Four Indictments Issued in ELF Arson at Michigan State University

Today, the US District Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids announced the indictment of four individuals in an arson at Michigan State University in 1999. The Earth Liberation Front–a radical environmental group that uses property destruction as a tactic–claimed responsibility for the arson.

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Today, four people–three of whom are Michigan residents–were indicted on charges stemming from a 1999 arson at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing. The four–Marie Mason, Frank Ambrose, Aren Burthwick, and Stephanie Fultz–were indicted on multiple counts for a December 31, 1999 fire that destroyed an agricultural research office and a January 1, 2000 fire that destroyed commercial logging equipment near Mesick, Michigan. The charges could result in up to twenty years in prison.

While the media quickly labeled these as “terrorist” acts, it is important to remember that the two arsons in question caused no harm to human life. In fact, of all the actions undertaken by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)–the group that claimed responsibility for the two arsons–over the past several years, none have resulted in the loss of human life and specific steps have been taken to prevent such a result. Moreover, those who have been indicted–whether they be found guilty or not–deserve the support of left and progressive movements. While there is debate in our movement over tactics and strategy, none of us can doubt the commitment and dedication of individuals who take such actions in defense of the earth. It is also worth remembering that two of the accused, Frank Ambrose and Marie Mason, have been repeatedly harassed by federal authorities pertaining to a failed arson at an Ice Mountain bottling facility in Michigan. Ambrose was also indicted several years ago over anti-logging activities in Indiana and was portrayed as a “terrorist” for nine months before the government dropped the charges in the case.

The government has protrayed these indictments as being critical arrests in the so-called war on “domestic terrorism.” US Attorney Charles Gross, who is based in Grand Rapids, said “This was an act of domestic terrorism, plain and simple… There’s no two ways about it. The use of violence and the destruction of property to make a political statement cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.” Rather than attempting to understand why the facility at Michigan State University and the logging operation in Mesick were targeted, the media has been more interested in focusing on the “terrorist” angle and has entirely downplayed the reasons why the actions were undertaken.

As such, we thought it would be important to highlight the rationale given by the Earth Liberation Front for these actions. The original communique from the ELF taking responsibility for the fire said:

“On the eve of the new millenium, the ELF struck back at one of the many threats to the natural world as we know it. On December 31, 1999 at approximately 9:00pm, the ELF entered the Agricultural Hall at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. Our destination was room 324, the offices of Catherine Ives et al. The project being conducted through this office is funded by Monsanto and USAID and was designed to not only pursue research concerning genetically engineered sweet potatoes, corn and other crop vegetables, but to lobby developing countries to abandon their current agricultural practices and to rely on genetically engineered plants and thus corporations like Monsanto. Local newspapers have put the damage done to the building at $400,000, with documents and equipment totally destroyed. Cremate Monsanto! End G.E.!”

A press release from the Earth Liberation Front’s press office furthered explained the rationale for targeting the MSU office:

“LANSING, MI – The Earth Liberation Front (E.L.F.) has claimed credit for property damage estimated at $400,000 that occurred at Michigan State University on December 31, 1999.

A communique sent by the E.L.F. stated, “Our destination was room 324, the offices of Catherine Ives et al.” The project being conducted through this office is funded by Monsanto and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and was designed to not only pursue research concerning genetically engineered sweet potatoes, corn and other crop vegetables, but to lobby developing countries to abandon their current agricultural practices and to rely on genetically engineered plants and thus corporations like Monsanto.

The Earth Liberation Front is an international underground organization that uses direct action to stop the systematic exploitation and destruction of the natural environment.

Referring to genetic engineering and corporations who are promoting it at the international level (such as Monsanto), the communique continued, “On the eve of the new millenium, the ELF struck back at one of the many threats to the natural world as we know it.”

Monsanto Company, Inc. continues to fall under much public scrutiny due to their biotechnology involvement and general business practices. Among their recent patents is corn which has been genetically modified to be “Round Up” ready. By encouraging this type of farming internationally it severely disrupts the food chain from the insects who may consume plant matter containing unknown genetic material to humans whose health may suffer from the same. Furthermore Monsanto’s concern for the environment appears nonexistent with their promotion of pesticides and chemicals.

The communique ended by stating, “Local newspapers have put the damage done to the building at $400,000, with documents and equipment totally destroyed. Cremate Monsanto! End genetic engineering!”

This latest action by the E.L.F. occurred just four days after the group claimed credit for burning down the Northwest headquarters of Boise Cascade in Monmouth, OR on December 25. The E.L.F was also recently responsible for the $12 million blaze which destroyed buildings at the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado.”

Will Potter, who writes on the government’s ongoing campaign against radical environmental activists, highlighted a document from the ELF on his “Green is the New Red” blog that provides an additional explanation for the fire:

“Just six days later, on New Years Eve, 1999 the ELF for the first time turned to the subject of genetic engineering. At Michigan State University, Catherine Ives worked as a researcher, according to her, to help feed the starving people of the world through biotechnology. One of her programs funded in part by Monsanto and the U.S. Agency for International Development involved attempts to coerce farmers in less westernized countries to give up sustainable agricultural practices for reliance on the biotech industry, in particular Monsanto who among numerous other creations brought the terminator seed to life. These seeds which do not reproduce require farmers to purchase new seeds annually from Monsanto.

The idea that there just is not enough food in the world to feed the current population is an absolute myth being used by the biotech industry as one of their reasons to continue into the area of gene manipulation. The public relations departments at Monsanto and in other firms within the biotech industry are being far from truthful by presenting this appearance of altruism as though they are helping people in, as they refer to them, the “developing nations” to improve their lives. It is nothing but another form of largely U.S. based imperialism attempting to control and destroy non-westernized cultures for the sake of monetary gain. Is it just a mere coincidence that Monsanto, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Catherine Ives, are not teaching and promoting organic permaculture in less-westernized countries? And just another coincidence that instead they are manufacturing the desire for genetically altered seeds which Monsanto conveniently sells?

In response to this program and Catherine Ives work, the ELF set fire to her offices at Michigan State University causing an estimated $400,000-$900,000 in damages. Ives herself admitted the fire destroyed years of her work.”

Media Mouse was unable to find any ELF communique claiming for the January 1, 2000 arson at the Mesick, Michigan logging facility and it is not listed on any chronicle of ELF actions maintained on websites sympathetic to the ELF. However, according to press accounts, “ELF” was spray painted at the site.

In the coming days and weeks, Media Mouse will provide additional information on this case as well as information about supporting those charged.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org