Many of those arrested recently insist on their innocence, and the FBI evidence against them is weak. A confession by a self-proclaimed arsonist and heroin addict provided the initial basis for the arrests. The accused were then encouraged to give evidence against each other, in return for the promise of reduced sentences. But confessions under duress are not always the most reliable sources of information.

In the current US political climate, it is virtually impossible for the accused to get a fair trial once the spectre of ‘terrorism’ has been raised. This became clear during the ‘SHAC 7’ case, brought against activists from the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign. They were put on trial under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, which legislators dubbed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. It defines as a terrorist anyone who causes financial damage to companies involved in the animal industry.
So, is Mason's case more of the same? I don't know. What I do know is that
For now, I don't have enough information to write about Marie Mason, although I had wanted to get something out to a broader public. Just as with the Climate Convergence and with BREF! my thoughts are you don't want a vacuum that allows opponents to mis-characterize EF! and other environmentalists as the proverbial eco-terrorists. Don Blankenship of Massey Energy, etc., are the eco-terrorists. Look what happened with the initial Asheville coverage on the Southeast Climate Convergence, when the Ashiville paper quoted from Norris McDonald.

As even the courts affirmed, Bari's and Cherney's rights were violated during the investigation of the blast; they were defamed by police and FBI statements that portrayed the pair as violent radicals injured by their own bomb. I don't want that to happen yet again. To get the word out,
Bari had a website, a wikipedia page, and was covered in alternative sites such as the Albion Monitor, Media.Filter.org, etc. Although Marie may not be able to talk to the press on advice of counsel, this does not preclude the kind of fact-filled news release we worked on together to send out about the coal street theater.

More later. The library closeth.