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Flames of Dissent #1

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2006/11/02/coverstory.html Flames of Dissent The local
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2006
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Flames of Dissent
      The local spark that ignited an eco-sabotage boom -- and bust

      In a high-profile sweep that began on Dec. 7, 2005 and
      continues into the present, the federal government indicted
      18 people for a spate of environmentally motivated sabotage
      crimes committed in the West between 1996 and 2001. No one
      was physically hurt in the actions, mainly arsons against
      corporate and government targets perceived to be destroying
      the planet. Yet the FBI is calling the defendants
      "eco-terrorists" and seeking particularly stiff sentences
      for the five remaining non-cooperators, whose trials are
      pending. Eight defendants have pled guilty, four are
      fugitives and one committed suicide in jail.

      Segments of the American public have glanced at the mug
      shots inked into newspapers and seen dangerous eco-fanatics
      who belong behind bars. But here in Eugene, where most of
      the alleged saboteurs have lived, those faces are familiar
      to hundreds and dear to many. In recent months, EW spoke
      with more than a dozen local people who described the
      accused as compassionate, Earth-loving people, influenced by
      a time that also shaped Eugene.

      Five years after the last act of arson, the so-called
      Operation Backfire arrests have sparked the national media's
      curiosity. That attention, beaming like a headlight through
      a fog of paranoia, tends to obscure the other regrowth that
      sprouted from the ashes of Eugene's eco-radical era.

      This five-part series attempts to tell that story.

      Part I

      In Defense of Cascadia: The Warner Creek campaign

      Mick Garvin lay calmly on his side while three tons of steel
      heaved toward him. It was the morning of Sept. 10, 1995, and
      the sun hadn't yet hit the north face of the mountain. The
      air was chilly on Garvin's face, his right hand cold against
      a steel chain. He was locked into the gravel road.

      Jake Ferguson and two others sat stoically in front of
      Garvin, forming a soft barrier between the human lock-down
      and the machine, while another dozen forest activists rubbed
      the sleep out of their eyes and gathered around. Independent
      filmmaker Tim Lewis circled the scene with his video camera,
      and resident pikas, tiny bunny-like mammals with long
      whiskers, scurried under boulders and squeaked. The Forest
      Service road grader heaved closer, knocking away a large
      rock and rising up with a moan. The blade stopped about 10
      feet from Ferguson's military boots.

      Garvin looked at the backs of the heads protecting him,
      gazed up at a snaggly old Doug fir and felt a warm wave of
      gratefulness. The 37-year-old had been doing forest defense
      work for years, but never before had he seen activists hold
      their ground like this. A state trooper summarily informed
      them that they could be arrested, and a Forest Service
      officer turned to Garvin. "Are you going to leave?"

      "No." And she couldn't make him. He was locked into a
      "Sleeping Dragon," a concrete-reinforced 55-gallon barrel
      buried in the road and covered with a metal fire door.
      Garvin's arm ran through a hole in the door and down a pipe
      into the barrel; his chained wrist was clipped to a pin at
      the bottom. The road grader couldn't proceed without rolling
      over him, and he wasn't about to budge.

      Secretly, Garvin hoped the standoff wouldn't last much
      longer. Fluid was collecting in his hand, making it swell,
      and if his fingers fell asleep he wouldn't be able to open
      the clip to get out. But if the grader got past him it would
      roll toward Bunchgrass Ridge, where ancient trees were
      slated for sawing; he was willing to risk his life to
      prevent that. Garvin settled against the cold metal door and
      rolled a cigarette.

      Finally, the road grader made a clumsy retreat down the
      mountain. And in the seasons that passed before Forest
      Service vehicles again tried to cross that line, the rag-tag
      road blockade became one of the longest-running acts of
      civil disobedience in U.S. environmental history. It also
      brought together a small crew of eco-anarchists who would
      later develop bigger, more explosive plans.

      One autumn evening four years earlier, humans had crept
      clandestinely into this corner of Willamette National
      Forest. They slipped past towering fir trees dry from a long
      summer drought, placing incendiary devices at the border of
      a roadless area set aside as endangered spotted owl habitat.
      The flame caught quickly, growing into a torrent of fire
      that swept through 9,200 acres -- a third the area of Eugene
      -- over the next two weeks. The Forest Service spent $10
      million battling the blaze before snow finally put it out.

      Forest Service investigators never caught the arsonists who
      sparked the Warner Creek Fire, but to environmentalists the
      motive was obvious. They strongly suspected timber industry
      insiders hungry for access to protected old-growth or even
      Forest Service firefighters looking for work. Such arsons
      had become a pattern in the West, in keeping with the Forest
      Service adage: "The blacker the forest, the greener the

      In Eugene, UO doctoral student Tim Ingalsbee was itching to
      help. He'd fought fire with the Forest Service every summer
      for years, but had hung up his hard hat in 1990 after
      concluding that fire suppression throws forest ecosystems
      off their natural rhythms. Now, as the agency batted about
      plans to cut down old-growth trees in the name of fire
      safety, the 30-year-old environmentalist saw a chance to
      redeem himself. "All those years fighting fire -- I could
      pay back that bad karma with good works defending this place
      from salvage logging," he reasoned.

      In November 1991, Ingalsbee hopped on a Forest Service tour
      bus to check out the still-smoldering forest. There he met
      Catia Juliana, a bright-eyed woman who was monitoring
      logging projects for Southern Willamette Earth First!, an
      eco-radical group with a bent toward monkeywrenching. By the
      next spring Ingalsbee and Juliana had formed a sister group,
      Cascadia Earth First!, and walked every foot of the burn.
      Their masterpiece, Alternative EF in the Forest Service's
      draft environmental analysis, supposedly stood for "ecology
      of fire" -- but secretly represented Earth First!. "The
      symbolism went right by them," Ingalsbee said. "I took the
      pleasure of seeing 'EF' 400 times in the final document. We
      fantasized about hacking into their computer and adding the
      exclamation points."

      Willamette National Forest Supervisor Darrell Kenops didn't
      go for it, instead deciding in October 1992 to "salvage" log
      40 million board feet of timber from the burn. Outraged
      Earth First!ers performed a Halloween skit in front of
      Kenops' office, depicting the salvage proponents as monsters
      on trial before Mother Nature. Local media ate it up, and an
      unprecedented 2,300 citizens sent comments to the Forest
      Service opposing the Warner Creek logging plans. When that
      didn't work, Ingalsbee tried a new line of defense, founding
      the Cascadia Fire Ecology Project to educate the public on
      the science of burned forests. As the instructor of a
      popular UO class called Envisioning Ecotopian Communities,
      he also quietly inspired dozens of students to join the cause.

      For a moment in the summer of 1995, Ingalsbee's fight
      appeared to be over. U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin had
      struck down the Forest Service's salvage plan on the grounds
      that it illegally rewarded arson; the ruling just needed a
      signature from Judge Michael Hogan. But Hogan stalled long
      enough for Congress to pass a salvage rider that opened the
      Warner Creek burn and thousands of other forests to expanded

      On Sept. 5, when Hogan declared Coffin's ruling moot,
      Cascadia Earth First!ers were ready to execute Plan EF!.
      "They left the courtroom and went straight up the mountain,"
      Ingalsbee said. "They sat in the widest, levelest part,
      which was the logging road, and they kept vigil 24-7."

      The buzz spread quickly in eco-radical circles, attracting a
      core group of activists to Eugene. Among the first was Tim
      Ream, who'd heard about the Warner Creek campaign at an
      Earth First! gathering outside Arcata, Calif. When he hiked
      into the charred Cascadian forest, where spotted owl pairs
      had returned to fledge their young, he made a personal vow
      to defend it.

      Ream linked up with Tim Lewis, a lanky 40-year-old filmmaker
      who'd joined a 33-mile march into the Warner Creek Fire
      area. When Lewis saw the passion on Forest Service Road 2408
      -- activists pickaxing the dirt, their hands blistered,
      standing firm against the "freddies," as they called law
      enforcement -- he knew he had his next film project. His
      footage of the blockade, narrated by Ream, would become the
      documentary Pickaxe.

      UO student Jeff Hogg, an Earth First! activist who had taken
      Ingalsbee's class, began supporting the campaign through the
      Survival Center, a campus organization dedicated to social
      and environmental activism. So did his girlfriend, Lacey
      Phillabaum, a 21-year-old art history major who reported for
      the radical campus newspaper The Insurgent. Fellow Insurgent
      reporter James Johnston, a 22-year-old UO history student,
      also lined up for the cause. Cecilia Story, 23-year-old
      graphic designer from Colorado, joined a march into the
      forest and was hooked the moment she saw the ancient,
      lichen-draped trees slated for cutting. "My heart just
      broke," she said.

      Meanwhile, the four co-editors of the Earth First! Journal
      unapologetically trumpeted the blockade. One of those
      editors, Jim Flynn, had moved with the magazine to Eugene in
      1993, establishing its headquarters in a tucked-away green
      ranch in Glenwood. Journal volunteers Stella-Lee Anderson
      and her boyfriend Kevin Tubbs, both in their mid-twenties,
      helped set up the first camp.

      A hardass drifter with a criminal past, Jake Ferguson,
      tattooed and camo-clad, with long brown dreadlocks whose
      natty ends looked like they'd been dipped in peroxide,
      showed up ready to do something meaningful. Guarded, somber
      and glassy-eyed, he seemed to be either on hard drugs or in
      the first stages of recovery. Not the type to talk about
      hippie shit like magic and rainbows, Ferguson wanted a
      revolution and stuck at the camp longer than anyone else.
      "He was committed to something for awhile," Anderson
      reflected. "Warner Creek was healing for him. A time to
      start anew."

      Today, some Warner Creek veterans reserve the worst kind of
      nouns for Ferguson: snitch, sociopath, loser, pyromaniac,
      junkie. They're disgusted with him for ratting out fellow
      forest defenders for crimes committed in later years. But
      others, especially the staunchly nonviolent Ingalsbee, would
      be most appalled by what the defendants had allegedly done.

      Glasses askew and dark curls wet with sweat, Tubbs grappled
      with a boulder the size of a small child. He'd been working
      Road 2408 with the activists for days, pickaxing a
      10-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep trench -- big enough to fit a
      school bus in. The boulder would be another obstacle to keep
      out vehicle-bound loggers and freddies.

      Behind the trench line and out of police reach, a new kind
      of freedom took root. The eco-rads erected two tarp-covered
      teepees, one for sleeping and the other for cooking.
      Johnston and others, calling themselves The Monty Python
      Forest Engineering Division, rigged a fort complete with a
      drawbridge using downed logs left by loggers. They built two
      video platforms in trees, from which they could survey the
      freddies and scope the surrounding clearcut-scarred hills.

      The activists began to lose their identities as Americans
      and pledge their allegiance to Cascadia -- their bioregion,
      home of the ancient pines and dizzying stars, wherein all
      people could become wild again. They dubbed the blockade
      Cascadia Free State and themselves Cascadia Forest
      Defenders, adopting nature-inspired aliases like Lupine, the
      Dog and Madrone.

      And they made love, as free wild creatures do. The couples
      let the fecundity of the forest sluice into their
      relationships, while the single activists flirted and hooked
      up. Story was drawn to Hogg, with his mane of glossy red
      hair, but kept her crush secret out of respect for
      Phillabaum. Juliana realized she was pregnant while hiking
      near Kelsey Creek, a bubbling blue salve in the Warner Creek

      "Love in the barricades -- how can you get more romantic?"
      Ingalsbee recalled with a grin, sitting in a Eugene café
      while the rain drizzled outside. His and Juliana's daughter,
      Kelsey, is now 10.

      Of course, some moments of the blockade sucked: the weeks of
      nonstop rain, the blizzards, the days when stale bagels were
      dinner. "It was just like any summer camp, where there were
      long periods of boredom," remembered Johnston, now a
      clean-cut reporter for Forest magazine.

      But even in those soggy times, a sense of common purpose
      kept the forest defenders going. They agreed by concensus
      not to do anything to scare off public support, like hurt a
      freddy or blow something up. The unspoken line was somewhere
      near petty vandalism: picking the trench in the road, even
      throwing buckets of shit at the Oakridge ranger station
      under cover of night. "Violence would take away from what we
      were doing," Anderson explained, "and property destruction
      was distracting from the goal in mind."

      So the activists got creative, making a perilous wager that
      loggers and Forest Service agents would value human lives
      more than those of trees and animals. They pinned themselves
      under parked cars, locked their arms into concrete-filled
      barrels, fastened their necks to the backs of logging
      trucks. Tubbs built a "bipod," a 40-foot platform propped on
      two poles and counterbalanced by cables anchored to the
      road. If a freddy even nudged the structure, the activist on
      the platform could come crashing down.

      "At the time, yeah, I was scared," Johnston said. "The stuff
      that we were doing was not safe." But in the course of the
      blockade, no one was seriously hurt.

      This brand of forest defense, aka "Warnerization," was
      catching on. Eco-radicals learned to climb trees, tie knots
      and generally piss off authorities at "action camps" across
      the West. Oregon activists confronted logging operations in
      the coast range and southwest Siskiyous while interstate
      eco-rads set up blockades in Idaho, Colorado and Montana.
      Their commitment to peaceful civil disobedience drew
      supporters of diverse ages and backgrounds, even inspiring
      one former Indiana congressman to get himself arrested.

      But the escalation of forest activism also produced a
      backlash, particularly among people dependent on timber
      money. One logger threatened to fell a tree on the forest
      defenders while they begged him to spare the old growth.
      Forest staff allegedly cut the cable on Tubbs' bipod one
      night while it was unmanned, and drunken men from the nearby
      town of Oakridge drove up to the trench line to talk
      belligerent smack.

      Forest Service officials generally left Cascadia Free State
      alone, but they were uneasy. "It's more difficult for
      officers than people think," said Forest Service Special
      Agent Sher Jennings, who was assigned to monitor the Warner
      Creek campaign in its last season. "They're trying to do
      what they think is right, and they don't want anyone to get
      hurt. It can get pretty trying."

      Congress convened the Task Force on Terrorism in Warner
      Creek, but the notion of Cascadia Forest Defenders as
      terrorists didn't stick. Front-page stories in The New York
      Times and The Washington Post depicted peaceful eco-radicals
      taking a stand for the forest, and Cascadia Free State
      attracted hundreds of visitors, including a bus full of
      Vermont schoolchildren and the president of The Audubon Society.

      The campaign pressed on in the city as in the forest.
      Supporters in Eugene's bohemian Whiteaker neighborhood
      collected food and supplies for the camp, while mainstream
      environmentalists kept up pressure on the Clinton
      administration. The four EF!J co-editors, who later included
      Phillabaum, cranked out copy in Glenwood, spreading Warner
      Creek news to eco-radicals across the nation.

      Tim Ream staged a hunger strike on the cold concrete plaza
      of the downtown Federal Building, consuming nothing but
      juice and vegetable broth throughout the cold and rainy
      autumn. "Frat boys and angry timber people" would sometimes
      threaten him, Ream said, but others brought talismans and
      prayers. On the 70th day he flew to Washington D.C. to lobby
      Congress, returning to Eugene to break his fast five days
      later. On the last night of the strike Ream's supporters
      fasted with him, pitching more than 20 tents on the Federal
      Building plaza.

      Winter came upon Cascadia Free State fast and cold, sinking
      the teepees deep in snow. But even as their numbers dropped,
      the activists kept vigil, gnawing on stale bread and making
      music around a wood stove. Supporters lugged food and
      supplies five miles uphill in snowshoes, scanning for the
      Earth-emblazoned flag that flew above the fort. Sometimes
      they heard coyote-like yet distinctly human howls floating
      out of the woods: Aw-oooooo!

      In July 1996, on the one-year anniversary of the salvage
      rider's passage, Portland musician Casey Neil sang "Dancing
      on the Ruins of Multinational Corporations" while
      eco-radicals danced barefoot on the Federal Building lawn.
      Then Phillabaum, ponytailed and hairy-pitted in a blue
      sundress, took the mike.

      She told the crowd about the "magic" she'd discovered at
      Warner Creek: cotton-cloud sunrises and mesmerizing moons,
      wild irises and cold mists blowing off waterfalls, a balmy
      June night when she hiked naked with other women and heard a
      spotted owl hoot for the first time. "It feels right," she said.

      Ten years later, many in that crowd would see her as a traitor.

      About 100 eco-rads, clad in camos and muddy dresses, made a
      wide circle in a sunny forest clearing. Ingalsbee and
      Juliana grinned as they stepped down the grassy aisle,
      newborn Kelsey in the bride's arms, while the wedding guests
      sang "Give Yourself to Love."

      The couple wore green garlands: Ingalsbee's atop two long,
      sandy braids, Juliana's on a cascade of wavy brown. The
      officiator, a maternal-looking woman in a flowy dress,
      clipped together the chains encircling the bride and groom's
      wrists, locking them in an Earth First! handfast -- "so the
      freddies won't rip us apart," Ingalsbee said. Then newlyweds
      and guests made a vow together: "From this day forward, I
      will commit myself to respect and defend all things wild and

      They'd barely finished when a short woman with brown
      dreadlocks stepped forward. People were still needed at the
      blockade, she announced rather sternly. The fight to save
      Warner Creek wasn't over yet.

      Two weeks later, on Aug. 16, 1996, Anderson was ambling in
      the woods when an urgent message crackled through her
      walkie-talkie: A bulldozer was headed down Road 2408. She
      made a dash for the blockade, scrambling up hills strewn
      with rhododendrons and laurels, and thrust her hand into a
      pile of rocks in the road, a faux lockdown. Three other
      women were already secured EF! style, their arms stuck into
      concrete-filled barrels.

      The officers told the activists that their year-long vigil
      was over: The Clinton administration had bowed to public
      pressure and backed away from hundreds of controversial
      logging projects, including Warner Creek. But without proof
      on paper, the women wouldn't budge. They thought it was a trick.

      Forest Service agent Jennings, for one, was worried: She
      claimed that there was a fire in another part of the forest,
      and firefighters could only reach it via Road 2408. "We had
      a pretty high sense of urgency," she recalled by phone from
      her current office in Seattle. "However long they wanted to
      lie there, we had to get around them. And we couldn't get
      around them without taking out an old growth tree."

      While a bulldozer tore down Cascadia Free State, Forest
      Service officials removed the activists from their lockdowns
      and arrested them. Jennings also arrested two Register-Guard
      reporters who had come to cover the raid, seizing their film
      and notes.

      Three days later, an elfin man dressed like a tree hyped up
      a crowd of supporters in downtown Eugene. The activists were
      thrilled about the logging project's cancellation but pissed
      about the raid; they wanted to show solidarity with the four
      arrested activists. "Free the Warner women!" they chanted,
      marching en masse to the jail, which shared walls with the
      court. When they arrived at the security checkpoint and an
      officer informed Ream that only one person would be allowed
      in for the arraignment, Ream turned to the crowd. "How many
      of you think that you are the one?" he shouted.

      Hoots all around. The eco-rads erupted into a chant of "No
      justice, no peace," Phillabaum straining so hard that a blue
      vein popped out in her neck. Some of the protesters started
      banging on the metal detector and then walked right through.

      It was on. Someone pulled out a harmonica; others started
      drumming, jumping and chanting "Cascadia Free State!" as if
      they were still in the woods instead of a jailhouse lobby.
      An officer stepped into the fray and swayed around like a
      buoy in rough waves. Some protesters, sensing the danger
      here, started up a new plea: "No violence!" It wasn't clear
      whether they were addressing the officials or their fellow

      And then, as quickly as it had churned up, the protest
      calmed. The activists sat on the ground and locked elbows.
      Police began the arduous task of detaching them one by one,
      dragging limp bodies into the jail, sometimes by the hair. A
      new chant rose: "Arrest them; don't beat them up!"
      Protesters grabbed at the heels of their detached comrades
      and reached for last-minute kisses, shrieking and crying. A
      single tear ran down the cheek of a young male officer
      standing guard.

      Inside the jail, the activists refused to identify
      themselves or their friends. They dead-weighted when jail
      staff tried to move them; they wouldn't eat or sign papers.
      Eventually the guards threw them into big holding cells, one
      for the men and one for the women. The women out-sang the
      men, having a broader repertoire, but the men wrote a new
      song and smuggled it out on paper plates.

      Within five days all of the activists were released. The
      "Warner women" were convicted of misdemeanors, later
      downgraded to violations, and the jailhouse protesters for
      criminal trespass. A year of rough forest living, perilous
      protests, heavy campaigning, mass arrests and constant
      vigilence had frayed many nerves, but they'd done it: They'd
      saved Warner Creek.

      The forest defenders rode that wave of euphoria into urban
      Eugene, where many would rent cheap warehouses and keep the
      activist flame burning. "When people came down from Warner
      Creek as victors, there was a lot of power there," Lewis
      said. "And that power came down on Whiteaker."

      The fire would only burn hotter.

      Check back next week for Part II: Eco-Anarchy Rising.

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      "It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
      *anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
      -- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
      _Detective Comics_ #608
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