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"Crimes for the Environment, Crimes Against the Environment"-NLG/NWCRC Forum 4/5/06

"But Is This Really Terrorism?-Crimes for the Environment, Crimes Against the Environment", the second National Lawyers Guild/Northwest Constitutional Rights Center panel on the "terrorization" of criminal and free speech acts, was held Wednesday night at the First Unitarian Church downtown. Four presenters, Kim Marks (Forest Ethics organizer), Ben Rosenfeld (Judi Bari's attorney), Dan Serres (program director, Living Waters) and Barbara Dudley, (PSU professor and former NLG president) offered timely information about how the government punishes those who attempt to protect the environment and rewards those who are destroying it.
"But Is This Really Terrorism?-Crimes for the Environment, Crimes Against the Environment", the second National Lawyers Guild/Northwest Constitutional Rights Center panel on the "terrorization" of criminal and free speech acts, was held Wednesday night at the First Unitarian Church downtown. Four presenters, Kim Marks (Forest Ethics organizer), Ben Rosenfeld (Judi Bari's attorney), Dan Serres (program director, Living Waters) and Barbara Dudley, (PSU professor and former NLG president) offered timely information about how the government punishes those who attempt to protect the environment and rewards those who are destroying it.
Moderator Brenna Bell's introduction provoked audience laughter when she promised that the presenters would provide " ... .a deeper dialogue than the Oregonian".
Kim Marks began with an overview of the situation, supplying the frightening statistics that over 80% of our land mass has been logged and that more than half of US rivers are too polluted to swim in. Logging is taking place at a rate of 23 million acres a year and over 80% of overseas logging is illegal as well.
Marks argued that capitalism has replaced democracy with corporate rule with the resulting loss of our common areas and public lands. Government agencies allow industries to pollute and levy small fines, if any at all, for the violation of laws and permits. Human rights crimes against the people for the benefit of corporations both in the US and abroad continue to increase, she said with many of the perpetrators in foreign nations being American businesses like Boise Cascade and Coca Cola.
Most countries other than the US have accepted that there are major environmental problems but our government and industries persist in denying that there are grave issues to be dealt with. Marks encouraged the audience to continue informing the general public and bringing the problem to the people causing it.
The second speaker, Ben Rosenfeld, explained how former Attorney General John Ashcroft's weakening of FBI standards of conduct has caused an incredible chill in activism but advised that it's also a time for solidarity, a time to "drag this cockroach into the light". He said that the
"green scare" should more properly be called the "red, black and green scare" as government pursues socialists and anarchists as well as those in environmental movements, considering green anarchists to be the biggest threat.
Dan Serres then spoke on the government's lack of enforcement of crimes against the environment and described how industries set the rules for the DEQ and the governor in Oregon. He described how Blue Heron (formerly Smurfit) pulp and paper mill was given 4.75 years to come into compliance with their river discharges and when they couldn't (wouldn't), were given another 4.75 years instead of fines. He related the difficulty activists have in challenging the permits and rules because, unlike other regulatory agencies, all documents are on paper. According to Serres, student public interest research groups (PIRGs) found that 62% of municipalities and corporations were in violation of water discharge laws in an 18-month period two years ago. Other effective documentation has been done by the NW Environmental Defense Center. He added that Superfund laws are being gutted and the EPA is relaxing criminal enforcement.
Barbara Dudley told how the administration hounded Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Net by using dubious interpretations of maritime laws and by threatening their non-profit status. She also related what happened during the harassment of activists in the '40's-'50's Red Scare: one group, when accused under the anticommunist Smith Act (since declared unconstitutional), went underground and were rebuked by the public as probably guilty. The other group decided to go on trial and be totally open and by doing so, de-escalated the persecution of others, bringing about the Supreme Court judgment against the Act.
Dudley urged the audience to find common cause together even if there is disagreement about tactics. Even small organizations taking a public position on this issue can make a difference. "If we do not take this stand they will come after us next "she ended by saying, to enthusiastic applause.

The last forum in this series, "Terrorism Creep", will be held again at the First Unitarian Church downtown on Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm.
For more information contact the NWCRC at  info@nwcrc.org