Abdul Haqq, more commonly known as Walter Bond, is currently serving a 12 year sentence for his actions taken as an operative of the ALF. Abdul has been involved in the hardcore and punk scene for about 2 decades and even had a song written about him by a well known band. I have been writing to Abdul for ever since his most recent arrest on July 23 2010.
This interview was conducted by Comrade Black.
PE: This isn’t the first time you’ve been imprisoned for your political actions. Can you tell us about why you were locked up before, and what you are in jail for this time?
AH: My first time in prison was for one charge of 2nd degree arson and aggravated criminal mischief. It was a state case in Iowa for burning down the home and extensive methamphetamine operation of a major drug dealer. A bit of retribution for manufacturing poison to the community, and my family in particular. Currently I am serving a 12 years in federal prison for the 2010 ‘ALF Lone Wolf’ arsons. I burned down a Sheepskin Factory in Denver, a Leather Factory and a restaurant that sold Foie Gras (bloated duck liver) both of these businesses were in the Salt Lake City area.
PE: You have been involved in the hardcore and punk subcultures for decades. What roll did music play in politicizing you as a person?
AH: I would say that music had a huge impact on the progression of my beliefs as an activist and on a myriad of issues. Through punk and hardcore I was exposed to many issues that became central to my personality later on in life. Such as Veganism, Animal Liberation, and Straight Edge. These music scenes taught me a lot about diversity of thought and were an amazing outlet for a poor kid from a broken home. It channeled a lot of negativity and anger I had, and focused it on bigger issues than what was going on in my life. Had it not been for punk and hardcore I think I would have very easily fallen into gang activity or serious drug abuse. I cant say that the music made me some really great guy but it definitely kept me from self-destructing at a terribly difficult time in my life.
PE: I read at the time of your arrest you were living on the streets?
AH: That’s true, I had purposefully given up everything in my life to truly go underground. No job, no home, no bank account etc. I really had no idea what I was doing. I have never been rich or privileged, but I have always been working class and able to take care of myself. I used to assume that I was a step above the homeless population but being out there gave me a whole new perspective. Some of the most compassionate and community oriented people I have ever met came from the streets. They are also the most shunned, abused, forgotten, exploited, and demeaned class of people in America. In a country hell-bent on consumerism being poor is not just seen as sinful it is also punished as such. My short stint living on the streets opened my eyes to a lot of my own class prejudices and gave me a lot more compassion for people than I’ve ever had before.
PE: You have identified yourself as Latino in a few of your articles. As a Latino person have you experienced much in the way of racism in the hardcore/punk or animal activist communities?
AH: You know, Racism for me has always been a double-edged sword. I look a lot like my biological father who is a white man. However my mother is from Puerto Rico . Ethnically she is Taino and Carrib, meaning that we are native islanders mixed with African blood. As far as racism in the hardcore/punk scenes, yeah, I have seen it. When I was a kid in the late 80′s/ early 90′s Denver was full of Nazi skinheads. I’m talking vicious, full grown men that would, and did beat people to death in the city streets simply for not being born white! Eventually the ‘Denver Skins’ were broken up by the FBI. That was some of the overt racism I saw in the scene. I have also seen much covert and hidden racism as well. Since most people mistake me for Italian or Jewish I’m privy to hearing all their little secret racist rhetoric. Within Animal Rights circles I also see racism rear its ugly head from time to time. For instance my recent conversion to Islam. It’s like “Malcolm X is my hero and the black panthers were so ahead of their time and what’s happening to the Palestinians is awful… What’s that Walter Bond is a Muslim? well screw him I’m pulling my support!!” Many feminists as well have mistakenly tried to paint me as a privileged white male which is literally the opposite of reality. I hate racism whether it’s a Ku Klux Klan cracker ass redneck or anarchist hipster (crusty on purpose) with daddies credit card in their back pocket.
PE: I think that part of the reason you have been such an inspiration to so many people is because you have been so outstandingly defiant, even in the face of outright oppression. What keeps you so strong? and do you have any advice for others on how to stay defiant and never crack when facing the wrath of authority?
AH: One thing that people need to understand about remaining defiant, is in the end its a matter of principal. I have never felt that anything I have done is wrong (in so far as radical activism is concerned). I definitely feel that a system that slaughters Animals and profits from their death and slavery is sick and wrong. Therefore the laws that protect them (those commiting those attrocities) are also wrong. For me it was easier to be defiant because it was not my first time in prison. I knew from the outset what I was in for if, and when I was arrested. Before I ever acted I made peace with the endgame. Also, I’m just sick to death of activists kissing the courts ass. I think its demeaning and has a negative effect on morale. my advice to anyone is to try as hard as you can to make your words, self image and actions as consistent and compatible as possible. Be who you are, no more , no less.
PE: Since going to jail this time, you seem to have been hit with wave after wave of condemnation from allegations that you ate meat to allegations of you being homophobic, and even being critized for your tattoos. Also most recently for your conversion to Islam. Any thoughts on why people seem to want to tear you down so much when you have done so much to defend animals?
AH: I could speculate endlessly on why people like to cast stones but I try not to. I wish i could say that it means nothing to me. But that’s really not true. It hurts to have people judge you so harshly or back bite you when you’re spending a decade of your life in prison for fighting against oppression. It has made me somewhat bitter and jaded. I used to think that one day I would get out of prison and remain in the public sphere of social justice, now all i want to do is get out, get a job working with animals, and be left alone. I never set out to be the mayor of ‘Liberation Land’ or a political focal point. I mean I have enough to deal with. Honestly my life is very difficult right now. I’m in a maximum security prison unit, cut off from family and friends. Sometimes I think about everything I have given up and the scrutiny I have faced for having unpopular views and I regret being me. Outside of being this image that people glorify or vilify, all I am currently is 37096-013 and that can be depressing and painful. For every person that unduly judges me because my politics aren’t anarchistically correct, or because I have decided to grow as a person in a way not ‘movement approved’ I hope that one day you get to meet me and see that I’m a friendly, caring person and that I believe in treating others with respect whether they are like me or not. The articles, public statements and book that i have written are my true beliefs, but they are also my ideals. I am not a person that walks around confronting people on an hourly basis about their diet, nor am I a Straightedge vigilante that will assault you for smoking. I have a responsibility to speak the truth (as I see it) when given the opportunity. But don’t think that the sum of my views go no deeper than a few dozen paragraphs.
PE: I was talking with a friend from Crimethink collective who’d played in a few punk bands. He suggested that part of the reason you may have had such harsh criticism was because people held you to a higher standard due to your involvement in subcultures. I wonder, do you think he was at all right?
AH: I don’t know if he’s right or not, but how high must the standard be? People never belittle activists that stay silent or sell out, at least not to the level of scrutiny that I have received. More to the point, I think I have faced “He’s in opposition” because I speak out and challenge the ultra-iberalism of so-called ‘total liberation’. Many of those that promote support for political prisoners and POW’s like to be our voices for us, put their words in our mouths, its how they get their feelings of importance in the struggle. I’ve learned that if you piss off just a few key people then they quickly badmouth you to their minions, and you’re kicked off the cool prisoner list.
PE: You Have a history as an Animal activist that goes back along time before you ever became a member of ALF. What kind of things have you been involved in? How has it shaped or affected you as a person? And what got you started on a path to animal liberation?
AH: I started as a construction worker building slaughterhouses in the Midwest. After witnessing that hell on Earth, I went Vegan. For years after that I promoted Veganism by leafleting, talking to people, etc. Later on I worked for various Animal sanctuaries and rescues. For half of my life I have been involved in some form of activism for Animal Liberation. As far as how these things have shaped me as a person I would say that while Straight Edge kept me from self-destructing, Veganism has made me a better person. I think whenever we work hard to help those that can never help us back we are made better for the effort. And I would like to think that some of the greed and consumption that we see all around us is counteracted. What else can I say, I love Animals. When I see an animal happy, it makes me very happy. I could never turn my back on them, I would rather die than not come to their aid.
PE: It seems like a constant struggle to get kids to make the leap from wearing a political t-shirt or band patch and singing along to their favorite punk songs to actually getting involved and putting these words into action. Do you have any thoughts on how to help people make that jump, or insights as to why some do and others don’t?
AH: I realized something important a few years back. Many people do not portray themselves as they actually are, they portray themselves as they wish they were. Especially here in America where image often takes the place of substance. Of course this isn’t always the case. When I meet hardcore kids or adult activists that look the look I reserve my judgment until I see how they act and behave. Because what you do is closer to what you believe than what you wear or the music you listen to. Many people however do become deeply affected by certain scenes and radicalized such as I did. I wish I knew the magical formula to turn a scenester into an activist, but I don’t. My methodology has always been to lead by example and thereby put people in the situation where they have to either put up or shut up. I think that sometimes we are victims of our own tunnel vision, many times its more difficult to radicalize scene kids or moderate activists because they already think they have everything figured out. Perhaps we should stop posturing so much like we love diversity and actually embrace some of it.
PE: So you are currently serving the remainder of your 12 year sentence in a CMU. For those who are not familiar, can you tell us what a CMU is? and how it differs from other prisons?
AH: CMU-Communications Management Unit. There is one here in Marion, Illinois where I currently reside and one in Terre Haute Indiana. These CMU units were made to be slightly less restrictive versions of the ADX in Florence, Colorado which is the federal underground supermax penitentiary. Over half the men on the unit here in Marion are Arab Muslims with a sprinkling of political prisoners from other movements and a few inmates from other institutions that were seen as security threats for running criminal enterprises from within the prison system. They should call it ‘Americas most hated unit’ instead of the CMU. When I first arrived here I was kinda tripping out on the fact that nearly every face I saw were men I’ve seen in the pages of Time or Newsweek for alleged terrorism.
Honestly other than the restrictions on my communications I’ve been in far worse prisons than this. Everyone here is very generous, well educated and community oriented. There are no drugs or gangs, many of the men here don’t even use profanity. It is a very small world, we only have a cell house, a few cages outside for recreation and a programs area, which is a few rooms in a building and a small cafeteria that doubles as a Chapel for assorted religious services. I would definitely rather be in a minimum security camp walking around on a big open yard. But this is a good experience for me in many ways. I’m getting a first class education in Islamic studies and Arabic language and I’m making some great new friends! The hardest part for me has to do with the length of time I am doing, i don’t get out until 2021. but compared to many of the men here that’s nothing! There is one guy here who was housed in solitarily confinement for 10 years!
PE: Many punks and crusties often feel alienated by the hardcore scene and Straight Edge. Often they criticize it for being fairly middle class, often conservative and jock like. but you certainly didn’t live a middle class privileged life. How did growing up the way you did affect your politics? Did you ever have trouble in the Straight Edge hardcore scene because of your difference in back round?
AH: Sure I’ve at times felt alienated by these class differences but when it comes to the Straight Edge scene there are many different divisions with in that subculture. No one needs to hang out or associate with Courage Crew to be sXe. These feelings of alienation by this scene or that subculture is a good example of the oversensitivity that I feel has become problematic. I’m not Straight Edge because of my friends, the music or what others do or fail to do within a scene. I’m Straight Edge because I hate drugs and alcohol. I hate how addiction ruins peoples lives and opens the gate for all kinds of insanity and hedonism. I’m certain that my views of Straight Edge may be alienating to many, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It’s not my, or the scene’s responsibility to make sure everyone feels at home and welcome at all times and in all circumstances. I have never had a problem building relationships with others based on the merit of one or two commonalities. I can feel a connection with a Vegan just based on that, or a Straight Edge person just because of that. But when we start applying political checklists I think it becomes us that is the problem, not the scene.
It’s like this “oh, your not an atheist, anarchist, feminist, disenfranchised, person-of-color, Vegan Straight edger?…Well I’m offended!” This attitude is every bit as ridiculous as the God bless America, white suburban crowd. Going out of your way to be offended because a group of peoples opinion differs from you in opinion or politics is weak, ingenuine and silly. If it’s a big deal or serious (which sometimes it definitely is) then fight those that oppose you. To me it’s often irrelevant who alienates me or not . I have my own rigid beliefs such as Vegan Hardline, Pro-Life and Islam but I also know that whether you liberate an Animal while singing the star spangled banner and wearing the American flag as a cape, or you liberate an Animal in crustie jeans filled with DIY Crass patches and dreadlocks down to your waist, the end result is still life and freedom to the Animal and politics didn’t even matter.
PE: I have heard some Animal Rights Activists claim that non-violence is the core principal of Veganism, what do you think?
AH: Of course it is, but real life does not allow things to be that simple. If you watch an animal being harmed in front of you and you can physically stop it but you don’t because you are peaceful in all circumstances than I would say you are a jerk. Because you put your own moralism above intervention and stopping harm. I don’t fault people for being peaceful. I honestly wish everyone was, but since many are not than other options must remain on the table.
PE: You have described yourself as an Abolitionist, as well as an Animal Liberationist. How does Animal Liberation differ in perspective or action from Animal Rights? And isn’t Abolitionism usually attached to non-violence?
AH: Animal Liberation differs from Animal Rights in a few ways but I think that Screaming Wolf put it best in the book ‘Declaration Of War’ when he stated that rights are best sought for those who are seeking inclusion within a given society or community. True Animal Liberation must fight for Animals exclusion from society. Animals don’t need us including them in our societies or day to day lives.
My concept of Animal Lib has nothing to do with everyone loving Animals and living in harmony with them. People are nowhere near living in harmony with or loving our own species, let alone all other sentient life. We should learn to respect innocent life and leave it alone and this is the beginning concept of Liberation as compared to rights. Struggling, speaking out, and acting against the use of Animals. Instead of seeking kinder, gentler, murders. And you are correct Abolition is most often non-violent such as the Animal Liberation Front, which despite 36 years of direct action on behalf of animals has not harmed anyone physically. When it comes to Animal Liberation I am an advocate of 3 schools of thought. 1. Veganism- the non-use of all animal products in our everyday lives. 2. Abolition- which is the radical and uncompromising approach to activism. 3. Vegan Hardline- which encompasses not just Animal liberation but also Earth and Human Liberation from a holistic, fundamental, moralist and syncretic worldview
PE: Another unique thing was that you chose to work alone when taking actions as an ALF warrior. Can you explain the importance of that decision?
AH: When it comes to who you should trust with your life and freedom the answer is, no one.
PE: Most people become silent when they go to jail out of fear of further political repression, but you did the opposite; penning hundreds of pages of writing explaining what you did, why, and your politics. Can you tell us why you chose to speak out even knowing your words could be used against you?
AH: Having been through the system before I learned that there are no surprises in a court of law. My plea agreement in Denver stated that I was going to get 5 years. My plea agreement in Salt lake said I was going to get 7 more years on top of the 5 years that Denver gave me. At both sentencings I gave defiant speeches and I got exactly what both U.S. attorneys said I was going to get months before I walked into either court room. Had I gone to court and broke down crying and apologizing you now how much time I would be doing? 12 years, the exact amount of time I got for being defiant. If you could go to court and talk your way out of it all the prisons would be empty. Knowing this made open defiance easy for me. As far as all my public statements and writings, the whole point of my actions was to draw attention to what’s going on with Animals. So while I had the spotlight that is exactly what I did.
PE: With all you have been through you are still defiant and your writings have a lot of compassion and a strong overtone of love and liberation to them. How is it that you manage to stay positive and strong through all the negativity, violence and hatred you have seen?
AH: I believe that there is more than just the forces of negativity, violence and hatred at work in this world. Underneath all my cynicism and defiance I do believe that the world can be a better place. Some things are worth the fight and self sacrifice, whether we can bring that day about in our lifetime or whether we die trying is secondary to the fact that if we never try, we’ve lost already. With every fight comes hope, if not for us, then for others.
PE: For people interested in helping Animals, what advice could you offer?
AH: Go Vegan! Go ALF!
PE: What advice could you give to people interested in supporting you or other warriors jailed for actions to defend Animals and the Earth?
AH: I would say support us for what we have done, not because of our politics or religious beliefs, or lack thereof. Writing me a letter or sending me a picture is something real to a prisoner. Not defending us or talking about us on an internet we cant even see.
Walter Bond #37096-013
USP Marion CMU
P.O. Box 1000
Marion, IL 62959