The San Francisco Chronicle reports that four young people have been arrested on suspicion that they harassed UCB and UC Santa Cruz animal researchers under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
It is clear from the reporting that law enforcement is taking this issue seriously. The FBI and seven other law enforcement agencies were involved, and effort was coordinated through the Joint Terrorism Task Force. From the press release and reporting, it looks as though agents were following these activists in public places, and filmed them using publicly-available computer terminals. Even DNA was used to link items in a car used to flee from a harassment incident to the suspects arrested.
The FBI’s press release alleges the following harassment:
On Sunday, October 21, 2007 a group of approximately twenty people, including Mr. Buddenberg, Mr. Pope, and Ms. Stumpo, demonstrated outside a University of California Berkeley professor’s personal residence in El Cerrito, California. The group, some wearing bandanas to hide their faces, trespassed on his front yard, chanted slogans, and accused him of being a murderer because of his use of animals in research. The professor told police he was afraid, and felt harassed and intimidated by the extremists.
On Sunday, January 27, 2008, a group of approximately eleven individuals, including Mr. Buddenberg, Mr. Pope, Ms. Stumpo, and Ms. Khajavi, demonstrated outside the private residences of several University of California Berkeley researchers over the course of the day. At each residence, extremists dressed generally in all black clothing and wearing bandanas to hide their faces marched, chanted, and chalked defamatory comments on the public sidewalks in front of the residences. One of the researchers informed authorities he had been previously harassed and the incident had caused him to fear for his health and safety.
On February 24, 2008, five to six individuals including Mr. Pope, Ms. Stumpo, and Ms. Khajavi, attempted to forcibly enter the private home of a University of California researcher in Santa Cruz. When her husband opened the door, a struggle ensued and he was hit by an object. As the individuals fled, one yelled, “We’re gonna get you.” The professor and her husband both told the FBI they were terrified by the incident.
On July 29, 2008, a stack of flyers titled “Murderers and torturers alive & well in Santa Cruz July 2008 edition” was found at the CafÃ© Pergolesi in Santa Cruz. The fliers listed the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of several University of California researchers and stated “animal abusers everywhere beware we know where you live we know where you work we will never back down until you end your abuse.” The investigation connected Mr. Buddenberg, Mr. Pope, and Ms. Stumpo to the production and distribution of the fliers. Distribution of the fliers preceded two firebomb attacks outside researchers’ Santa Cruz homes, both of which are still under investigation by the FBI.
I’m willing to bet that local and federal police have people in every one of the area animal rights groups, in light of this pattern of harassment. This effort is likely to deflate this type of criminal behavior, because violations of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act can result in up to 5 years in prison. Whether guilty or innocent, a federal investigation and prosecution will turn one’s life upside down. And if guilty, the government will be seeking maximum prison stays.