Flames of Dissent
The local spark that ignited an eco-sabotage boom — and bust
STORY BY KERA ABRAHAM. PHOTOS BY KURT JENSEN.
In a high-profile sweep that began on Dec. 7, 2005 and continues into the present, the federal government indicted 18 people for a spate of environmentally motivated sabotage crimes committed in the West between 1996 and 2001. No one was physically hurt in the actions, mainly arsons against corporate and government targets perceived to be destroying the planet. Yet the FBI is calling the defendants "eco-terrorists" and seeking particularly stiff sentences for the five remaining non-cooperators, whose trials are pending. Eight defendants have pled guilty, four are fugitives and one committed suicide in jail.
Segments of the American public have glanced at the mug shots inked into newspapers and seen dangerous eco-fanatics who belong behind bars. But here in Eugene, where most of the alleged saboteurs have lived, those faces are familiar to hundreds and dear to many. In recent months, EW spoke with more than a dozen local people who described the accused as compassionate, Earth-loving people, influenced by a time that also shaped Eugene.
Five years after the last act of arson, the so-called Operation Backfire arrests have sparked the national media's curiosity. That attention, beaming like a headlight through a fog of paranoia, tends to obscure the other regrowth that sprouted from the ashes of Eugene's eco-radical era.
This five-part series attempts to tell that story.
Part 1: In Defense of Cascadia: The Warner Creek campaign
Part II: Eco-Anarchy Rising
Part. III: Eco-Anarchy Imploding
PT. IV: THE BUST
Part V: The Ashes