The U.S. war on terror may have a new target: environmental and animal rights groups. According to Ginger Adams Otis of The Village Voice, Democratic New York Assemblyman Richard Smith recently proposed legislation that could define some environmental and animal rights organizations as terrorist groups.
The New York bill, A4884, was crafted by the conservative D.C. lobby group American Legislative Exchange Council and threatens action against what it describes as 'any association, organization, entity, coalition, or combination of two or more persons with the primary or incidental purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity through intimidation, coercion, fear, or other means,' reports Otis. Although the bill is designed to target 'eco-terrorist' groups like Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, activists fear that vague phrases like 'other means' could inhibit peaceful dissent like leafleting and letter-writing. The Animal and Ecological Terrorist Act, as it is called, also prohibits groups from gathering photographic or videotaped evidence of illegal activities. According to Otis, violators of the proposed law would be 'identified with photographs and stigmatized, much as states do with child molesters.' Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, and Pennsylvania are currently considering similar ALEC-shaped bills, and Oklahoma already passed a version of the bill last spring.
Most likely the legislation won't hit the New York general
assembly floor until 2004, but activist groups are still concerned,
particularly since the ALEC has paired up with the U.S. Sportsmen's
Alliance to further the movement in the state. 'This bill is
clearly aimed at stifling opposition to animal and environmental
exploitation by companies that make a living from it,' says PETA
general counsel Jeffrey Kerr, quoted by Otis.
-- Erica Wetter
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