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Forest activists emerge victorious from legal harrasment

This is an older story that's already been covered on portland indymedia in a variety of posts, but this particular synopsis, which is for the upcoming issue of the Portland Alliance, ties a bunch of different posts together pretty well.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many activists in the U.S. were shocked into hibernation or dropped their efforts. Unions started waving the flag, mainstream environmental goups dropped their opposition to Bush administration plans, and black blockers took a lower profile. Talk of war and peace dominated headlines and organizing, to the elimination of other issues. Forest activists here in Cascadia were some of the few who kept up the fight against the corporate owners. The Sept. 24, 2001 "Old Growth Day of Action", for example, was the first big and visible non-war related action in downtown Portland after Sept. 11.

As winter melted into spring, the Cascadia Forest Alliance, Bark and other forest activist groups in the region put on actions camps, led hikes, held protests, and put the pressure on the Forest Service and the loggin industry. After the annual Earth First! rendevous was held in Washington, direct actions sprung up from Olympia to Eugene like wildflowers after a rain. In other words, "the forest kids" -- as many affectionately call them -- were getting busy and getting things done while the rest of the activist world was just starting to emerge from its self-imposed setback.

The response from the state was harassment. Over the summer people going into the forest were followed, pulled over and given citations on dubious pretenses, often involving illegal procedures by the forest service employees. The corporate media was filled with stories about "eco-terrorists" that attempted to link local efforts with violence in the public eye, and thus smear good names. Some activists were called before grand juries and asked about their political affilliations. Others were saddled with trumped-up charges and forced to fight legal battles that took time from their vocation and intimidated others in the community.

Proof that cases brought against the forest kids were legally baseless and intended as harrasment came at the county courthouse in Oregon City in late September and early October. Emma "Pitch" Murpy-Ellis, 19, Namarta "Tortoise" Dosanjh, 18, and Michael "Mike D" McCullin, had been arrested and released on allegations of "felony rioting" and "felony conspiracy" for attending a protest at the Solo Timber Sale Auction in July where nonviolent activists temporarily blocked the highest bidder's car after the sale. Tortoise was also accused of "Interfering with an Agricultural Operation" (a misdemeanor), as were Matthew Ritzinger, John Felsner, and Lindsey Krueger, for alleged involvement in protecting the Borg Timber Sale in August.

At arraignments over the course of Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, the District Attorney filed "no complaint" in all six cases, meaning there was not enough evidence to file charges. The state still has two years to file charges on all six for the felonies or the misdemeanors, and 60 days to bring them before a grand jury for the felonies, so no one is totally safe yet. "Essentially, they've been put on probation for two years without being convicted of anything," a Cascadia Forest Alliance volunteer remarked. "They're saying, 'Watch your step -- we can grab you and charge you with these crimes later if we feel like it.'"

Nonetheless, when the District Attorney filed "no complaint", the relief in the air in Oregon City for the forest kids and their allies was tangible, and a great weight was lifted off the shoulders of many people. Their dedication and love has brought them this far in the battle to save our forests, and it will surely carry them further still, in spite of state intimidation.

Related stories:
URGENT-Forest Activists Under Attack!!
VICTORY for the forest kids!

[ Great round-up of wntire season on pdx indy forest activism page | Cascadia Forest Alliance ]