AETA 4: Animal Rights Demonstrators Charged With Unconstitutional ANIMAL ENTERPRISE TERRORISM ACT

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/05/23/18597279.php

Motion Filed to Dismiss Indictment of the AETA 4

Rights Attorneys File Motion Saying AETA Indictment in Violation of First Amendment

 

 

 

On May 21st, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) joined in a defense attorneys’ motion in the U.S. District Court in San Jose to dismiss U.S.A. v. Buddenberg, a federal prosecution of four animal rights activists in California—known as the AETA 4—for alleged conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism.

 

 

The four have been charged with conduct that includes First Amendment protected activities such as protesting, chalking the sidewalk, chanting and leafleting.

 

The motion asks the Court to strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as unconstitutional.

 

“To characterize protest and speech as terrorist activities is ludicrous,” said CCR cooperating attorney Matthew Strugar. “And it is not just animal rights activists who are in danger here. The AETA is so broad and unclear it could be used to suppress lawful protests and boycotts by any activists across the spectrum, no matter what the issue. The law must be struck down.”

 

Passed by Congress in November, the AETA is aimed at suppressing speech and advocacy by criminalizing First Amendment-protected activities such as protests, boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing.

It targets animal rights activists, but includes language so broad and vague it could be used to prosecute labor activists who organize a successful boycott of Wal-Mart, or union folks who picket a university cafeteria.

 

Pushed through Congress by a powerful lobby of corporations and research institutions, the AETA is an unconstitutional law,because it criminalizes a broad swath of protected First Amendment activities and is so unclear as to fail to give people notice of whether or not their conduct is lawful.

Read more

 

Supporters of the AETA 4 are calling on people to show solidarity by attending the next scheduled court appearance, a status hearing, on Monday, June 8th at 10am at the San Jose Federal District Court.

 

Previous coverage: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/02/22/18572696.php

Activists Arrested for Chalking Sidewalks, Protesting with Bandanas, and Leaflet Distribution

 

 

Since the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), a sweeping new law labeling animal rights activists as “terrorists,” corporations and industry groups have been pushing the federal government to use their new powers. On February 19th and 20th, the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI arrested four animal rights activists as “terrorists” in the most sweeping expansion of the War on Terrorism and the “Green Scare” to date.

 

As background, a campaign is being waged across California against animal research at the University of California system. There has been a wide range of both legal and illegal tactics. Illegal tactics have included the destruction of UC vans. In August, an incendiary device was left at the home of a UC researcher; no animal rights group has claimed responsibility for this crime, but the university, the FBI and others have recklessly attributed it to activists.

 

These “terrorism” arrests are not related to that bombing, though. And they’re also not related to the destruction of property. These activists–Nathan Pope, Adriana Stumpo, Joseph Buddenberg, and Maryam Khajavi– were arrested for First Amendment activity.

According to the FBI’s press release, the activists are facing charges for incidents which include: Protesting outside the home of a UC professor, chalking defamatory comments on public sidewalks, wearing bandanas to hide their faces, and distributing leaflets with contact information for several researchers.

 

Will Potter, a freelance reporter who focuses on how the War on Terrorism affects civil liberties, states, "At issue here is not the validity or morality of animal research, nor is it the efficacy of controversial tactics. Differences of opinion on those issues no longer matter. What’s at issue is whether the War on Terrorism should be used to target protesters as terrorists."

 

 

[Longer Article about court]

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/05/22/18597028.php

Joint Motion to Dismiss Now Filed.

 

Rights Lawyers File Motion for Activists Indicted as Terrorists for Leafleting, Internet Research

Rights Attorneys File Motion Saying AETA Indictment In Violation of First Amendment

 

 

May 21, 2009, New York, NY – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) joined in defense attorneys’ motion to dismiss the U.S. government’s indictment of four animal rights activists under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

 

 

“To characterize protest and speech as terrorist activities is ludicrous,” said CCR cooperating attorney Matthew Strugar. “And it is not just animal rights activists who are in danger here. The AETA is so broad and unclear it could be used to suppress lawful protests and boycotts by any activists across the spectrum, no matter what the issue. The law must be struck down.”

 

The activists, Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo, referred to as the AETA 4, were indicted for alleged conspiracy to commit “animal enterprise terrorism” as a result of their alleged participation in conduct including protesting, writing with chalk on the sidewalk, chanting, leafleting, and the use of “the Internet to find information on bio-medical researchers.” These activities are protected by the First Amendment.

 

Passed by Congress towards the end of the Bush administration, the AETA makes activities such as protests, boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing crimes. Though the AETA targets animal rights activists, lawyers say its language is so broad and vague that it could be easily used to prosecute any activists who might engage in peaceful activities such as a labor group picketing or organizing a boycott. For this reason, CCR has joined with the AETA 4 to ask the court to strike down the law as unconstitutional.

 

The case of the AETA 4 is the first use of the AETA since it was signed into law – it is clear that the law can and will be used against lawful activists. Attorneys say it is of critical importance that the case against the AETA 4 be dropped in order to protect our Constitutional right to dissent.

 

“These activists are peaceable individuals exercising their rights as guaranteed by the United States,” said volunteer attorney for the AETA 4 Bob Bloom.

“This law is a blatant attempt to silence peaceful political dissent and fundamental rights in the interests of industries that abuse our natural resources.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change and uses litigation to empower poor communities and communities of color, to guarantee the rights of those with the fewest protections and least access to legal resources, to train the next generation of constitutional and human rights attorneys, and to strengthen the broader movement for constitutional and human rights. Visit http://www.CCRjustice.org

 

The Civil Liberties Defense Center is a nonprofit organization focused on defending and upholding civil liberties through education, outreach, litigation, legal support and assistance. The Civil Liberties Defense Center strives to preserve the strength and vitality of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. and state constitutions, as well as to protect freedom of expression. Visit http://www.cldc.org.

 

http://www.aeta4.org