Activists unfairly labeled as terrorists, speaker contends

Will Potter spoke Thursday on the West Bank about the “green scare.”

âÄúI want to talk to you all tonight about what is being called the green scare,âÄù Will Potter, an independent journalist, told the gathered crowd on the University of MinnesotaâÄôs West Bank Thursday night. Potter spoke to a crowd of about 60 at “The Green Scare: Using Terrorism Laws to Silence Political Activists,âÄù an event hosted by the Animal Rights Coalition at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center. In his speech, Potter argued that environmental and animal rights activists have been unfairly singled out because of their ideologies and labeled as the number one domestic terrorist threat by the United States government. âÄúItâÄôs not just that these activists are vandalizing property or using non-violent civil disobedience,âÄù Potter said. âÄúI think now a lot of these corporations and the politicians that theyâÄôre working with are targeting activists because of their viewpoints.âÄù Potter, who has been covering the green scare for the past few years writing stories and columns for various news organizations, drew parallels between the green scare and the Red Scare of the 20th century. During the Red Scare, Potter said that the politicians feared the communist belief system more than they feared actual communists; something that he thinks is playing out again during the green scare. âÄúI think itâÄôs a war of values,âÄù Potter said. “TheyâÄôre being targeted because their belief system is viewed as so diametrically opposed to the belief system pushed by corporations and the politicians that theyâÄôre tied to.âÄù Dallas Rising, program director for the Animal Rights Coalition, or ARC, said that the green scare is an important issue to the ARC, especially because they were looked into as a possible terrorist organization over the summer by the Ramsey County SheriffâÄôs Office, but that it has been difficult to get mainstream media attention for the issue. âÄúWe just figured the best way to get the word out about this is simply bring him here so he can talk directly to people,âÄù Rising said. PotterâÄôs work has won national awards from groups like the Society of Professional Journalists and his writing on legislation relating to the green scare was named one of the âÄútop stories that didnâÄôt make the newsâÄù by Project Censored in 2007. Potter claims the government is recklessly labeling activists as terrorists in an attempt to squash these movements and scare people off from expressing their views. âÄúThere really is no more powerful word in our language right now,âÄù he said. âÄúIt just hits people so deeply and so powerfully that I think the instant you start using it, it automatically skews public opinion and it automatically prejudices people against whoever is being labeled a terrorist.âÄù The Animal Rights Coalition was one of a number of groups looked into as a possible terrorist organization over the summer by the Ramsey County SheriffâÄôs Office. âÄúWe looked into a number of different groups under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act,âÄù Inspector Jeff Ramacher of the Ramsey County SheriffâÄôs Office said. âÄúWe looked at open source information âĦ to determine whether or not any investigative resources might best be usedâÄù The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act is a 2006 federal bill targeted at activists who use âÄúforce, violence and threats involving animal enterprise.âÄù The bill also extends to activists conspiring to commit acts against animal enterprise and lays out punishments for these acts ranging from fines to life in prison. âÄúWeâÄôre certainly not terrorists,âÄù Rising said. âÄúWeâÄôre doing everything legally and by the book.âÄù The ARC deals with animal advocacy issues, Rising said, and also works to shed public light on the inhumane treatment of animals. Rising said that because the government cannot track down the activists who are causing real harm and property damage, they go after the most vocal activists instead. âÄúI have friends in prison who are serving time as terrorists,âÄù Rising said. âÄúThey really didnâÄôt do anything wrong. Essentially the government is trying to hold them responsible for other peopleâÄôs action.âÄù