North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office Subcommittee on Eco-Terrorism (2002, Portland, OR)
One of the most frequently repeated myths about direct action is that is so damaging to public opinion that if people didn’t already do it, the government would in order to criminalize movements. If this were true it certainly seems that the system would spend less time trying to prevent radical action by silencing it’s proponents and more time harassing the Sierra Club. The truth is that nothing scares corporations and their paid-in-full politician pets like a well organized group with a willingness to fight and the ability to reach the public with their ideas.
In the late 1990s environmental sabotage was happening all across the world, but was particularly frequent in the northwest of the United States. At the forefront of these actions was the Earth Liberation Front, an anonymous, underground group, who utilized above ground spokespeople to reach the public. Their primary conduit for media relations was an activist from Portland named Craig Rosebraugh and his organization, the North American ELF Press Office. For his role in publicizing the motivations and rhetoric of the ELF he had his arm broken by the police, his home raided by Joint Terrorism Task Forces, his break cables cut, was repeatedly subpoenaed to grand juries, and eventually was called to testify before a congressional sub-committee who hoped to imprison him on contempt charges. The so-called “Eco-Terror committee” surely hoped that Craig would be an easy target, but that didn’t exactly work out for them. Snarky, educated, and angry, Craig’s testimony ran the gamut from stonewalling, to educational, to hilarious. For example, while running the Press Office with his friend Leslie James Pickering, Craig owned a bakery. When asked how the press office was funded, Rosebraugh simply replied “muffins.” When asked who had asked him to become the ELF press officer and how he was contacted, Craig responded, “Jesus Christ. It was a spiritual sort of thing.”
Jokes aside, a congressional subpoena represented a shift in the way environmental sabotage was being treated by the system, and publicizing that fact fell to Leslie James Pickering. In order to spread the word about the hearings, the NAELFPO sold a DIY booklet containing all of the testimony presented by both sides at the hearing and the subsequent written questions sent to Craig by the subcommittee. In a recent conversation with Conflict Gypsy about the booklet, Pickering had this to say:
“I can’t say for sure, how many of these were printed, but it was definitely less than 500. I had a little production line going, with people wearing gloves and hats, only half-jokingly, recently having learned about the WUO and Prairie Fire. The subcommittee was in February of 2002 and I left Portland in June of 2002. These booklets were produced somewhere in between there…probably March or April, because I utilized some machinery they had at college before the semester let out and because this was actually in peoples’ hands before it was easily found online. They were distributed through the ELF Press Office, which means that people could send us $10 and get a copy mailed, or get one at one of our event tables. A good chunk of them also went to AK distro, but we never saw a cent from those, which is another story. One of the more interesting aspects were the complaints from anonymous anarchists about it costing too much. This was when the PO was being bombarded with anonymous comments which were critical from many angles. I often think of how much work went into this and how cheap these people were, assuming for a moment that they weren’t all feds. If we didn’t have the old magnet scam going [where large magnets would be used to reset the copy keys at Kinkos – ed] we would probably have lost money at $10, because it was a pretty thick booklet.”