Local Broadcast Media Reports on ELF Arsons

All three local broadcast news channels ran stories covering the charges in the Michigan State University ELF arsons that hyped the idea of “terrorism” and portrayed the arsons as crimes against society. The reporting basically mirrored the government’s allegations in the case.

On Tuesday night, all three broadcast media outlets in Grand Rapids ran stories on the arrests of four people charged with Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arsons at Michigan State University and Mesick, Michigan back in 1999. While the coverage varied from station to station, with some being worse than others–for example WOOD TV 8 failed to get the name of the group right claiming it was the “Environmental Liberation Front”–all three stations essentially acted as stenographers for the government and simply reported the government’s perspective on the case.

The media adopted the government’s designation of the arsons as “terrorism,” despite the fact that there was no loss of life or injury to people as a result of the two arsons. Similarly, all three stations ran a quote from US Attorney Charles Gross stating, “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.” The stations hyped the “terrorist” allegation and portrayed the crimes as being directed not only towards property, but society as a whole. This idea was conveyed through the rather bizarre juxtaposition of people preparing for Y2K and “ringing in the New Year” while the accused were “planning a terrorist attack.” The comparison–that normal people were concerned about the New Year holiday–was repeated on all three stations.

Beyond the focus on “terrorism,” there was no real effort by the media to explain why the arsons–which may not have been committed by the four arrested–were committed. The media simply reported the vague claims about “genetic engineering” contained in the federal indictment. A simple Internet search would have yielded the ELF’s rationale for the arsons, which is far more detailed than what was reported on the three stations. Moreover, the stations completely ignored the ELF’s claim that the genetic research at Michigan State University was being funded in part by Monsanto, not just the federal government.

Finally, the stories largely reported that the four who were arrested are members of the Earth Liberation Front. While the stories do occasionally use the word “accused,” for the most part, they convey the idea that those arrested were responsible for the arsons. This presumption of guilt is unfortunate because, once again, a simple Internet search could have provided the local stations more information. Back in 2001, charges against Frank Ambrose–one of the accused in this case–were dropped despite widespread reporting in the media describing him as a terrorist. Similarly, in 2003, Ambrose and Marie Mason were forced to submit DNA samples to a grand jury investigating an attempted firebombing of an Ice Mountain facility in Mecosta County, but neither were charged with a crime in that case. The media should have generally been more careful in their reporting, but should have been more careful in light of previous accusations against two of the accused.

WOOD TV 8 Story:

WXMI FOX 17 Story:

WZZM 13 Story:

Prisoner Support Update for Arrested Eco-Activist

A new group, Friends of Marie Mason, has formed to support Marie Mason, one of four suspects arrested and charged with an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arsons in Michigan.

On Tuesday, Mediamouse.org reported that eco-activist Marie Mason was arrested and likely will be transported to Grand Rapids. Since that time, it has been widely reported that Mason is being held for charges stemming from an Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson at Michigan State University. Below is the first update from her support committee:

“First we want to thank you for expressing interest in supporting recently arrested Eco defense organizer Marie Mason. Below you will find the an overview of what we know as well as the latest updates about Marie’s case and current situation and ways you can help support Marie. If you wish to be removed from this list drop us a line.

Send Marie your letters of support!

MARIE MASON #134001

Butler County Sheriff’s Office & Correctional Complex

705 Hanover Street

Hamilton, Ohio 45011

If you send Marie a letter and it gets returned to you, please let us know about it so we can add any other restrictions to the guideline list. When writing please use your common sense; don’t write about anything that is likely to get a prisoner in trouble in any way. Avoid discussing any details of her case and/or any potential charges against her.

Please do NOT send in any books/zines to Marie yet. We are in the process of getting a system going for her to receive books. If you would like her to receive books we would prefer you donate money. We will be releasing a list of books Marie would like in the very near future.

When writing Marie, Do NOT ever write “legal mail” or anything implying that you are an attorney unless you are. Complete jail mail rules can be found

http://www.butlersheriff.org/divisions/corrections/corrections_inmate_info.htm

UPDATE

We were able to briefly speak with Marie Monday night (3/10/08) and that is when we found out she was in the Butler County Jail and was promptly placed on suicide watch on arrival. We were able to assure her that her daughter was safe (her 16 year daughter was at Marie’s home when the FBI, Homeland Security, and local Police served a search warrant and detained her for over an hour), that her pets were being looked after and several other personal affairs would be attended to.

Several of us drove to the Butler County jail the next day (3/10/08) with the intention of putting money in Marie’s commissary account. Apparently prisoners with the first letter of their last name k-z can only get visitors Thursdays and Sundays. To make things more difficult the prisoner must add visitors names to a pre-approval list prior to the visit and prisoners are only able to update their visitors list once every 30 days. We quickly wrote Marie a letter detailing all this and that we had deposited funds into her commissary account as well as a list of friends #s she can call collect at any time and dropped it off at the post office a few blocks from the jail in hopes she would get the letter before visiting day.

We got a call from Marie’s Mother (3/12/08) today who had received a collect call from Marie. Marie told her that she needed funds to obtain vegan food as well socks and basic toiletries in prison. She asked her mother to contact us to and request we put money in her jail commissary account. This news was frustrating to us as we had already driven up to the Butler County Jail and deposited ample money in her account and was told she would be given a receipt of its deposit detailing her current balance and she would have access to it by 3pm of the day of deposit. Since we have not heard from her since Monday we assume she has not gotten our letter with all the contacts yet and that as of 2pm today had not been given access to the funds we placed in her commissary account. The last thing we want is Marie to feel alone during all this. We will be driving up to the Butler County jail tomorrow in hopes of seeing her and at the least depositing more money into her commissary account. We will keep everyone posted.

How you can help

1. We are currently collecting funds for Marie’s legal defense. One lawyer told us it will likely cost between $20,000 – $60,000 to represent a case like this. Its important we begin our fund raising immediately. We are in the process of setting up a website (freemarie.org coming soon) where folks will be able to use PayPal to donate direct but until then ask folks to send funds in the form of a check or money order made out to “Books for Prisoners”. Please put in the notes section Marie and/or include a letter detailing that the enclosed funds are for Marie Masons defense.

We are grateful to have been contacted by an anonymous donor who will match dollar for dollar up to $1000 for Marie’s legal defense fund. This offer is good up until April 15.

2. We are looking for artists who are willing to donate their talent and time to the cause.

3. If you know of any activist attorneys in the Grand Rapids, MI area please pass along their contact info ASAP.

4. Write Marie! Mail will be a life line for her during these troubling times.

Its all about the Struggle,

Got Your Back

Friends of Marie Mason

P.O. Box 19065

Cincinnati, OH 45219

freemarie [ – @ – ] riseup.net

Indictment Outlines Government’s Charges in MSU Arsons

The indictment filed by the government against four environmentalists arrested for two arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) outlines both a timeline of what the government alleges happened as well as the government’s claims that the arsons were crimes against society.

An indictment filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan outlines the government’s charges against four suspects–Marie Mason, Frank Ambrose, Aren Burthwick, and Stephanie Fultz–who the government claims were responsible for two arsons attributed to the radical environmental group known as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).

The indictment argues that the crimes–arsons in which no lives were endangered–were crimes against society. In defining the actions of the ELF and how it operates, the indictment says:

“The ELF was, and remains, a loosely organized movement of individuals who are committed to the eradication of commercial, research, and other activities that its adherents consider harmful to the natural environment. ELF espouses a philosophy of what its adherents refer as “direct action,” a term that denotes specific acts of politically-motivated violence designed to force segments of society, including the general civilian population, private business, and government, to change their attitudes about environmental issues and/or to cease activities considered by the movement to have a negative impact on the natural environment.”

It further says that:

“ELF direct actions include actions that violate the criminal laws of the United States or of individual States that are dangerous to human life. ELF adherents carry out such direct actions in order to intimidate or coerce civilian populations and/or to influence the policy of the government through such means.”

After outlining its view of the ELF’s activities, the government outlines the alleged timeline for the two arsons. Based on information that seems to have been obtained at least in part from an unnamed “person known to the Grand Jury”–possibly some type of informant given the use of informants in recent ELF trials–the government details what it alleges happened. According to the indictment, the four individuals met on December 30, 1999 in Empire, Michigan to discuss destroying records of plant genetic research at Michigan State University (MSU). Apparently, the group decided to go forward with the arson, and the government alleges that Mason and Ambrose traveled to East Lansing to carry out the action.

According to the indictment, the arson at MSU did not go particularly well. After breaking into the building, the government alleges that Ambrose left Mason there while he traveled to Meijer to purchase several one-gallon jugs of juice that he filled with gasoline at a nearby gas station. Once he returned, the government says that the two returned to the office space where the records were stored and poured gasoline on files and computer hard drives. The government claims that Mason spray painted the message “No GMO” while Ambrose setup a fuse consisting of rolled up paper. When he allegedly lit the fuse, the government says that the gas fumes exploded and burned Mason’s hair. The two allegedly fled the scene at that point.

The government says that following the arson at Michigan State University, Ambrose and Mason returned to Empire to meet up with the others. They said that the arson “succeeded” but that Mason’s hair had to be cut because it was burned. The next day, the group allegedly saw logging equipment near Mesick, Michigan and decided to burn it. They allegedly bought gasoline, charcoal, firewood, and matches at a nearby gas station that were then used in the arson. At the site, they spray painted “ELF” and “Go Log in Hell.”

The indictment says that a few days later, Mason and Ambrose completed a “communique” explaining the actions near Traverse City. The communique was sent to an ELF spokesperson. A month later, the government alleges that Mason sent a second report via email to the ELF. Later, a report praising the Michigan State University arson, the Mesick arson, and a third arson appeared on the ELF website.

The indictment charges all four with “Conspiracy to Commit Arson” based on the scenario detailed in the preceding paragraphs. All four are also charged with “Arson” in for the logging fire in Mesick. Ambrose and Mason are charged with two counts of “Arson” for the fire at Michigan State University.

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.

031108-elf_arson_msu.jpg

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.