The dissenter in this example is an animal activist. The message being sent is that the state is more than willing to make an example of individuals who speak out, stand up and take action in their commitments.
Truth is always under attack. Those who dare speak it risk their liberty the same as an endangered species faces extinction in a world not of their making.
Brief background description and history of SHAC (excerpted from Averting the China Syndrome at http://thomaspainescorner.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/averting-the-china-syndrome-response-to-our-critics-and-the-devotees-of-fundamentalist-pacifism/):
SHAC arose in England in 1999, evolving from a pre-history of amazingly successful direct action campaigns designed to close down animal breeders and to disrupt the supply chain to the pharmaceutical industries. In rapid succession, from 1996-1999, militant activists and diverse communities of people in England closed down Consort Beagle breeders, Hillgrove Cat Farm, and Shamrock Primate Farm. Once HLS was exposed for particularly heinous forms of animal torture, and it became clear the government had no intention of enforcing its own welfare laws, SHAC founders Greg Avery, Heather Nicholson, and Natasha Dellemagne Avery went into action.
These brilliant activists formed SHAC with the novel intent to target one major drug and chemical testing company, Huntington Life Sciences (HLS). The goal was to rock the foundations of the entire pharmaceutical industry by bringing down a giant, chasing HLS it to all corners of the world with an unprecedented global campaign. And true to their militant spirit and intent, SHAC has had a devastating effect on HLS. They drove them to incorporate in the US so that they could hide the identity of their shareholders and lenders, caused them to be delisted from both the New York and London Stock Exchanges, and have forced numerous lenders, customers, and vendors to cease doing business with HLS. On the verge of collapse from such effective new tactics, HLS would have folded altogether if not for financial bailouts from both the UK and US, and it continues to stagger due to persistent SHAC attacks, even while the founders and other leading members of SHAC have been imprisoned across the Atlantic and here at home. SHAC paid a price, true, but so did HLS, and the war continues. SHAC’s innovative tactics proved so successful that other political groups have adopted them for their cause……In fact SHAC is one of the most intelligent, shrewd, and cunning campaigns ever developed in any social movement. Striking a primary target by attacking secondary and supporting companies, innovative use of websites and the Internet to coordinate campaigns, novel types of pressure tactics such as home demos and public shaming, chasing HLS all the way from England to the NYSE and beyond are just some of the elements that characterize the SHAC campaign as a brilliant tactical breakthrough and potential historic watershed in the struggle for human, nonhuman animal, and Earth liberation.
An Open from Heather Nicholson (Heather is pictured above and you can reach her by mail at Heather Nicholson VM 4859-2B-21, HMP Bronzefield, Woodthorpe Road, Ashford, Middlesex, TW15 3JZ, England), the SHAC activist receiving the longest prison sentence:
I am very grateful for your support. Words can never adequately express what it means to me and how much you have helped me. Your support for me means that you support the animals and that brings me some comfort.
I spoke up for the animals in court while I was being questioned for nearly 4 whole days. It was frustrating though & I came out feeling as if I had said about 1% of what I had intended to say. I am heartbroken as always for the animals still suffering at the hands of the cowards at HLS. It makes me cry to think that they (the animals) have no idea that anyone cares. It is frightening that they have so many powerful enemies.
I predicted that there would be no justice & that the media would be vile & untruthful * I was right. Any attack on us is an attack on the animals. I don’t mind if the truth is reported as long as it is relevant but the news has been massively distorted, to say the least, ( especially calling me “mastermind”!) The press were only in court at the start & very end of the three-month trial so what they reported was fed to them by the police plus what they made up (see Daily Mail!!!).
Claims of impartiality are nonsense & the police & the press were practically snogging each other every time the jury left the courtroom. In over 4000 pages of covert audio surveillance, not once did I say anything that amounted to blackmail or committing an illegal act. there was no evidence that I had ever made an “unwarranted demand with menaces” because I haven’t. The judge agreed with me & said that I was quite right when I said that I hadn’t sent nasty things through the post, damaged anyone’s property, threatened anyone etc - nor was I accused of doing so. The crazy thing is that you don’t have to do anything to be convicted of conspiracy but the sentences are long (even longer for us!!!). I have just been sentenced to 11 years in prison. It is just insane - even if I had been guilty. The guards at court were angry & bemused by the ‘guilty’ verdicts & sentences. I could give you hundreds of examples of horrific crimes that have received lesser sentences than mine (and I have never hurt anyone in my life!). Here is just a small selection:
(i) a woman held down two children to be raped - 8yrs.
(ii) Two men got drunk & punched a random passerby to death - 3 yrs
(iii) Three men raped a 14 yr old girl & filmed it - then they poured caustic soda over her - 9yrs, 7yrs, 5yrs
(iv) Anyone who tortures and kills an animal or is cruel in any way will never get more than 6 months
(v) People who kill others in a hit & run sometimes get as little as 4 months
(vi) A woman killed her baby - 5 yrs
(vii) A man stamped on another man’s head & left him in a wheelchair for life - 7 yrs
I don’t regret going to trial because my words are recorded forever by the court, so if someone in 50 years time does some research they will see that that what we said in court bears little resemblance to what was reported. The media have shamelessly deceived the public. My biggest concern though was that the worst photo that has ever been taken of me was on television all night long!!! I looked like something out of Silent Witness!
SHAC is a phenomenal ground-breaking campaign that has shaken the vivisection industry to the core by totally legitimate means. I am not saying that unjust laws should not be broken - after all it is the ‘law’ that allows such suffering of animals. And that law is wrong. A few years ago Tony Blair had a secret meeting with GSK, Novartis & others who told him that unless he sorted out the animal rights activists they (the drug companies) would leave the UK. (Now that’s BLACKMAIL!!) It was no coincidence that we were raided in May 2007 a matter of weeks before Tony Blair quit.
My conscience is more than clear & I am extremely proud of everything that I have helped to achieve over the years. I am proud that I didn’t sit back & cry in my armchair about how awful animal cruelty is but actually tried to change things & I made a stand against cruelty & oppression. I said in court to the jury that in time people would look back in horror at this trial & say “was it really legal to do that to animals & did they really put people in prison for trying to stop it?
We were very unlucky to have such a cold, heartless, callous jury who clearly didn’t care about people or animals. Some were seen giggling & sniggering with the police while barristers were making their closing speeches. I will never understand how they could sit and watch puppies being punched in the face and then find any of us guilty.
When I gave evidence I asked the jury if they would object, complain or intervene if someone dragged a dog into court & started punching her and, if they would, then perhaps they should be stood in the dock with me! I wonder if they are all happy now in the knowledge that WE are in jail and not a single person in the courtroom (part from us and some supporters in the public gallery) would ever speak out or take action to stop the atrocities occurring inside HLS. Clearly no-one on the jury would have lifted a finger to help any animal (or person) in danger. Watching the New york airplane’s emergency landing in the Hudson river, I thought it was wonderful to see the ferries rushing to help save the passengers, throwing life jackets - and then hearing the survivors speaking so emotionally about their frightening experience and expressing their deep gratitude to the brave pilot and the people who didn’t hesitate to help them. We all hope, pray and sometimes expect to be save when we are in danger.
It breaks my heart that so many people in the world and billions of animals can scream and struggle and plead, and no-one comes to their rescue. I can’t bear it. To rescue is at the heart of my being and that is all that I have ever wanted to do. It is my motivation for campaigning against cruelty. All of you who have carried on the SHAC campaign (and others) - you have my utmost respect and admiration . Thank you.
The support for all of us in here from other prisoners and officers continues to be amazing. They too are bemused and angry at the verdict. They express to us their feelings of outrage at the injustice of the convictions and the sentences. I always said that I would not be devastated if found guilty (I’m not) and wouldn’t be celebrating if found not guilty. The only losers are the animals at HLS and they are still suffering. The sentences passed down to us were a victory for sadism, greed and cowardice. The compassionate and brave have lost their freedom ……..for now.!!!
I am enormously proud and in awe of the activists that I stood side by side with in court - Gregg, Natasha, Gavin, Dan Amos, Dan Wadham and Gerrah. They are all exceptional, selfless people and have all conducted themselves with great courage and dignity throughout this whole circus. I will never forget Gavin and Dan Wadham’s evidence in the witness box. They were superb.
Sometimes I feel like I am living on the wrong plane because for me it is natural to run to the aid of others and to speak out when something is wrong and here i am imprisoned for 11 years. It is ingrained in me to be kind. It always has been and always will be and it is baffling to me that others can be so cruel. I will never understand it as long as i live. All I can do is to try to stop it.
The prison sniffer dogs have just been around and have totally made my day. I sat on the floor cuddling Sam (who looks like my Laddie) and tears were pouring down my face. Those dogs filled me with such energy and strength and warmth and love.
The machinations of state repression in a “liberal democracy”:
Corporate Watch on the SHAC sentencing: Activists receive indefinite ASBOs
How the State Protects Corporations From Dissent
Jailed SHAC activists Receive Indefinite ASBOs
On Wednesday 21st January 2009 the police’s National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit issued a press release celebrating the jailing of seven animal rights campaigners for “over fifty years”. In their press release NETCU are at pains to point out that the sentences have “nothing to do with freedom of expression” and that those jailed are “extremists”.
NETCU, a shady, unaccountable branch of the UK’s expanding political police, have thrown the weight of their press department behind a campaign to present the seven defendants, all active in the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign, as extremists. The mainstream media has swallowed NETCU’s spin unquestioningly without seeing the affair for what it is – a political trial with serious ramifications for the right of individuals to voice their dissent against corporate power.
On December 23rd, 4 out of 5 activists on trial at Winchester Crown Court were found guilty of ‘Conspiracy to Blackmail’ at Winchester Crown Court after a 3 and a half month long trial. Natasha and Greg Avery and Dan Amos had plead guilty during Summer 2008. During the trial much had been made about how each defendant fitted in to what the prosecution described as the ‘hierarchy’ of the SHAC campaign. At the three day long sentencing in January, Judge Butterfield sentenced the defendants according to how he saw them in this ‘hierarchy’, not according to the evidence against them. Accordingly Greg and Natasha Avery were given the heaviest sentences possible, but were given credit for their guilty pleas and were sentenced to serve nine years each. Heather Nicholson, who plead not-guilty, received the longest actual sentence, eleven years. Gavin Medd Hall was sentenced to eight years, Daniel Wadham got five years, and Daniel Amos and Gerrah Selby were each sentenced to four years.
One thing that was not reported at all by the mainstream media was the imposition of indefinite anti social behaviour orders (ASBOs) on four of the defendants preventing them from protesting against animal experimentation. These ASBOs make otherwise lawful protest activity into a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. The use of indefinite ASBOs against protesters is, as far as Corporate Watch knows, a completely new development. The terms of the orders could prevent these four people, all dedicated campaigners against vivisection, from ever voicing their political views again. The orders could even be interpreted as preventing the defendants from speaking or writing against vivisection.
By giving the maximum possible sentences, the Judge was effectively saying that this case represented the most serious form of blackmail. However, the allegations against those convicted would not fit in at all with a layman’s definition of blackmail
As Corporate Watch wrote last month, the charges related to over four years of concerted campaigning against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). The essence of the blackmail charge is that SHAC called for companies to cease trading with HLS and wrote polite letters to that effect. SHAC also encouraged their supporters to write to and protest against companies working with HLS. In some cases, direct action occurred, but this was never called for by SHAC. Letters were sent to company employees falsely accusing them of paedophilia, threats were received in the post and cars were paintstrippered. Evidence was presented that suggested that some of the defendants may have had knowledge of, or been involved in, some of these activities. However, many defendants were convicted because of what they said on demonstrations against HLS and their suppliers or because of the length of their involvement with SHAC.
Let us look at the case of Heather Nicholson, the defendant who received the most severe sentence, eleven years. Heather is a committed, long-term campaigner for animal rights and had been involved with SHAC since the beginning. She had lived and worked at the SHAC office and been involved with communicating, politely, with companies doing business with HLS. Only the most tenuous of circumstantial evidence linked Heather to any of the activities parroted in the press as attributed to her. Heather was convicted because of her long involvement with SHAC and given the most severe sentence because of Judge Butterfield’s perception of her importance to the campaign.
In the case of the defendants who were newer to SHAC, their convictions stemmed largely from words spoken on demonstrations. These convictions are extremely worrying as threatening words should normally be dealt with, at most, by charges under the Public Order Act. Again, the catch-all charge of ‘conspiracy to blackmail’ meant that the defendants could be dealt with more severely because of their association with others.
Judge Butterfield was not content with the harsh sentence doled out to the SHAC 7. In his sentencing he invited the Department of Public Prosecutions to consider “indefinite detention” in blackmail cases. Surely Judge Butterfield had seen the potential for the state to use this charge in the future as a bludgeon to silence political dissent.
Despite the repression of the SHAC 7, resistance against HLS, Europe’s biggest animal testing laboratory, continues. Protests against financiers of HLS, and in solidarity with the SHAC 7, have taken place across the UK, Europe and the US while a protest against the Bank of England, who have provided HLS with banking facilities since their regular bankers dropped them, was planned for 27th February. (see www.shac.net )
For more on the state repression of anti-corporate dissent see:
Animal Rights Activists Convicted of Conspiracy to Blackmail
Whose Agenda do Reports of Eco-Terrorism Serve?
To write to the SHAC 7:
Natasha Avery NR8987 and Heather Nicholson VM 4859-2B-21, HMP Bronzefield, Woodthorpe Road, Ashford, Middlesex, TW15 3JZ, England. Dan Amos VN7818, Gregg Avery TA7450, Gavin Medd-Hall WV9475 and Dan Wadham WV9474 at HMP Winchester, Romsey Road, Winchester, SO22 5DF. England.
Thomas Paine’s Corner asks that you write letters of solidarity, support and encouragement to these courageous animal defenders who sacrificed their freedom and much more on behalf of our nonhuman animal brethren.
Heather has asked that friends of the SHAC7 consider making a donation to that org (GREEK ANIMAL RESCUE) in their names.Source: Thomas Paine's Corner