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green scare | police / legal

Searching for Snitches: A response to "To take on the Wild Beast"

The government still wants you to snitch. This is not a surprise. Don't do it.
On May 13th, an article called "To take on the Wild Beast" was posted on Portland Indymedia, calling for readers to snitch on a big list of leftists and radicals. Back in January, an article similar to "To take on the Wild Beast" showed up on Portland Indymedia and a bunch of other Indymedia websites around the world. The article insinuated (but did not outright say) that a bunch of different radical (and some not-so-radical) activist-type groups and ideologies were wanted by the police and FBI. The article encouraged readers to call a number of snitch hotlines and report for cash rewards.

At the time, Olympia Rising Tide (one of the groups mentioned) released this statement, originally posted at  link to anarchistnews.org

"An article titled 'In the Fight to Make a Better World' recently appeared on several Indymedia websites, including Portland Indymedia. The article began,

'You read indymedia, chances are you know some protesters who are wanted by the police and the FBI. The good news is that now you can receive a big cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of crimanals [sic]. It's easy just a quick call. and if you know more that one person you can get multiple REWARDS up to $2000 for each . for information leading to the arrest of known criminals and subversive group activity.'

"The article then listed a wide-ranging and diverse collection of activist groups, movements, and political parties, including Democracy Now!, the Animal Liberation Front, Socialist Labor Party, and 'Anarcist [sic] book fair,' among many others. We were very surprised to see our name on this list, right in between Cascadia Rising Ecodefense and Freedom for Animals. The article finishes by providing contact information for various federal agency snitch lines, including the FBI and Homeland Security.

"Although the implicit premise of this article is that Olympia Rising Tide (and everyone else mentioned) are wanted by the police and FBI for criminal activity, it is important to note that Shayne O'Neill, the supposed author of this fishing expedition article, never actually accuses us of any criminal activity, nor of being wanted by the police or FBI. Olympia Rising Tide is a legal, aboveground community group. We have never carried out any illegal actions in the fight for a just and sustainable world. Some people do perform underground actions to dismantle oppressive power structures, but those are tactics that Olympia Rising Tide chooses not to use. The police and FBI have no grounds on which to accuse us of any illegal activity - that is why they are looking for people who read Indymedia to provide that non-existent information.

"Fishing expeditions (searches for information on groups disliked by the State and Capital but about whom the State has no incriminating information) are a scare tactic used to neutralize groups who are effective at creating change. The police wish to silence us by sowing fear, distrust, and misinformation in our community. We believe we are being targeted because we are vocal, uncompromising, and effective (qualities any social or climate justice group should be proud to claim), not because we have broken any laws.

"It is important to remember that nothing good ever comes from talking to the police. If you don't talk, they won't have any information. The majority of convictions of activists would not be possible were it not for informants, undercover agents, and snitches. Even if you think you are going to 'clear up our name,' it is better to say nothing at all. If questioned by police, remember that the only thing you should say is 'I am going to remain silent. I would like to speak with my lawyer.' Without voluntary snitches, the police would be much less effective at neutralizing activist groups. However much reward money you are offered (and do you really think they'll deliver on that promise?), it is never worth it to betray your friends, comrades, and the movement. And statistically, people who snitch receive sentences that are just as long, if not longer, than those who refuse to talk. If you snitch you're not 'just telling them what they already know,' you're giving them the tools to fabricate charges where they couldn't before, and you're setting back the movement. If you incriminate others, you are also incriminating yourself and making yourself a target of investigation.

"This false insinuation that Olympia Rising Tide is comprised of known criminals and is wanted by the police and FBI is part of the larger crackdown on environmental and animal rights activists known as the Green Scare. Activists who carry out non-violent but illegal activities in furtherance of animal or earth liberation are demonized as violent terrorists. This 'terrorism' rhetoric is used to prevent people from speaking out in the first place, and justify the criminalization of previously free speech. The government is not going after us for breaking the law, they're going after us because we're effective. For more information on the Green Scare, check out www.greenisthenewred.com.

"Anyone who has information on Shayne O'Neill or the source of the original article is asked to please contact Olympia Rising Tide at  olympia@risingtidenorthamerica.org. If you believe you have been harassed because of your political beliefs, affiliations, or perceived political beliefs and affiliations, please contact the National Lawyers Guild's Green Scare hotline: 1-888-NLG-ECOL.

"Olympia Rising Tide will not be scared into passivity, nor will we allow ourselves to be neutralized by unfounded allegations of criminal activity. We will continue to remain vocal, uncompromising, and effective in confronting the root causes of climate change."

(To be clear, the article you are reading now was not written by Olympia Rising Tide, just some anarchists who appreciated their previous commentary and found it to still be pertinent.)

The most significant difference between the article that appeared in January and the one that appeared on May 13 is the terrorism rhetoric. In the previous article, the author only insinuated that the people and organizations listed were known criminals and wanted by the police and FBI. In this article, the author goes ones step further and insinuates that the groups and people are domestic terrorists. Whatever government agency wrote this call for snitches can get away with the terrorism rhetoric because they didn't outright say "such-and-such group is a terrorist organization," although the FBI and police have certainly done so in the past with many of the groups listed here, and could certainly get away with calling every one of these groups terrorists - not because anyone on this list inspires terror, but because the FBI and police can get away with whatever they want, including lying through their teeth.

We (the authors of what you are reading now) are anarchists. We are under no illusions that the State has our best interests at heart. This attempt to gather information on radical and revolutionary groups is not the result of a few "bad apples." This is how the State functions. We are under no illusions that the State will follow its own rules of conduct. If the State is ever forced to follow its own rules, it simply revises them. So while we are not surprised that it is gathering information on radicals (really, this is nothing new), we are pissed off and sick of this shit.

In their response to the initial snitching article, Olympia Rising Tide wrote of the criminalization of free speech. While we agree that the State is always looking for ways to silence more and more oppositional voices, we would like to shatter the illusion of "free speech." Under the State and capitalism, speech has never been free for People of Color, poor people, queer and trans people, or any other number of targets of oppression. While it is crucial to support Green Scare prisoners and note how the government has fractured earth and animal liberation movements into "legal" versus "illegal" and "violent" versus "non-violent," it is just as important to note the ways in which the government has also done so (and continues to do so) in communities of color, poor communities, and queer and trans communities.

To be clear, we are at war. Against the forces that oppress us and keep us miserable in all aspects of our lives, against capitalism and the State. We don't expect the State to play nice, but we expect people to recognize which side they're on and not sell out their comrades. Playing by the State's rules (whether that means avoiding illegality or adhering to Nonviolence) doesn't guarantee you won't be targeted. Debates over violence versus Nonviolence and whether or not property destruction constitutes "violence" are a dead end that serve to further neutralize all forms of resistance and further fracture the movement.

Finally, we would like to note that this snitch search has appeared on Indymedias all over the world. Almost every article is attributed to the name of a different author. We don't believe that the names listed are the actual authors, and we caution against taking action against anyone whose name appears on this article unless it can be verified that they actually had a hand in this.

- Some anarchists