Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dispatches from Cascadia, Vol. I

Dispatches from Cascadia, Vol. I
(submitted by my cousin marc, the wandering road)

Activists all across the Republic of Cascadia* are still sorting through the fallout of the recent conviction and sentencing of 11 environmental activists on charges of property destruction, arson, and conspiracy relating to actions going back nearly a decade which were attributed to the Earth Liberation Front. The eleven activists were threatened with life sentences if they refused to cooperate with the government and serve as informants. After months of negotiation, in November of last year, Daniel McGowan (of Rockaway Beach, Queens) and three others pled guilty to some of the charges on the condition that they would remain non-cooperative with the state. As a result, the government sought and received a "terrorism enhancement" for their sentences. The National Lawyers Guild called the terrorism sentencing enhancement issued to Daniel McGowan and the others as unnecessary and excessive government tactic to discourage the exercise of free speech. Last month, a federal court sentenced Daniel to seven years in prison and this week Daniel reported to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn to begin his sentence. All 11 defendants, including those that cooperated with the government’s case, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

One of the great ironies of the case against the 11 activists is that on June 20, 2006 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the initial 65-count indictment against group. On the same day, after serving ten years in prison, Michael Fortier (who was convicted for his part in the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people), was released from jail. At the time, the government was threatening the activists, who injured no one, with sentences ranging from 30 years to life. While we, the politically active citizens of Cascadia acknowledge that arson is a serious crime, we are concerned that the government is pursuing terrorism enhancement based on political views and not the nature of the crime. While the terrorism enhancement has been used in the sentencing of environmental activists it has not been sought in over 30 cases of murder of abortion doctors killed by right-wing extremists, or against obvious domestic terrorists like Michael Fortier.

*The Republic of Cascadia is the name for a movement committed to forming a new country out of the Pacific Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, Northern California, western Idaho and southern British Columbia. This region shares a geographical and bioregional proximity that helps drive the socio-political landscape.

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