“He was tired of seeing all the forest being destroyed,” say police in the case of Michael Sykes, an 18-year old anarchist arrested last year in Southeast Michigan for the arson of two homes in suburban developments near the Ohio/Michigan border.
Sykes accepted a plea agreement and avoided a trial while being sentenced to a minimum of four years in prison and a maximum of ten. Sykes is currently incarcerated here in West Michigan at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia.
Background and Motivations
According to police in the case, after his arrest last March, Sykes identified himself as an environmentalist and claimed that the arsons were a statement against the destruction of the natural environment.
The corporate media has largely portrayed Sykes as a nihilist who had a hatred of society. The case received extensive coverage in The Toledo Blade, which reported detectives’ assertions that Sykes “hates society. He wants to see society fall.” In an article on his sentencing, The Toledo Blade reported that Sykes offered little explanation for his actions. Instead, the newspaper played up the angle that Sykes had “psychological issues” that motivated the arsons. Sykes’ mother criticized the media’s coverage of Sykes as making him seem to be a “monster.”
While psychological reports provided to the court by Sykes’ attorneys indicated that he was “a very troubled juvenile,” the judge in the case imposed a sentence designed to make an example of Sykes and to deter others from committing similar acts. Despite his age, Michigan law required that Sykes be sentenced as an adult. Similarly, the sentence did not provide for psychological help for Sykes. Rather, he was ordered to pay restitution of $200,000-$400,000.
Sykes’ case has garnered the attention of the anarchist and radical environmental movements. Sykes has made the list of “eco-prisoners” compiled by the North American Earth Liberation Support Network, a group that “support[s] people who are accused or convicted of actions taken in defense of the Earth and its inhabitants.”
The prisoner support group Earth Warriors are OK! has also created a “Support Michael” website to inform people about his case and to encourage people to send letters and books to Sykes to help him through his prison sentence.