On November 6, lawyers with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Peoples Law Office, and the Federal Defender Program filed a motion to dismiss the indictments of Kevin Johnson (aka Kevin Olliff) and Tyler Lang under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act on the basis that the AETA is unconstitutional.
Kevin and Tyler were indicted under the AETA for allegedly releasing—and conspiring to release—about 2,000 mink and foxes from Midwest fur farms. They were arrested during the summer of 2013 and took non-cooperating plea deals on state charges of “possession of burglary tools.” Then almost a year later, they were indicted on the federal AETA charges.
Although it may seem ridiculous to charge people with “terrorism” for allegedly saving animals from living in barren wire cages and being killed by methods that may include anal electrocution or having their necks snapped, the ridiculousness speaks to what is beneath the surface of this legislation. The AETA was crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of corporate power players who write pieces of model legislation that suit their interests, and then ALEC passes off the legislation to members of Congress. Many members of ALEC are part of the pharmaceutical, big ag, and other industries that exploit and kill animals for profit—industries that have a huge interest in stopping the actions of animal liberation activists.
To add to the mix, the State uses the label of “terrorism” with a lot of flexibility in order to be able to manipulate public fear based on the State interests of the day, and this context left the label open for ALEC to apply it to animal liberation activists. And so ALEC devised the AETA, legislation not meant so much for prosecuting activists (Kevin and Tyler are among only a handful of people who’ve been charged under the AETA), but to conjure public fear of the animal liberation movement and deter people from getting involved in activism, let alone from freeing animals from the hell of fur farms.
Right now is unfortunately one of those moments in which activists are caught in the crosshairs of an AETA indictment, and we must use this time to demonstrate to the government and corporations that we will not quietly watch our friends be taken from us or give in to the intended chilling effect of State repression. By filing the motion to dismiss the charges against Kevin and Tyler, the lawyers working on the case are fighting in the courtrooms to challenge the AETA on the basis that it is unconstitutional for being vague, overly broad, and a violation of due process rights.
As the lawyers fight in the courtrooms, we must fight everywhere else—against the intended effect of the AETA and against all other forces that try to stop us from fighting for animal liberation. Kevin and Tyler’s case should be a reminder to us all that—in addition to showing solidarity with the animals—we have to show each other love and support in the face of State repression and other obstacles. One of the best ways to fight back against government and corporate efforts to stop activism is to show them that we will unite in struggle and never back down from the fight for animal liberation. We must keep organizing, keep protesting, keep resisting, and keep fighting.
Read the full motion to dismiss here.