Earth Liberation Front 1997-2002 (2003. Second printing with new dedication and layout 2007. Portland, OR)
Leslie James Pickering grew up in Buffalo, NY. In the mid 90s he became involved in the local hardcore music scene. While attending shows in the surrounding area, he began reading the literature distributed there by local animal rights groups. Zines such as Holocaust (published by Animal Defense League founder Kris Qua) were his introduction to radical politics and support for underground direct action.
Like most kids who grow up in smaller cities, Leslie James left Buffalo as soon as he had the means. After a brief stint skateboarding in San Francisco (during which time he filmed for the underground skate video rarity “Heat Zone”) Pickering landed in Portland, OR. There, he met Craig Rosebraugh, and after a few years the two of them began publishing a newspaper called Resistance with other members of a group called Liberation Collective. At this same time, a group calling themselves the Earth Liberation Front began a series of arson attacks against companies involved in logging and other environmentally harmful practices. They sent their first media statement to Liberation Collective, and the rest of the story is what Pickering documents in Earth Liberation Front 97-02.
Consisting of reprints, interviews, and some original material, Earth Liberation Front 97-02 is a must read for those who wish to understand the beginnings of the Green Scare.
No Compromise #29-30 (2006. Santa Cruz / San Francisco, CA)
The early days of my activism were so exciting. After a lifetime of feeling powerless I suddenly discovered that there was a community dedicated to fighting the good fight. Its members were in every major city and many smaller ones, and sometimes not living in any city at all, but in trees and encampments. The people involved were empowered to act for themselves in order to create a better world, and had abandoned all the false hope of political parties and their dead politics. Words meant little, action was what counted, and the sky was the limit. The internet was not yet in wide use, and thank goodness! That meant that we met each other in conference rooms, in squats, on the streets, and sometimes on the pages of No Compromise magazine.
No Compromise shaped who I am today. Each new issue contained articles that helped me and thousands of others to evolve our own style of resistance, and as our experience grew we were able to share our stories in the pages of the magazine.
After 30 issues, the steering committee of No Compromise decided to stop publishing in 2006. Their decision could not have come at a worse time. With the SHAC website and newsletter killed by the convictions of the SHAC 7, Bite Back being published only sporadically and with a limited focus, and the Earth First! Journal mired in its “Confronting Oppression Within” drama, the sudden absence of No Compromise meant that the primary sources for radical animal liberation news, opinion, and strategy were the twin sewers of online social networks and the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. These were dark times for our movement, and we are only just beginning to recover.
The final issues of No Compromise were the best of the series, though! I was in prison when issue 30 was released, and it felt electric in my hands. I read it over and over, alternately laughing and crying. As I was putting this post together I decided to pull out that print copy. It gave me the same sense of awe I had when I read those first issues. More than that, it reminded me that there is still a community of people capable of changing the world through compassionate direct action and mutual aid. And you know what? We are going to win!
(The complete set of all past issues of No Compromise can be found HERE)
No Compromise #27-28 (2005. Santa Cruz / San Francisco, CA)
The volunteer staff of No Compromise may have only published two issues in 2005, but both were valuable sources of news and ideas from across the globe. As always, the reports inside are bitter sweet. Many animals were rescued, many abusers felt some heat, and many people rose up and fought back. Then, there was the backlash, the senate hearings, and the arrests. The movement has never stopped though, and No Comp always served as a reminder that come hell or high water we were all going to forge ahead, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker.
One unfortunate development in 2005 was the arrest and conviction of Chris “Dirt” McIntosh. Despite receiving movement support, Chris turned to Nazi groups in prison for advice and friendship. Soon, he counted himself among their ranks, and requested to be removed from animal lib prisoner lists. He would have been removed anyway though: there is never room in our struggle for a Nazi!
Luckily, other prisoners continued to show courage, dignity, and resolve from behind bars. Both 2005 issues of NC contain inspiring letters and interviews with jailed comrades. All in all, this is another must read year for the best animal liberation publication to come out of the United States.
No Compromise 23-26 (2004, Santa Cruz / San Francisco, CA)
One of the lessons that archiving old animal liberation publications has taught me is that the most extreme actions have rarely produced much in the way of results for animals. A public that already sees veganism as odd might still see the value of rescuing animals from a laboratory, but will never support a car bombing. When innocents are injured, or when murder was the goal, the backlash starts to creep into our own ranks, and as we fracture law enforcement and industry groups take advantage. In the end, I can think of no bombing (or contamination, or grave robbing, etc.) which advanced the cause of animal rights more than it harmed it. This is not to say that bombings and the like could never be successful. At later stages of many revolutionary struggles, when the majority of the public supports the cause, bombs can clear away in one night what years of protest could not. While a movement is in its infancy, however, it could be argued that more often than not bombs blow up in our faces.
And so it was in 2004 when a group calling itself the Revolutionary Cells Animal Liberation Brigade carried out two bombings of HLS related targets in California. The movement was left to make lemonade from truly shitty lemons, and No Compromise did their best to mitigate the harm of the actions while keeping activists focused on the real enemy.
The year continued with the indictment of the SHAC 7, the emergence of Austria as a leader in the movement, and some exciting open rescues. Sarahjane Blum and Ryan Shapiro’s organization, GourmetCruelty.com, carried out one such operation that piqued public interest and eventually resulted in a sympathetic program on Animal Planet. Elsewhere Gina Lynn was imprisoned for defying the Seattle grand jury, Billy Cottrell was arrested for a massive SUV dealership arson, and the Universtiy of Iowa was treated to the most sophisticated lab raid to occur since the early 90s.
Every time we post a year of No Compromise we say the same thing: that this is essential reading for those who wish to understand the recent history of our movement. This posting is no exception. No Compromise was the best AR publication of its era, and 2004 saw the publication refining its strengths and providing their readers with four of the best issues yet.
Let’s Get Free (2002, Eugene, OR.)
Once upon a time in the late 1990s I was down in southern California for a big activist gathering and protest. A local Food Not Bombs chapter was preparing a meal to feed the demonstrators the following day, and I ended up chopping vegetables next to this nice punk kid. At some point it came up that I was living in Eugene, and he mentioned that he might move there. We promised to keep in touch, and a little while later I saw him at a protest in front of Eugene’s federal building. “I’m sorry man, I’m terrible with names,” I apologized. “Call me Free,” he said.
Free became a very recognizable face during an interesting shift in the membership of Earth First! I had grown up in Eugene during a time when the “Rednecks for Wilderness” generation were losing ground to patchoulied, pacifist hippies. No one would have guessed that just a little more than a decade later the hippies would find themselves ousted by eco-crusties, but the change of guard can’t be stopped, and Free was right there in the center of it.
Everyone liked the guy, you couldn’t help it. The punk kids looked up to him because he walked his talk. The pacifists may not have appreciated how willing he was to literally fight for the planet, but even Julia Butterfly called him to discuss his near-record tree sit. Hell, the cops gave him a kind of grudging respect. He became a major part of the Eugene scene during a time that the struggle seemed to be accelerating, when we all felt like a revolution could break out at any moment. And then he was stolen away…
I had just defied a grand jury subpoena and was trying to quietly pass through Eugene. Stupidly, I stopped off for coffee at Out of the Fog, a little cafe that catered to the eco-defense and anarchist crowds. A loud voice yelled, “Man, I thought you were on the run!” It was Free, and suddenly everyone was looking at me. “Naw, man, it isn’t like that,” I muttered in the grumpy manner I am most known for. I took my coffee to go, bid Free goodbye, and then a few days later I heard the news. He had been arrested for an arson. Soon he would be sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison.
Let’s Get Free tells the story of Jeff “Free” Luers’ arrest, trial, and sentencing, along with some short articles and illustrations by Jeff himself. It was sold to benefit his legal defense fund and prison commissary fund before he eventually had his sentence reduced to about 10 years on appeal. It is a good zine, and it manages to capture some of the shock and anger felt by the activist community when one of our best comrades was buried inside the prison system as a reminder to stay in our place. What it doesn’t capture is the strength, sincerity, and warmth of Jeff Luers. I saw him recently, just a few days after my probation had ended. It had been more than 12 years since our last encounter and as he shook my hand and chatted I had to smile. The state failed to tame this young warrior. Free is free!
Spirit of Freedom: The Newsletter of the North American Earth Liberation Prisoner Support Network (Dec 2000 through Spring 2002, Eugene, OR)
As the boom of environmentally motivated arson and sabotage accelerated at the turn of the century it quickly became clear that the government, on behalf of their corporate sponsors, had a crackdown in the works. Unable to catch those responsible, the heat was turned up on support networks, spokespeople, and peripheral figures in the anarchist and radical wilderness defense communities. Grand jury subpoenas, congressional hearings, and new legislative efforts at repression seemed constant. British activists, having long dealt with similar threats, began urging radicals in the US to start a support network for the inevitable arrests and imprisonment of eco-warriors.
Working closely with Noel Molland (AKA Rabbix, publisher of R@T and Eco-Vegan) a young anarchist and former member of ADL New York named Daniel McGowan helped found The North American Earth Liberation Prisoners Support Network. Their publication, Spirit of Freedom, soon became one of many excellent prisoner support zines coming out of the Northwest. Covering all aspects of the movement and lending solidarity to a wide variety of struggles, Spirit of Freedom was a consistent source of revolutionary news and crucial support for our jailed comrades.
As the decade progressed Daniel found himself needing the very type of support offered by the NAELPSN. Arrested during the “Green Scare” (Ironically, a term Daniel coined on an early cover of Spirit of Freedom) Daniel is now serving a 7 year sentence in a Communications Management Unit in Indiana. Please visit his support site at www.http://www.supportdaniel.org/ for more information.
Underground #17 (The rare ACTUAL final issue!) (2002, WIllowdale, ONT, Canada.)
Several months ago we posted Underground #16 along with the all caps tagline, “THE RARE FINAL ISSUE!” Boy, is our face red. The final issue of Underground is actually issue 17.
Much of what was said in our post about issue 16 is also true of 17- the news was late, the supporters groups was constantly dealing with the problems of rotating volunteers, and as print media was being challenged by the internet, Underground also seemed to be declining in quality. The final issue did contain some important bits of forgotten history though, like the joint resignation letter from ELF press officers Craig Rosebraugh and Leslie James Pickering, or the tiny article about Belgian animal liberation super-arsonist Geert Waegemans additional charges. There is also a wonderful transcription of Mirha-Soleil Ross’ radio interview with Rod Coronado, former ALF Press Officer (and current snitch apologist) David Barbarash’s 2001 Year End Direct Action Report, and a reprinting of the ever popular “Staying Free By Shutting the Fuck Up!”