Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND, they are a UK band formed in 82. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
For those of you who don’t know DEADLY REIGN, Its time to get with the program! DEADLY REIGN is a 3 piece D-BEAT killing machine with a legendary line up comprised of members from GLYICNE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, SCARRED FOR LIFE, WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, KEGCHARGE, CENTURY OF WAR AND TILL DEATH. These guys have been at it for a long time and don’t fuck around when it comes to bringing you punk rock authentic and true to its sound and with their new single released on PE entitled SLAVE! These guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So let’s get to the brass tacks and see what these guys have been up to. (INTERVIEW BY DUTCH WELCH FROM KRIGBLAST)
PE: So what are your names, what do you play, and how did you guys come together?
(RAYGUNN) I MOVED TO AUSTIN AND RAN INTO GUERINOT AT HIS DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY PARTY. UNKNOWN TO ME, MY WIFE WAS AND STILL IS GOOD FRIENDS WITH HIS WIFE AT THE TIME AND HE AND I KNEW EACH OTHER FROM THE PAST WHEN OUR PREVIOUS BANDS HAD PLAYED TOGETHER. WE GOT TO TALKING AND DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD START A BAND. I SAID, WE JUST NEED A BASS PLAYER/SINGER, AND HE SAID HE HAD ONE. HE CALLED HIS FRIEND GUSHAMMER AND HE WAS INTO IT. THEY HAD BEEN WANTING TO START SOMETHING TOGETHER FOR A WHILE. AND EVENTUALLY WE GOT THE BALL ROLLING (OR SHOULD I SAY, THE BEERS FLOWING?).
PE: You guys have all been in some pretty kick ass bands in the past. who played in what?
RAYGUNN – GLYCINE MAX, DOGMA MUNDISTA, KONTRAKLASE, AND SCARRED FOR LIFE.
GUERINOT – WORLD BURNS TO DEATH, AND KEGCHARGE.
GUSHAMMER – CENTURY OF WAR, AND TILL DEATH.
PE: Who came up with the name Deadly Reign?
(RAYGUNN) I USED TO HANG OUT WITH A KICK ASS BAND IN THE EARLY 80’s CALLED BODY COUNT. THEY WERE AN EARLY D-BEAT STYLE OF BAND (BEFORE THE TERM D-BEAT WAS AROUND) AND THEY HAD A SONG CALLED DEADLY REIGN. SO I TOOK IT FROM THAT. (AND YES, I AM AWARE THAT THERE WAS A BAND CALLED DEADLY REIGN FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BACK IN THE EARLY 80’s, BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE I GOT THE NAME FROM).
PE: The music of DR is furious, in your face politically and socially. Whats the motivation behind your song writing?
(RAYGUNN) MUSICALLY, WE JUST TRY TO WRITE MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. THE KIND OF STUFF WE WOULD LISTEN TO AT HOME. NOT SO MUCH TRYING TO BE ORIGINAL OR GROUND BREAKING. MORE OF JUST PLAYING THE HARD AGGRESIVE TYPE OF MUSIC THAT WE LIKE. WE GET IT ALL TOGETHER AND THEN GUSHAMMER WRITES SOME LYRICS.
(GUERINOT) I’VE ALWAYS SAID I CAN’T AND WON’T BE IN A BAND THAT I COULDN’T ALSO LISTEN TO. WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT OF PLAYING SHIT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE? WE AREN’T DOING THIS TO PLEASE OTHERS, JUST OURSELVES.
(GUS) SOME LYRICS HIT RIGHT TO THE POINT, RELIGION. IT’S FUCKING 2013 AND HERE WE ARE STILL DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS NONSENSE! PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER ARE BEING PERSECUTED, MISLEAD, AND OUT RIGHT SLAUGHTERED OVER RELIGION. RATHER IT’S CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS, JEWS, OR WHATEVER FICTITIOUS BULLSHIT SECT THEY ARE IN. RELIGION IN ANY FORM IS UNCALLED FOR AND DANGEROUS! AND THIS COUNTRY USES IT TO PULL OFF SOME SERIOUSLY HEINOUS ACTS OF PURE AND UTTER VIOLENCE AND WAR. WE TOUCH ON THIS OF COURSE ON THIS RECORD, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY IT’S DIRECTED TOWARD THE WORKING CLASS FOLKS AND THEIR DAILY STRUGGLE JUST TO PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE FOR THEIR FAMILIES. THE OLDER WE GET, THE SAME STRUGGLE REMAINS, EXCEPT NOW WE MUST NOT ONLY FIGHT TO FEED OURSELVES BUT FIRST FEED OUR CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES AND THEN WITH WHAT IS LEFT OVER, TAKE CARE OF OURSLEVES. SO WE CAN SLAVE ANOTHER DAY FOR A LESS THAN ACCEPTABLE WAGE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED OUR (PUNK) COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WORK IN HORRIBLE CONDITIONS FOR SHIT WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS AND NO HOPE OF MOVING UPWARD IN THESE POSITIONS. AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY HAVE A SMALL CHECK THAT IS OVER TAXED AND A SORE ACHING BODY, THAT CONTINUES TO GET WORSE. “TELL ME IS THIS THE LIFE I’M FORCED TO LIVE TO PROVIDE FOR MY FAMILY?”…THE ANSWER IS NO! BUT NOT WITHOUT A FIGHT. WE HAVE TO CONTINUE TO POINT OUT THESE CONCERNS OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN.
PE: You guys did a split with HELLKRUSHER not to long ago entitled Continuous Warfare. How did this collaboration come about?
(RAYGUNN) I HAVE KNOWN SCOTTY (HELLKRUSHER) SINCE THE MID 80’s WHEN HE WAS IN HELLBASTARD, AND I WAS IN GLYCINE MAX. WE USED TO BE PEN PALS, AND WOULD SEND EACH OTHER TAPES OF OUR BANDS, AND OUR FRIENDS BANDS. WE EVENTUALLY LOST TOUCH WITH EACH OTHER AND THEN YEARS LATER FOUND EACHOTHER VIA THE INTERNET. I SENT HIM SOME DEADLY REIGN AND HE LIKED IT. AND WE DECIDED TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.
PE: You guys all have family’s now and continue to tour, play shows, practice, record and work. How has DIY punk changed in your lives and how do you make it work?
(GUERINOT) WELL, I HAVE TWO DAUGHTERS BUT HAVING AN UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER IS KEY. HAVING KIDS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE SO IN MY OPINION, THEY COME FIRST. WORKING AROUND THEM AND WORK IS USALLY PRETTY EASY. LATELY IT HAS BEEN A BIT MORE DIFFICULT BUT TRYING TO WORK OUT THE KINKS IN A SITUATION AND PUT PIECES BACK TOGETHER IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
PE: The new single from Profane Existence entitled SLAVE, what can we expect and do you have any future releases coming out?
(RAYGUNN) IT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN OUR LAST TWO RECORDS, BUT STILL THE DEADLY REIGN STYLE. NEXT WE WILL BE WRITING FOR A SPLIT 12″ WITH OUR FRIENDS KONTRASEKT.
PE: Closing comments, any last words?
THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS THE WORLD OVER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. ALSO, THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND BE SURE TO PICK UP THE NEW DEADLY REIGN ‘SLAVE’ EP ON PROFANE EXISTENCE! AS WELL AS OUR LP AND THE SPLIT WITH HELLKRUSHER. ALSO, WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO EUROPE SOMEDAY, IF ANYONE OVER THERE WOULD LIKE TO HELP OUR BROKE ASSES OUT. HAHA! CHEERS – DEADLY REIGN
WARTORN are a whirlwind of thrash punk goodness hailing from Wisconsin. Since 2004, they’ve been hitting the touring and record release circuit with no looking back. Here’s a quick interview I did to let people know about their two latest releases, Domestic Terrorist 7″ (Profane Existence) & Iconic Nightmare 12″ (Southern Lord). – Andy Leffer
(This interview also appears in CVLT NATION)
PE: You know the drill, just give us the basics on who’s who and what’s changed in the past, in regards to any line up changes, etc. Also, give us some insight on where WARTORN is going. We want to know tours, records, riots, protests, arrests….the whole back story on WARTORN’s origins.
Bitty: (Vocals) The band started in 2004, with Ryan, Hart (on drums) and myself as a three-piece. Within half a year I got a call with an offer for our first tour, which was with Municipal Waste. We did a mini tour with them and ever since then we have been able to go on tours with amazing bands each year such as Los Dolares, ATU, CYP, Krang, In Defence, Pyroklast, Hellshock, and up next Raw Power . We have been to 13 countries and have done lots of releases on many different labels.
Ryan: guitar / low vocals / whiskey enthusiast. Well we started as a 3-piece and over a span of over 8 years, have ended up with 6 members. With 3 of us being guitar players we are able to diversify our songs in ways that we could only do in a studio setting. This obviously makes a difference live as well.
Ela: I’ve been the bass player for over the last 6 years. Recently, we came out with an LP/CD on Southern Lord Records called “Iconic Nightmare” and a 7-inch, “Domestic Terrorist”, released on Profane Existence (which is part of their limited edition singles series).
Toban: (Guitar) I think I might have the most arrests out of anyone in the band. Not like its anything to brag about. I did narrowly avoid another arrest a few weeks ago.
Derek: Guitar as well. I’ve been in the band for a few months and have been on two tours so far.
PE: The music is dynamic, to say the least. You’re not getting any half-assed riffs or mindlessly thrown together lyrics or production with your music. Elaborate on the process and what is the driving force for doing such a band. Punk is a political movement, it’s always been a political movement. Are you a part of this fray as a whole, or is this more of a personal, therapeutic outlet?
Ryan: I definitely believe in the power of the riff. Heavy and raging. Punk is a political movement, but I also see it as a community (full of musicians, artists, writers, photographers, open thinkers etc). A lot of us live/ have lived in punk houses and have been booking DIY shows for years. It’s something we do to contribute to it as a whole.
Toban: Ryan is the riff-master general of the band. He does a great job of coming up with some of the most incredible riffs of anyone I’ve been in a band with. Adding Bitty’s smartly composed lyrics and Hart’s hard hitting/tight drum style makes a great concoction.
Bitty: As far as what I write lyrically, I mainly write about personal experiences or historical events. I don’t tell people what they need to think, that is for them to figure out on their own. Also, I could not label myself as more than a realist and a situationalist.
Ela: Well in my opinion, I would say that we are a part of this as a whole, but it also is a personal outlet for me. We have all contributed to the movement in one way or another, but I think of punk as more than just a political movement. For me it is also about a unified community… where people come together, whether it is for political reasons, to share a passion for music, a hobby, art, etc. … and we definitely have that in Appleton, which is awesome.
Hart: I honestly wouldn’t say punk’s always been a political movement at all. The fact that DK, Meatmen, and the Germs, for example, all existed during one heyday suggests more of a harsh musical and broad social changeover than anything to me. For me personally, punk rock, metal and hardcore have always been a therapeutic and vindicating way of life that has consistently solved a lot of my life’s most harrowing, fucked-up times. It had a total bottleneck effect on how I raised myself mentally and emotionally. It was a really great thing to find out about when I was trying to figure out how to express myself when everything just infuriated or bored the shit out of me. Later, after I was free as an adult, I quickly found out it came replete with its own sense of community, and a totally viscous following I was never aware existed at all. This band is fucking great, cause we never throw a blind rhetorical blanket over our lyrical ideals, or even necessarily our instrumentation for that matter. We have a rough format that we’ve stuck to, but we all come from slightly different scenes and upbringings, and I’ve always thought it showed at least a little in our styles. I honestly don’t think the excitement of being in this band has worn off for any of us. Sure, growing pains have slowed our progress a couple of times, but whenever the next lightbulb goes on over our heads, it’s all go no slow!
Derek: For me, this is definitely a personal outlet. That’s what music has always been for me. Being the young’n metalhead in the group, I’ve kind of just been exposed to the world of punk houses and DIY shows recently. From what I’ve gathered so far I can at least say that the sense of community is beautiful.
PE: Your latest singles release on Profane Existence “Domestic Terrorist”. There’s no beating around the bush on this subject matter. Once again, can you elaborate on this specific release and the intention behind the subject?
Bitty: There have been a few times where I had local law enforcement “protect and serve” the shit out of me. As a kid in the 80’s from a small hometown, I’ve had guns in my face from the cops, hammers pulled back and screaming in my face. I have also had an off-duty cop put a gun in my face and ask me if I thought it was funny while he was wasted. You know of all the times I was ever robbed or assaulted, at least I knew if I fought back I stood a chance; I even survived an attempted homicide! But, it’s not so easy when you have to fight back against law enforcement. They just beat your ass and lock you up, even if they are totally in the wrong. I’ve witnessed so much personal corruption; to me it seems to be an extension of an abuse of absolute power. Now that, to me, strikes terror in any citizen.
PE: Bitty, you’re straight edge…maybe not self-proclaimed, but you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. Considering the genre of punk and it’s history of abuse with these elements, has this hindered your views on the movement?
Hart: Total interjection here! Dude, Bitty’s optimism actually astounds me. He’s seen more friends either die or completely lose their vitality as humans due to drug and alcohol use than I’d like to ponder. He’s remained pretty fucking pragmatic in his attitude toward his friends’ choices in that sense. I myself get pretty fed-up at times about my own friend’s use of drugs, especially certain ones. I’ve had plenty problems controlling my drinking in the past. I do believe I have a fairly good idea these days of when to dry out, but it can pull me into a real bad place. I start questioning what even matters anymore, and I start fighting everything that means the most to me. However, that’s where that community comes in again! I’m learning to seek out the right punks or no one at all when the time feels right, and I’ve been keeping up on it for a while now.
Bitty: Not at all. You don’t need to be like me in order for me to like you. The real moment that reinforced my decision was when I came home to a friend that lived with me and I found him in a pool of his own blood. He had tried to cut his hand off with a butcher knife while he was completely wasted and ended up with more stiches then an average shark attack. It really put a bad taste in my mouth about how substances can amplify bad decision-making skills. Although I am aware that most just use it to have a good time, truth be told, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t my thing. But as long as you’re not hurting me or others in any way shape or form it’s your deal not mine. This is just a suggestion, have fun and do what you need to do to deal with things or get by, but try not to destroy yourself in the process. You might end up missing out on some good things in life.
PE: WARTORN is a great band, so with that….does WARTORN have anything they’d like to say to the world, it’s listeners or the masses in general?
Toban: In the words of country music legend Kris Kristofferson “Don’t let the bastards get you down”. Ryan: Thanks for the interview.
Ela: Thanks for all the support. We can’t wait to hit the road and tear it up again in a couple months!
Derek: May the force be with you. But seriously, I can’t wait to hit the road and I hope to see everyone reading this there.
Hart: As always, start 4 bands tomorrow and eat your fiber!
Bitty: Thanks for the interview Andy and everyone that helped us out and we’ll see you on the road. If you’d like to help us out with booking or have any questions, feel free to write us at email@example.com.
For the last few years I have been giving workshops to activists on prisoner support for movement prisoners. I believe strongly that we have an obligation to do support for people who have been imprisoned for their involvement and dedication to creating positive change in this fucked up world. Why should anyone risk their freedom if we are not going to support our prisoners who get punished by the state for taking actions that need to be taken?
People often tell me they would like to write to prisoners but that they don’t know what to say and are afraid of making mistakes. The reality is it is super simple, so in hopes of stopping any more excuses and persuading you to pick up the pen I figured I would outline the very few things you will want to avoid if writing to an inmate.
# 1 – Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Everyone hates waiting for a friend that doesn’t show up to meet you, or being stood up by that cute boy who promised he would call after last night. Well for people locked up behind bars, it is far worse because you may be the only contact they have to the outside world; so if you don’t follow through they become even more isolated. You may have great intentions when you write someone, so promising to write them every week or send them every book by Ursula K Le Guin seems like a sweet thing to do, but when you don’t come through you are not only failing a friend, you are also reinforcing those prison bars and the isolation they are designed to create. You would be far better off to just not promise them anything in the first place. That way when you send them a letter, it is like a lovely surprise that will brighten their day, rather than waiting for something that is never coming. Those Ursula Le Guin books then becomes Gifts, rather than making them feel Dispossessed. The short of it is, only make promises to prisoner IF you know for sure you can live up to them, and if you promise something you must follow through.
# 2 –Don’t Complain – Stay Posi
The point of writing someone inside is to help them feel connected, to help them escape; if not literally them metaphorically (If you try to hide a file in your letter it will get confiscated and the prisoner will get in shit for it). Remember why you are writing. We all have shitty days, and often want someone to wine about it to who will listen, but no matter how long you had to stand in line at the bank or be put on hold by your cell phone company – it will never compare to how much time a prisoner spends waiting in lines. Send your complaints to the editor, not the prisoner. A prisoner doesn’t want to hear about your shitty day and petty drama that they can’t effect; they would likely much rather hear about the awesome dog you played with, the rally you went to, the great book you just read, or the cute baby who beat your ass at chess yesterday. Hell, if you can’t think of anything to write, draw them a picture or cut out some photos of wildlife or cute kitties from a magazine. Some folks also love crosswords or sudokus.
# 3 – Don’t Say Stupid Shit
Maybe that sounds too obvious, but let me explain. Every letter you write to a prisoner is going to likely be read, and especially if you are using email through prisoner correspondence sites like Corrlinks which are recorded and copies are kept. So if you decide to tell Ted Kazcinski you think he is a hottie so your going to make bombs to send to people he doesn’t like, not only will you likely get raided by the FBI, but he will also end up in the hole. Yup, prisons read your letters for a reason, and if you say anything about illegal shit you are involved in or people you know are involved in, the prisoner will get punished for it and it could even be used against them in later court dates. I know this might sound like common sense and thus not need to be stated, but lets be honest here – common sense is anything but common.
# 4 Don’t Be a Creepy
I remember when my friend Kelly went to jail for G20 bullshit, she started getting these letters from some fucking creep hitting on her and telling her she was hot (from the photos the media was using of her from the riot). THIS IS NOT OK. It is not OK to be a creep, whether it is hitting on the cashier at the grocery store who is paid to smile and be pleasant, the waitress at the caffe who needs her paycheck and tips, or in this case, a prisoner. These folks are literally a captive audience unable to smack the fuck out of creeps who deserve it do to their situation. So even if you do think old Uncle Ted is the bomb, keep it to yourself. Sending a letter with uninvited sexual content is like sending them an emotional letter bomb.
If you are truly intent on having that type of correspondence with a prisoner to fulfill some sexual kink that turns you on, OK; there are actually websites for prisoners looking for a flirty pen pal or relationship. In the end it is about consent; if they want that type of contact, let them seek it out. Don’t harass prisoners who are not asking for you to objectify them while they are locked up.
# 5 – Have No Expectations
I started writing to prisoners a few years back now, and I have been lucky to get a few really good pen pals out of it, and to form real friendships that I believe will outlast their prison sentences. I have had prisoners send me artwork, poetry they wrote, books they wrote while inside and of course many letters. However I have also written many letters to which I have never seen a reply – and that is totally OK. The reality is that prisoners have far less access to resources than we do. Even if you are poor as fuck like me, and run out of money every month, or work some minimum wage shit job, you will have far more money than most prisoners. In the colonial nation state that calls itself “Canada”, an average prisoner makes around $2-$3 a day… Yes, you read that right, per day, not per hour. Unlike prisoners south of that imaginary colonial line, all stationary, toiletries, and personal care items must be purchased using what the prison labels “earned income.” What this means is that for a prisoner to write you a letter they must use their prison wages to buy the paper, pen, envelope, and stamp; at whatever price the prison canteen sets for these items since there is not competing businesses inside a prison. On top of that, time might seem like something a prisoner would seem to have an endless supply of, but really from people I have known who served ‘time’, it doesn’t seem to feel that way when you are on the inside. So what I am saying here is when you write a letter to a prisoner, have no expectations. Teat it like you are sending your words on the wings of angels, and if you do get a reply, remember how much that person had to give up in order to return your correspondence. Often many of us tend to take our relationships for granted, you simply can not do that with someone who is a captive of the state.
Beyond that remember the basics, your letter will need to have a return address (I often write my return address on each page in case the prison decides to fuck with them by “loosing” a page, It is also a good practice to number your pages for this reason), as well as the prisoners legal name (and number in the US) needs to be on the letter. Don’t put stickers, stamps, perfume, glue or glitter, on the pages or the prison may confiscate the letter or deny it. A less obvious one is that most prisons do not allow you to send blank paper, art supplies, or extra envelopes or stamps – demanding instead that the prisoner purchases those from the prison itself.
Prisoners need our support, it keeps them alive and strong. These are people who are in jail for their dedication to movements for social change, whether they broke into labs to free animals or were framed by law enforcement, their involvement in activism is why they are now sitting behind bars. If we believe we can create a better world on the ashes of this one, we need to step up and support those who have become captives for trying to put into action those very same beliefs. In the words of Resist and Exist “It’s important that we Support political prisoners. Because if we don’t One day you might be a politicalprisoner and there will be no movement to support you“
There are many ways you can show solidarity, but remember solidarity isn’t a word, it’s a relationship. that means solidarity is more than words, it requires action! But action can be as simple as writing a post card or letter to a prisoner, or sending them a book to read. Action can mean a lot of things depending on what you are willing and able to do. Here are some ideas of actions you can take to support prisoner:
Send them a book or magazine. When you are in jail there is one thing you have a lot of, time. Books and magazines can keep prisoners from boredum, keep them informed on what’s going on outside so they will be more up to date when they get out, and sometimes give a much needed escape. They also can help keep the brain sharp. Many prisoners actually have wishlists on amazon.com, so if you don’t know what to send them you can buy a book directly off their wishlist and soon as you pay for it it will be sent directly to them. Even better, instead of giving money to corporate amazon, many anarchist and radical publishers like AK Press or Ardent Press will send books to prisoners at a discounted price, some will even send books to anarchist prisoners for free. Similarly, many magazines like Earth First! Journal, Iconoclast, or The Fifth Estate will also give free subscriptions to prisoners. Do note that while in the USA you can easilly send books to prisoners, in some other countries such as the colonial nation state that calls itself Canada, you can not send books directly to prisoners. However in Kkklanda you can send photocopies of books 15 pages at a time.
Write a letter or post card – Prisoners have very limited connection to the outside world. Imagine going from having a large social network of friends to seeing the same 6 prisoners and 3 guards every day, and being locked in a cell for up to 14 hrs or more. This is the reality for many prisoners. Sending a letter can keep people sane, and brighten their day. If you don’t know what to say, make it easy, send them pictures of your cat, or even cut out photos of wild animals. Send them your favorite poem, lyrics to a song you are writing, or some article or short story you really love, a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. It doesn’t have to be hard. Many prisoners are happy to just hear about your day and the wonderful dog you played with river you swam in or tree you climbed. You can also tell them about activism going on so they will know stuff is still happening outside. It can be easy. NOTE – a few things to avoid:don’t send creepy shit. I hate to have to say this but a female friend of mine who served time for black bloc actions had men send her letters hitting on her. that is NOT ok. On another note, don’t complain about shit. I know, life can suck some times, but no matter how shitty your drama is or how annoying dealing with the cops or government beirocracy, or school can be, it doesn’t compare to sitting in a cell and being strip searched and yelled at daily. remember the point is to cheer them up and build relationships, not to emotionally puke on them and use them for therapy. Lastly don’t tell them about illegal shit you have done or are thinking of doing, This might sound obvious, but it happens. Often if you tell them about something illegal, they can be punished. It si also just bad security culture.
Another way to send support is to donate money through their support committees. Often the support website will have a pay pal account to help make this easier. Money is important to help prisoners get many of the basics of life we take for granted, such as toiletries, pens paper and envelopes, phone cards for calling your loved ones, and especially decent food. This is particularly important for many animal lib prisoners who are Vegan, as the prison food is often quite inadequate for a healthy diet. Having a healthy diet is important to maintaining mental and physical health, which often suffers when one gets locked into a concrete box the size of your bathroom.
There are many other types of actions one can do, such as organizing a protest, a banner drop, graffiti in support of the prisoner, making posters, t-shirts, writing a song about their case, or setting up a punk show as a fundraiser for them. Be creative, think about what would mean a lot to you if you were in prison? For many movement prisoners, continuing the work they care about while they are jailed can also be one of the most effective forms of solidarity
Also remember these people will be in jail long after June 11. While June 11 is a good day to start, especially if you have never done support work before; I do hope you will continue to support our captives long after. Prisoners also need support to continue when they are released, this can happen in the way of helping them find work or other income, places to live and community supports such as counseling if they need it. It can also mean just being there if they need someone to have lunch with; as well as not expecting them to want to hang out. It can be a hard transition from living in a box to living in a society of boxes, and often people need to slowly move back into socializing.
I don’t often talk about it, as it was only 1 night of my life and it wasn’t for any thing interesting or heroic. My experiences in a cell were pretty mild compared to many other peoples, but for some reason I feel like sharing them right now.
I had a warrant out for me for a failure to appear for shoplifting from walmart. Nothing too exciting, although kinda funny as the way I found out I had the warrant was when on Halloween in about 2001. I was in Lloydminster, which is half in saskatewan and half in alberta. I was dressed as a mobster and had hand made a Tommy gun complete with copper barrel and stained oak butt. Some bored cops decided to stop us to check if it was real, and took the opportunity to run our names for something to do. Low and behold a warrant came up for me, only problem was it was an alberta warrant, and I was about 10 feet into saskatwean. So the xcops just told me “you should turn yourself in sometime and get that dealt with.”
A month or two later I turned myself in, to a cop shop in edmonton to get the warrant dealt with. They started by putting me in a room with a phone and phone book to call a lawyer if I wanted. Through the walls I could overhear the cops saying how they could just let me go, but thought it would be more fun to put me through the entire processing to scare me straight. It didn’t really work.
So they took me to the main cop shop n edmonton where I spent the night in the pink cells. not to be confused with the punk cells.
They brought me in to be processed, starting with a strip search. It is in my opinion more a tactic of domination and humiliation than about actually finding contraband up your ass. I was told to strip naked, hand them my cloths, pull up my foreskin, lift my testicles, then turn around, bend over and pull my ass cheeks apart. Standard procedure for failure to appear on shoplifting I am sure.
After this I was taken to a cell. My cell was about seven foot by eight foot square, and about 20 feet tall. The walls were pink and made of cinder block, with a built in cement bench and a steel toilet with no lid. At the very top of the wall was a window that let in some light from outside, the window was impossible to see out of though since it was 15 feet up above the bench.
They took away my over shirt and long john so all I had was jeans and a t-shirt, and it was freezing fucking cold. They must have been afraid I would try to put something in my pocket and steel it while I was there since I was such a notorious thief.
There were 2 doors to the cell, one was a cage, with reinforced bars, the second was a door made of bars. they would close both to ensure you didn’t escape through the holes between, but because neither were solid you could still see out and hear. There wasn’t much to look at, just another cinder block wall in front of the cells, they were like a hall way with each cell beside the other. This way while you couldn’t see any of the other inmates you could still hear them. so you could hear people cry, complain, yell, and the ones high on drugs screaming and talking nonsense to themselves. Fun times.
After about an hour they came to get me for processing. They cuffed me then brought me down the hall to a room to be photographed and finger printed. For shoplifting… After this was over they brought me back to the cell where I remained until about 7am.
They came and cuffed me to walk me through the hallway. There is an underground passage leading from the cop shop to the court house in edmonton, so after I was cuffed I was escorted by 4 cops down the hall to a court room.
A couple things were immediately noticeable – as I kinda stood out. Most the other people awaiting to stand before the judge (were were all in a literal line up) were native. Most of them were there for petty theft, drugs, B&E’s, or fighting. Most of them seemed to be known to the court. I was just some random white kid on a first offense.
When I finally stood before the judge he didn’t even ask me anything. He just looked at my file, and issued me a new court date about a month away. I was then taken back to the cop shop, given my clothing, and released to the 7:30am down town streets of edmonton.
This was a lot of years back now, and I was a very different person then. So my memory could be a bit blurry, but I tell you I remember those pink bricks and blue pricks in a way I will never forget. They intended to scare me into obedience, instead they simply cemented my hatred for their system, for the cops and their prisons. I got off with 6 months of probation, and a bit of humiliation, if my skin wasn’t white I might not have gotten off so easily.
As I write this prison populations in this colonial nation state are at an all time high, with over 15,000 prisoners held by the Canadian state right now; and the population is disproportionately native. As I write this my friend Nyki Kish sits in an Ontario jail serving a life sentence for something she didn’t do – and the fact the cops ‘lost’ the surveillance tapes or that there is no physical evidence doesn’t matter. As I write this my friend Chusia’s dad John Graham sits in a jail in the US where he was illegally extradited for a crime I believe the FBI committed. Again complete with trail that contained no physical evidence where every witness had direct connection to the FBI, RCMP, or BIA. As I write this animal defenders like Rebecca Rubin and Marie Mason and Fran Thompson are serving sentences longer than some of the readers of this blog have been alive. As I write this, more prisons are being built to keep us in.
If this touched you at all, do me a favor and consider writing a post card or a letter to a prisoner. Even if you just say hi, or send them a picture of your dog, or your favorite poem. It will make their day a little more hopeful.
This interview was conducted over email by Comrade Black. Information on upcoming tour dates can be found at the end of the interview.
PE: For those unfamiliar with your past, could you introduce yourself?
YES SIR, INMATE #03895-000…oh wait, sorry, old habits…
Hi my name is rod and I’m from the desert southwest, but live in the great lakes bioregion now. I’ve spent my life fighting for the earth and animals and have just finished a 5 year period of federal supervision that prevented me from being involved in environmentalism or animal issues. I’ve spent a total of 6 years in prison for actions related to the protection of animals, and am now moving forward in my life with new strategies and tactics, that are both effective and legal. Though I walked a controversial and radical path, I no longer advocate illegal activity. That’s a personal decision that I made before with very intense personal consequences, so I’m not doing that anymore. I’m doing what a lot of people are doing now, and that’s struggling to find a way to help stop some horribly violent federal and state policies that currently are allowing for the killing of wolves and other wildlife.
PE: What have you been doing these last 7 years while on probation? Other than helping wolves, what else are you doing these days with your life?
Trying like hell to stay out of prison. When you’ve made a mark for yourself like I have in the law enforcement community, it gets real easy to get back into trouble. So I did what I had to do, I severed all contacts with the activist world, didn’t email, phone, write or do any social media with anyone with an activist past history and just worked my job at a brewery where I’m a server. I also was a big part of my children’s lives. I wasn’t in prison. I was a present father, raising children, teaching them to love life and nature. Loving life myself. I went kayaking when I could. We played in lakes and rivers, camped. I did what Geronimo and others like him had to do when they were forced to surrender and live on the rez. I will still be a father, but now ts time to stand up for the wild once again.
PE: It seemed for a while like every time you moved they were trying to put you in jail again. I had thought you retired to raise your child, What have you actually been doing during all the years where you seemed to disappear from the public eye?
No one will deny that federal law enforcement agencies had identified me as a target. Not only had I already spent 4 years in prison for Animal Liberation Front actions in the 1990’s, but in the ensuing years I had become a spokesperson for the group while continuing to organize with Earth First! And Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty. I even made it easier for them by hanging out with other suspects of federal investigations. So while I did have to go back to prison as part of a non-cooperative plea agreement, at least I didn’t get the 16 year sentence they threatened me with in trial. So yes, it was time to lay down my arms and think about my children and the future. I spent the last five years just keeping my head low and not traveling or seeing any close friends and only very restricted travel to see my family. I wasn’t allowed to visit my elderly parents in Portland, because my probation officer said all of the Northwest was off limits due to its history of radical environmentalism and animal rights activities.
Like so many other men recently released from prison, I focused on the financial survival of my family. I also got involved with my children’s school and met other parents raising children nonviolently who became friends. We tried to start a community garden near the school and introduced a zero-waste program that survives today. The last five years allowed me to be a part of my kid’s lives rather than only hear about it in letters.
Now that my federal supervision is over, I can think about acting as a responsible human being and organizing against the destruction of the wild. Here in Michigan that means stopping the recent sport hunt for wolves. That’s where the tour came in. Folks from the Hunt Saboteurs approached me offering to help build a broader grassroots campaign drawing from several movements. Not just against wolf hunts in the six states where they are now being hunted, but against contest predator hunts and control efforts by the USDA’s Wildlife Services program.
PE: A lot of people seem to see animal liberation and anti-colonial work as opposed. But to you they seem to be very deeply connected?
The connection for me comes with the concept of seeing an animal, person or mountain as part of something bigger, or whether they are just a resource to be exploited and dominated. That is the foundation for the invasion of planet earth and for me I’ll work with anyone fighting against that destruction. Here in the Great Lakes, the wolf is a sacred animal to the indigenous people. So you ave not only animal welfare and animal rights people opposed to the hunt, but the tribes as well. Combine that with environmentalist and even sportsmen against hunting and trapping wolves and you have the potential for a lot of solidarity which equals strength. The Idle-No-More movement s amazing and supporting indigenous peoples engaged in struggles against colonialism is vital or they are going to be marginalized and silenced. All us parties affected by the same Invader need to build stronger alliances and push back in the legal channels we have left.
PE: I asked David Barbarash, a former ALF spokesperson what he would want to ask you if he was interviewing you. He wondered if you regret any of the actions you participated in over the years?
Ahhh, the regret question. Who doesn’t have regrets? But if the interviewer is evading asking me more directly if I regret my illegal actions on behalf of wildlife, I’d have to say no I don’t. I could be cheeky and say I regret not sinking the third whaling ship with the watchman aboard, or finding more lion snares, but that’s kind of how I feel…I’d never want to hurt anyone, but with so many victories like wolf recovery being reversed, I wonder whether its less about “winning” and more about simply standing for what you believe even when its unpopular to do so. It wasn’t popular to take the actions I did, but I did them not with the intention of winning any popularity contests, but to save some lives…however temporarily that might have been. And I don’t regret that.
PE:David also wondered if you would share your thoughts on whether people’s activism may be motivated by past experiences of trauma or anger, and how that affects their actions?
I think this has to do with what I said about the connection between animal and Indigenous issues. A lot of people relate to animals and nature because they are ground up by the same machines. In that way, I think a lot of people are empathetic to animals and can relate to them because we all have a bond with animals some time in our lives and like children, we believe it is wrong to abuse them. But if your saying that such activism attracts unhealthy or unstable people, well I’ve seen that too.
PE: I have read that you became vegan and started working to defend animals after listening to punk music, in particular the song This Is The ALF by Conflict?
That’s kind of funny because its only partially true. Here’s the real story. I began working to protect animals when I was 12 and listening to Paul McCartney and John Denver. Punk music didn’t come until I went overseas on Sea Shepherd in 1985. I started fighting against whaling and the Canadian harp seal hunt after being exposed to both through dramatic direct action campaigns by Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace. In England, the Sea Shepherd crew included hunt saboteurs who were also vegetarian and vegan. They were the first ones to lead me to question my beliefs about all animals. I had tremendous respect for members of the American Indian Movement who were still fighting colonialism, then I witnessed nonviolent civil disobedience used in anti-nuclear protests, but these people exposed me to the principles behind the Animal Liberation Front, and that’s where “This is the ALF” comes in. After working on Sea Shepherd in port one day, some hunt saboteur volunteers had me over to listen to music. I couldn’t understand a word of what sounded like screaming, but they handed me the album cover which had the lyrics and I wanted to join. That’s when I went vegetarian and convinced I would start an ALF group.
PE:Did you grow up around animals? When did you learn your love for animals from?
I believe everyone has an inherent compassion for animals. It’s just the question of whether it gets repressed by institutionalized thinking that convinces us to see animals another way. I guarantee that if you switched babies between hardcore hunters and vegans, each child would be raised with the corresponding parent’s worldviews, at least while they were children. But if nature is allowed to prosper, compassion for animals will come to anyone. The only thing unique about me s that I chose a path of action that made my compassion more noticeable.
PE: Do you still see punk or other music cultures today as having radical potential to radicalize youth
I’m sure that’s true, but I don’t have my finger on that pulse. I’ve always had my movement musician favorites, Dana Lyons, Alice DiMicele, Jim Page, Joanne Rand, Casey Neil and many others whose music was a kind of soundtrack for my life in the 80’s and 90’s, but I don’t know who is leading that charge anymore. I believe that music is a sacred medium to reach people and I still love listening to any new song with a story sympathetic to animals or nature, because you know that we are not a minority and those kinds of songs are received well.
PE: What is hunt sabotage?
Hunt sabotage has evolved for me over the years. It began with my English friends who sabotaged British hound foxhunts with false scent trails and horn calls, then it evolved to similar tactics in America to interfere with desert bighorn sheep hunts. I’d say hunt sabotage is nonviolently interfering with the recreational killing of wildlife. I was arrested in 2004 for sabotaging a mountain lion hunt and went to prison for 8 months. Now hunt sabotage means something different for me. It means utilizing any channel you have available to stop not just individual hunts, but entire hunting seasons. Its very dangerous confronting armed men in the woods, but we can sabotage hunts by getting involved with the agencies that establish hunting seasons and begin to lobby to have the views of the non-hunting majority represented. These agencies are supposed to be following principles of conservation that recognize that wildlife is a public trust resource and as such the opinions of non-consumptive “users” matters. Presently the states where wolf hunting and
trapping was recently enacted, the state wildlife agencies have cosy relationships with sportsman’s groups. It’s not a unique situation. The hunters through payments for licenses and tags provide the budget for those agencies, so they tend to manage wildlife with the needs of hunters as a priority. So for me, hunt sabotage is any tactics or strategy that aims to stop the recreational killing of wildlife.
PE: What is the reason they are intending to kill the wolves? Can you talk a bit about the campaign?
In Michigan, the justification for the wolf hunt is that wolves are preying on livestock and hunting dogs as well as being seen in the neighborhoods of some rural towns. This is what was said leading up to the hunt and then when it began, we discovered that 90% of livestock depredations in Michigan were at one farm where the farmer practiced horrible farming practices. Cattle that died were left in pastures and when wolves were attracted they were blamed for the deaths and permits issued to kill them. This one farmer also received over $60,000 in compensation for his livestock losses and was recently criminally charged with animal abuse. One of the other justifications was the killing of “pets” which means dogs trained to chase down bears. Bear hunters place bait piles to attract bears, but they also attract wolves too sometimes or are placed in areas where wolves have their dens. These hounds are released to chase bears through wolf territory and occasionally get killed when they do this. But that’s not the wolf’s fault. Then we have the state’s wildlife agency lying to the media about the level of danger wolves were posing to humans in one town and those lies being repeated by a state representative to justify the hunt to the legislature. And on top of this, we have laws in Michigan which already allow hunters or farmers to kill a wolf they witness attacking their animals. In addition, the USDA’s Wildlife Services has been called in to kill over 20 wolves in recent years in Michigan. So that’s what we are fighting. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing of wolves and we want to see wolves returned to endangered species listing.
PE:It seems a lot of people see wolves as a pest, or a threat to be afraid of. Do you find it is hard to convince people wolves need to be protected?
I don’t think its hard for people to get this issue. We’ve learned it before after we eradicated wolves the first time. Society as a whole has changed, but the agencies responsible for livestock and wildlife refuse to evolve and reflect those changes. And these agencies have little accountability. People understand that predators play a vital role in maintaining the health of prey animals like deer and elk. What I’ve been hearing is people asking, “why are people still killing wolves?” In addition to the role predators play in the ecosystem, I also believe they should be protected because we still don’t know a lot about them. The campaigns of persecution have continued literally since Europeans first arrived, and I think we should demonstrate a little human evolution by no longer waging such a war on wildlife. Wolves returning to the landscape is a success story in endangered species preservation that desperately needs to be defended right now.
PE:Anthropologist Layla Abdel Rahim writes about how the idea of a predator is a problematic construct, because the animals don’t see other animals as prey all of the time – but rather just as other animals most of the time and only as prey when they need to feed. I wonder what you think of this and if you think using scientific categorizations such as apex predator is at all problematic?
Well, let’s see where else do we use that word? To describe sexual predators! So undeniably, there is a negative connotation for some people. But yes, we allow science and taxonomy to frame our relationship to animals when the relationship can be so much more sacred. It’s a agreed upon concept to call some animal relations “predator” but we should also question our personal and spiritual relationship to animals. Not just because I am indigenous, but I also gravitated towards the way native people viewed animals. It was never demeaning, it was always on an equal standing. The animals were (and still are) people too, or people are animals too…Wonderful stories of mysticism and magic that sounded better than Bible stories to me.
I love to be educated and read wildlife agencies reports on wolf management, but at the end of the day I choose to see the wolf as my sacred relation. And as a resident of Maa’iigan’s homeland, I feel an obligation to speak up among the humans when the wolf’s future is at stake. Yes, because they are a apex predator who helps hold the ecosystem in balance, but also because they are the sacred brother/sister to the Anishinaabe who still call this place home, and wolves and coyotes and other predators are just mega-cool…
PE:How can we build bridges between Indigenous resistance and movements for animal liberation?
By first, not being so fucking judgmental of people who eat animals. Long before there was an animal rights movement, there were indigenous peoples defending the earth and her animals with their lives. And they still are! Just because they eat meat doesn’t make them the enemy. Until we learn tolerance we will continue to be disenfranchised. It doesn’t mean WE have to be like them, but there’s such beauty in diverse worldviews that all hold nature and animals on the same level as us. It is the oppositions worst nightmare for us all to be unified against their policies that destroy the same world we all love.
PE:How does being a parent change things now for you?
I heard this story where a young warrior wants to be at the front of the war party, in the thick of any fighting, but when you’re a little older, you let the younger warriors lead the battle, and then when you’re a little older, you’re fine being in the rear guard and when you’re a little older than that, maybe you’re crouching behind a tree or rock watching to see how things are going before jumping into the fray… I think it’s like that for me. I’ve been in enough battles, I’m not an adrenalin junkie doing this for the thrill. I’m a middle-aged man with kids dammit, and I have to take care of them to be a warrior, that’s why indigenous resistance exists, to protect our families and communities. It’s always been about protecting the vulnerable, the young and elderly, it’s the same way in our struggle.
We are trying to protect people and the environment for the good of all, so that we may simply maintain our right to exist. Being a parent has given me a deeper understanding of the need for a long-term sustainable strategy for fighting and living. I also know that those I might come into conflict with are also trying to do the same thing, eke out a living and protect their families. So that means not being so adversarial, and being less willing to fight, and more willing to try and work together first.
Having children has made me a better warrior, because I’ve realized when you’re willing to defend something with your very own life as many father’s are prone to feel, you understand the motivational power as it exists in nature where many creatures are driven by the same strength of love. Because that’s what it’s about for us, about defending what we love. And if we can’t experience that raw passion and love for something close to us, then we’re dead already. I’m not ready to give that up. It’s also why no struggle can be real unless its inclusive of people raising children. People with dominating, destructive worldviews have been breeding like crazy, we need some kids to be raised in the new old ways…
PE:You spent a lot of time in prison, and on probation over the years. Can you talk from your experiences about what is effective prisoner support, both when people are in prison and when they get out? Is there any advice you would give to people who might be looking at doing time?
First, advice to people looking at doing time. Don’t have children. Going to prison doesn’t just effect you, it effects those who love you, so be prepared to put them through incredible trauma and suffering too. Don’t think you can maintain relationships while you are in prison. The best you are doing is sharing your traumatic experience. There is nothing good about going to prison. It should be avoided at all costs.
Once you are in the system, your purpose is no longer the survival of your family and community, its about your own survival. That’s what I experienced and that’s why I’m grateful to be able to be organizing again and am very conscious to not step over that line into anything even remotely illegal. It’s simply not worth it. We have to constantly be doing a cost/benefit analysis of our modes of resistance and weigh whether its a sustainable strategy or not. If our tactics result in our bravest warriors being imprisoned for years, then its time to rethink. It doesn’t mean we condemn our past tactics or strategies, it just means we evolve to our changing environment. Like coyotes or wolves.
PE:There has been a dramatic rise in ALF actions over the last year, bands like Los Crudos and Earth Crisis are touring again, and now Rod Coronado is back on tour encouraging activists to get active; kinda feels like the 90s again. How do you figure the current state of radical movements compares to past decades?
I don’t think it’s a resurgence, it’s the survival of our struggles. Some of us might have gone to prison, but the need for organizing never went away, and thankfully brave people are following a very dark time for the radical environmental and animal rights movements and pushing forward. I don’t think we can compare this to past decades because twenty years ago 9/11 hadn’t happened and we weren’t labeled as terrorists. We have to evolve and recognize that there are strong forces out there that want to treat us like criminals rather than the harbingers of social change. So in that way, I can’t say what the state of radical movements is like because I don’t consider myself radical anymore, nor am I up on their progress. I hear about infighting, the debates on issues that distract us from being a broader more public movement that focuses on solidarity building issues with people we too often call the enemy. I’m just trying to share with the new generations of activists out there what I’ve learned and help them realize the cost-benefit analysis of doing actions that won’t lead you to prison. There’s a time and place for everything, but right now its time in the US to reclaim the public process in regards to wildlife issues and do something completely different. In a way, organizing in these old fashioned traditional ways can be very radical because its a strategy that has been left to very conservative people.
PE:Can you talk a little about your history with wildlife defense and hunt sab?
My first hunt sabotage actions were in England targeting foxhunts and badger baiting back in 1985. In 1987 we started a hunt saboteurs group in California to interfere with trophy desert bighorn hunts. A lot of my ALF actions were on behalf of predators, the most prominent being our actions against the fur farm industry and our Don Quixote-esque raid on the USDA’s Predator Research Facility in 1992. We destroyed the laboratory, but they just rebuilt it bigger, but at least a few coyotes got away that night.
I returned to opposing trophy hunting in 2002, going into the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona to interfere with desert bighorn sheep hunts. We spent winter weekends searching out a handful of trophy hunters across a huge desert mountain landscape. The bighorn sheep hunt sabs were the perfect balance of effectiveness and experiential bliss, because the desert is beautiful in winter time.16 mile hikes looking for hunters, seeing the sheep themselves, and other wildlife, you are literally seeing what your fighting for. We also began going to wildlife agency meetings, giving testimony on hunts we were opposed to and documenting illegal hunting in the field.
It culminated in 2004, with the very public hunt interference against attempts to remove mountain lions from the Sabino Canyon National Recreational in the Coronado National Forest outside of Tucson, Arizona where I lived. Public opposition to the hunt was overwhelming, and the whole city knew the only thing standing in the way of the state and federal lion hunters was us Earth First!ers. We spread false scent trails with mountain lion urine, and I was chased down with a helicopter after we sprung a lion snare. I was sentenced to 8 months in federal prison for that one.
The most effective campaign we did was against the hunting of sandhill cranes which winter in southern Arizona. We would lay in cornfields between hunters in blinds and incoming cranes who upon seeing us waving our arms or reflective mylar would veer away from the hunter’s. The best part about it is that never once did we get caught. When we did interact with hunters, it was as fellow hunters as I always have the appropriate tags and licenses. We also documented the hunt, including cranes attempting to aid their wounded relations. We also solicited public comment on the hunt at birding events and repeatedly testified against the hunt on ecological grounds that it wasn’t sustainable or necessary. Once again, it was amazing just to be in the fields watching thousands of cranes flying overhead.
I had wanted to continue the campaigns against trophy hunts in Arizona, but then I was overtaken with my legal defense on not just the lion hunt front, but for a lecture I gave defending arson the same day an ELF fire caused a $60 million fire in San Diego. So that’s why now I’m jumping on board to help wolves now, because I think the same strategy can work, to participate in the process of changing policy by attending public meetings and calling on these agencies to reform to reflect the interests of citizens who appreciate wildlife as a working component of the environment, not only as some kind of resource.
A cage is a cage Is a cage Is a cage Is a cage Whether barbed wire Steal bars Or build of addiction and fear It’s the same Freedom knows no boundaries Walls Borders Or Shame
A cage is a cage Is a cage Is a cage It’s the same Human are animals We all deserve to be free Not one set of limits for you And another for me No prisons, or mink farms Jails or zoos No Pet stores or backyard chicken coops no psych wards where inmates are held without consent No ant farms Or cattle barns Or pens to breed animals in Liquor stores or beauty norms or other forms of boxes to keep people IN.
There is no justification you can give to me that is good enough to continue with this No matter how many walls, cameras, or cages We will always resist
Keeping any living being captive without its consent whether it is to punish them to eat them to pet them or to use their labor or bodies for our needs
A cage is a cage Is a cage Is a cage It’s the same
There’s no walls in a forest, desert, or stream No bars in the oceans, the sky or in my dreams
We got word late yesterday that Daniel McGowan was told he wouldn’t be issued a pass to go to work the next day. According to his keepers at the halfway house, this denial came at the direction of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). When he followed up, Daniel was told that it wasn’t merely a denial of a work pass, but a restriction on all movement. When asked if that meant federal marshals were coming to get him the next day, the halfway house administrators told him they didn’t know.
The state, and its for-profit halfway house minions, were clearly in collusion. This is just another way that opacity is used to mindfuck folks left to twist in the wind, not knowing what the future holds.
From our understanding, the reason for his re-imprisonment is directly related to an article Daniel recently wrote for the Huffington Post. An attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights has been to visit Daniel at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Once we know more, we’ll pass the information on.
For now, take time to send Daniel a card or letter. Let him know that regardless of how the state treats him, we have his back.
Write to Daniel at: Daniel McGowan #63794-053 MDC Brooklyn Post Office Box 329002 Brooklyn, New York 11232
Punk bands tour the world singing anthems that promote militant direct action & activism, putting out albums with flaming Molotovs emblazoned across their covers, with militant messages; but few of us ever truly put those words into action. Walter Bond on the other hand has spent decades working tirelessly, whether leafleting at shows and in the streets, tabling at Pride events, protesting, or volunteering at animal sanctuaries before finally turning to the more militant tactics of the Animal Liberation Front. Walter is a proud anarchist, Vegan, of Latino heritage, who identifies as bisexual. He also is currently a prisoner in one of the most controversial and restrictive prisons in the USA today.
I have been writing to Walter in prison since he was first arrested 2 years ago, after his brother snitched him out. At the time of his arrest, Walter was living on the streets while attacking businesses that profit from animal exploitation.
PE: – You identified as an anarchist for most of your life. Can you tell us what being an anarchist means to you, and how it connects with Animal Liberation, and Total Liberation?
WALTER: When I was in 7th grade in 1989 I used to make all kinds of clip art fliers with my friends under the name ‘Anti-Statist Counter Culture’. We would distribute them mostly to local corporate businesses and churches in the area, mostly to agitate. By the end of 8th grade I had completely dropped out of school and was living this nihilist lifestyle and was just very reactionary and angry at the whole world, parents, school, everything! Back then I was dealing with a world of shit that was to much for me to handle. I turned to drug abuse and vandalism as an outlet. Anarchism back then was a personal vendetta I had about how my life and the world around me was and how I felt it should be.
I wasn’t alone. I had three other very close friends that felt the same. Two of them connected with some gutter punks in Boulder, Colorado and ran away to Hollywood, California. 25 years later one of them is a vocalist for a grind core band, and another is a bicycle maker that lives in a squat in New York City and gets harassed whenever he tries to leave the country because he has bee
n on federal watch lists since the 90’s.
Today anarchism is firmly connected to my activism. The Animal Liberation Front has been an anarchistic dis-organization since its inception. There is no way for business-as-usual and Animal Liberation to co-exist in any fashion that is effective for the goals and interests of either side. Business, consumerism and corporations ultimately care about whatever is profitable. Their raw materials are the blood and bones of Animals and the life’s’ blood and guts of the Earth, which is the fountain head of all life. It’s difficult to make this connection as just a foodie Vegan but once you spend some time in the activist world, it’s an unavoidable clash.
Anarchism is in opposition to State control, corporate domination, class privilege, oppression of one group by another. These are the identical ideals fought for by Animal Liberation abolitionists, just applied to different objectives. I think that anarchism and Animal liberation from the abolitionist or radical perspective are an organic pairing. What good would it do to establish a human society of free communities only to destroy the planet with a McDonalized diet or a mass addiction to industrialization? The reality is that there are billions of people on the planet! With or without government or state authority, industry is going to continue destroying the Earth. It doesn’t matter who turns on the machines everyday, because things are not made out of no things. And history has proven time and time again that if we do not remove the oppressions of the least defensible of us then the circle of abuse begins again with a brand new name.
PE: – You are an Animal Liberation POW, and you also hold anti-civ views, and have a critique of technology. I see a lot of overlap between the anarcho-primitivist critique of domestication, and mass society, with the views of Total Liberation. Do you feel there is a contradiction there? Or how do you see them fitting together?
WALTER: I definitely am not a fan of technologically advanced civilization. From the industrial age forward what we are really looking at is a lattice work infrastructure, put in place by governments of men to subjugate women, the poor, Animals, Earth, labor and each other according to Ethnicity, nationalism, class, gender and economics. Since the age of the machine and science; pain, suffering, war and murder have been greatly, incredibly and insanely quickened!
Despite all the promises of making things better we are blowing mountains in half to get at their coal. We are chopping down every forest on Earth. We are dropping bombs on civilians from remote control airplanes; we are mechanically murdering billions of Animals at the expense of the natural world. We are wasting mass amounts of crop, soil, and water, all euphemisms for Earth, so that we can eat cheap burgers. Thanks to constant technological crutches most adults cannot listen to, follow or remember simple directions. Meanwhile paranoia and random acts of violence are at an all time high!
It is time to stop pretending that we don’t see the writing on the wall. Technology kills! And that is most often its primary use. WE HAVE ENOUGH NUCLEAR WARHEADS ON THIS PLANET TO KILL ALL LIFE SEVERAL TIMES OVER, BUT WE CANNOT EVEN SAVE OUR OWN SPECIES ONCE. I used to build slaughterhouses for a living and I can tell you from first hand experience that it’s not physically possible to butcher tens of thousands of Animals a day without an abundance of mechanical aid. Just like it is not possible to destroy a forest without first building roads and inlets to get yellow death machines into the area.
art off Walter Bond support page
No machine is morally neutral when it’s sole design and intent is to eviscerate, vivisect, slash cut and transport the splintered, destroyed and devastated remains of the biosphere! The technologies we use to heal the sick and, lessen pain and suffering and generally make the human world a more comfortable place are scant in comparison to the damage done. But just like any alcoholic or drug addict we exaggerate the pay off we get while greatly ignoring the damage it takes to pay for it. And just as with any other addiction the truly terrible thing is how many other innocent lives have become ruined in the addicts wake.
Politics would have us believe the modes of production are neither beneficial nor harmful but only in the right or wrong hands. Yet time and time again his-story has shown that whether the factory is run by greedy capitalists or free thinking anarcho-communists, the machines still get turned on and the raw materials of industry are still the blood and guts of the Earth and her Animal Nations! In truth, who controls the means and modes of production is of concern to those who labor and profit by and for the machines, with little to no concern for the connectivity of all life, or the world.
As far as how I view the connectivity, or lack thereof of ideas like Total liberation and anarcho-primitivism I guess I view it as parallel. In my estimation Total Liberation should be making steps to unite various struggles in the real world against the common leviathan of government and towards the reality of free communities. Unfortunately, I don’t see much grassroots organization around Total Lib. it remains, thus far, in the world of ideas, of salutations of solidarity. I think the occupy movement started out with a truly unifying Total Liberation tactic and showed the tremendous power of coming together. But there has to be an escalation of tactics at the helm or else all is eventually kaput. I’m not trying to be smug here but where is Total Liberation physically? Ideally Total Liberation should be a bridge building movement to unite activists of all liberation struggles be they human, Earth or Animal. That is a huge amount of work. And honestly it’s an abundance of work I seldom see getting done. No one wants to yield or compromise enough to make a true united liberation front possible. Or as radicals we use total lib as a pretext to ideological recruitment of other radicals.
Anarcho-primitivism on the other hand is really against the entire foundation of what our modern ‘civilized’ oppressions are built upon. As such it’s not very activist friendly. I mean, you don’t protest civilization with a sign. The idea of a truly clean slate is far to radical for that. The only way to effectively protest technology, mass society, domestication and their ilk is for you yourself to become a wild child and destroy the machines. But Total Liberation and anarcho-primitivism are for ever united by the same objective. That being the complete escape from tyranny and oppression for as many lives, and ways of life as can exist without any oppressing the other. One is just dedicated to aligning forces in the here and now, while the other is looking at how we will have to not only get rid of the road we are on, but also get rid of the road.
PE: – It almost seems like there was a Class Warfare element to the choices you made when selecting your targets. Was this intentional?
WALTER:– You are the first person to ever ask me this question, and the answer is yes. There were a couple different messages to my arsons beyond Animal Liberation, one was classism. Every place I hit was not what society would try to justify as ‘necessary’ Animal cruelty. Each place in its own right was of service to the upper middle, to the rich echelon of society. Whether for fashion, hobby or delicacy I wasn’t going after stores in the hood or ethnic communities. I was after retailers that sold dead Animals’ broken bodies or skins purely for consumer pleasure.
Another thing I have heard grumbles about is why I went after soft targets instead of more strategic targeting. There was a subtle reason behind this as well. As an activist I often saw people pass the buck when it comes to Animal industries. The wholesalers and retailers always blame it on the public. If no one bought their products they wouldn’t sell them. Or since there is a demand someone is going to fill it whether them or someone else. The consumers always hide in numbers. They don’t feel responsible because there not buying anything that’s not being bought a million times over by others. The drop in the bucket syndrome. If you pick on them you will instantly be accused of targeting specific groups of people. And after all it’s really the evil corporations fault for putting such cruelly produced products on the market.
I burned three businesses right in the middle of major cities. I did not want to hide my ALF actions the way Animal cruelty is hidden. I wanted every retailer and consumer to see that when you deal in product of death you shouldn’t be surprised when retribution finds its way to your doorstep. Honestly, if I would have had more resources or help I would have done live Liberations unfortunately this was not a viable option. But the only good thing about living in a non-Vegan world is that if you want to combat cruelty you never have to go far. You don’t need to have a bunch of money or go to some clandestine trading camp to make an impact.
Most of the time people like to imagine that their heroes have all this expertise that they never could. It’s a convenient belief because otherwise they wouldn’t have any excuse for putting their own self-interest, fear and apathy above doing in their hearts what they know must be done. The truth is when it comes to Animal exploitation or the destruction of the Earth, no one is innocent. Not Vegans, or cadaver munchers. Not anarchists, or capitalists. Not me, or you. We are all shades of red as Screaming Wolf once wrote in the seminal book ‘Declaration of War’. We lessen our shade of red with our lifestyles and our actions. And this is our obligation if we have compassion. Not from some outside authority but from inside ourselves, our consciousness.
PE: – Recently you completely changed your position on abortion, what prompted this seemingly sudden shift?
WALTER:– What prompted this change of heart is a growing disenchantment with so-called conservative views. And the pompous attitudes that produce them. I have never been involved in any anti-abortion activism, just so people know. In the hundreds of pages that I have written in the last 3 years I have written approximately one paragraph about the ‘pro-life’ views I once held. I just want to set it straight from the beginning that I am not some reformed anti-abortion extremist. That said, I once held an obscure view on abortion that was part of a conservative clique within the Straight Edge movement of the 1990’s.
My limited comprehension of abortion as an issue was from this two dimensional idea that ‘if I am going to care deeply about the rights of shrimp, then I should care about the rights of a fetus’. This was a complete absent reference to the fact that this whole issue takes place inside a woman’s body and that there is a more complex issue of rights to be observed. Not just vegan hardline consistency.
I have recently begun to educate myself on feminism and in particular anarcha-feminism. The more I learn the more I feel like an ass for having displayed such an idiotic and disconnected view of abortion in the first place. From an Animal Liberation perspective which is more my field, it must be said that humanity is the cause of extreme amounts of suffering to billions of Animals annually, for food vivisection, entertainment and beyond. Ultra-consumpive societies like north America, china and now India are currently decimating the Earth like a cancer! In this war on nature humans are a tyrannical and abusive enemy. I stand on the side of the Animal Nations and Mother Earth, I am a species traitor. And human birth control is a relief to the planet!
But as I was saying, what prompted me to finally take a long look at my beliefs, not only on abortion but many of my moralist attitudes in general are my surroundings. For those that do not know I am a prisoner of war, inside a political prison, within a prison. On this unit of 40 men, I never leave, and I am housed here for an indefinite remainder of my prison sentence. Most of the men here are orthodox Muslims; with a sprinkling of those god bless America type of militia, Ron Paul weirdoes. It’s a super conservative and religious environment. I have learned first hand what dogma and so-called conservativism leads people too. Mainly, bigotry, homophobia, and close-mindedness.
PE: – When you held anti-abortion views, it seemed like most of your criticism was directed towards the medical industries. This brings up the question of herbal abortion as a non-medical alternative. Was this something you had considered?
WALTER:– No it was not. But I am not more for one method than another. It’s not my business how women decide to abort, control birth or exercise autonomy over their own bodies. As a man, I am not only never going to be in their position but I am never going to put a woman in that predicament either. I have no children, and the first thing I am going to do upon release, which is years from now, will be to go to the hospital and get myself fixed. Furthermore, no woman anywhere should feel ostracized or shamed for her decision to exercise her reproductive rights be it herbally, or in a clinic.
PE: – Author Peter Gelderloos once wrote that anarchy and colonialism need to be made completely incompatible. Cultural approbation of indigenous art, spirituality, and cultural traditions is a major problem in many subcultures today. I want to ask about your face tattoo. I know it means a lot to you, but is your tattoo an appropriation of Maori Moko?
WALTER:– I have a few supporters from New Zealand and have been questioned about this by a couple different Maori. One told me that the design I have would better be suited as part of a leg piece, and the other argued that it was a handsome piece for Moko, but wanted to know why I don’t have the rest of my face done. But the truth is that while I definitely used the style of traditional Maori, my tattoo artist and I made absolutely sure that we were not replicating any traditional or current Maori designs.
I have also been locked up with a Maori guy and several tanga, Samoa and Polynesian islanders. Everyone has been cool with it mainly because I am of Island descent. My mother is Taino. For those that don’t know these are the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. This coupled with the fact that I am in prison for fighting for a cause seem to have earned me the respect of other islanders. The general vibe I get is relief that I take warrior hood seriously and am not just trying to look hardcore for my white friends in the suburbs.
I plan on getting the rest of my face tattooed when I get out of prison along with the rest of my body. That said I never promote it as something others should do. Getting a large face tattoo is serious business and can have serious repercussions. And It has intense personal meaning to me. It was a life changing event, it literally changed my personality. Some would say pushed me over the edge.
And yes, appropriation of indigenous cultures is an epidemic problem. In many larger ways than a very few people getting face tats. Here in the United States every white person wants to pretend they are part native. Out of some feelings of white guilt. Instead of helping the decimated Indian population. They shove real natives onto reservations to starve and die while pretending to be the real deal. Honestly, this makes me sick
PE: – Most of the businesses you targeted reopened and continue to make profits even though you did extensive damage. In light of this do you think your actions were effective? Could you have been more strategic? If so how?
WALTER:– The way I look at it I could have spent everyday of my life standing in front of those businesses holding a sign and I would have never cost them one penny. Even when I used to volunteer my time helping actual Animals it would occur to me that I was still having a negative impact against the industries of Animal exploitation. Even with Veganism, I am one of the few Animal Liberation abolitionist Vegans you will hear admit that my diet is not saving 90 Animals a year. So there I was living as ethical as I could, helping Animals and talking with and educating people. All the while all I am seeing is negative impact. I have friends that have been holding signs and tabling for decades, negative impact. Why is activism always geared to just lessen our roll in the cruelty but never to fight it? Negative impact.
I got fed up with it. All the -more-Vegan-than-thou- conversations that I had at every coffee shop in Denver. Always playing supplicant to people. Practically begging people to care. Then I woke up one day and it hit me. I was a utopianist, I was deluded. I, as most overly idealistic people really believed that deep down everyone was like me. I was once one of them, hell; I even used to build slaughterhouses! If I can change, anyone can, right? Wrong.
I came to the conclusion that most people don’t want to change, most people don’t want to learn what’s going on with Animals because they don’t want to feel bad or responsible for it, and most people are not going to sacrifice their time energy or money to make a change. BAM! The facts, welcome to reality! All that was left in my life was to fight back on the Animals behalf of shut up because I was sick of the sound of my own voice.
And you know what I didn’t change the world. But I did something that I never was able to before. I cost the Animal abuse industries about two and a half million bucks, positive effect! And with every defiant step forward that I took, I inspired. By my count there were eight international underground acts of solidarity with my case. And now when I speak I really do have a voice. I mean look, we are having an interview. I have been saying all this same stuff for years before I became the ‘Lone Wolf’ but you would never know it because, no one ever listened.
As far as strategy, of course I could have done better. Unfortunately HOW I could have, or WHAT I would have done different I cannot discuss. Due to my current situation as an imprisoned and monitored man.
PE: -Let’s talk about your life on the inside. How do you spend your days? Do you get paid to work? What are the costs you have to spend money on? You have and mp3 player, how does that work?
WALTER:– Here in the CMU it is a very small world. I live day after day, month after month and over a year now in a single prison unit completely segregated from the rest of the penitentiary of Marion. The day I get released from the CMU to the general population of the prison it will feel like I got a parole. I am allowed two 15 minute phone calls a week and no visits. Every person I have tried to have put on my visiting list has been rejected. I have not hugged, touched or physically seen anyone I care about since the day off my arrest in the summer of 2010.
A typical day goes something like this. I wake up about nine in the morning. I walk to the top of the range and sit down at a computer. I log in and see if I have any emails. All my incoming and outgoing email is screened by the counter terrorism unit in Virginia to make sure I am not sending or receiving coded messages. They also can reject or approve any incoming or out going emails before I have the chance to send or receive them. They can also block me from communicating with anyone they want and they have done this with three of my contacts. When that happens I cannot snail mail, email or make telephone calls to these people ever again. In short, all communication is cut off permanently, and without explanation.
After I am done on the computer I go ‘outside’ which is a rectangle walkway that surrounds an island of three ‘recreation’ cages. The sky is completely obscured by chain link fence and razor wire. I walk in rectangles until lunch. Lunch is usually beans, rice or the occasional veggie burger. The food is terrible and unhealthy. It is worse than any other institution I have ever been in. After I eat I go back to my cell and write responses to letters from supporters and friends. At noon, I go to mail call and get any mail, books or magazines that have come in that day. After mail I watch the soaps on Spanish TV. I like ‘Amorcita Corazon’. When my soaps are over I go out to the cages and do body weight exercises or shoot hoops. I come back up to my cell and lock down for four O’ clock stand up count, and then I nap until dinner. After dinner I walk for another hour. then I study Spanish for one to two hours, after which I slam a couple cups of black tea and go back to my cell to read, write and draw until about one in the morning, or until I fall asleep. Then I wake up and do it again.
As far as work goes, on the other side of the cell house opposite the rec. cages is a ramp and a patch of grass that leads to the chow hall. My job is to clean the walkway and cut the grass. I make twenty dollars a month but they take all of that for restitution and court costs I owe. So in reality I get paid nothing. But I get to go on the only patch of Earth that we have in the CMU and it’s ‘out of bounds’ for everyone else.
As far as cost of living, everything I have shoes, shorts, Vegan food, toothpaste, paper, stamps, envelopes, music, and email (yes, I get charged to send and receive email) Is only because of money supporters send me. Without support funds I would literally have nothing. Recently the entire federal prison system got mp3 players. They installed the hardware and software on the computers. Songs cost a dollar and a half each, no discount for purchasing whole releases. They have some good music. I have downloaded Earth Crisis, Chumbawamba, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Augustin Lara, Napalm Death, Public Enemy and many, many more! With very little stimulation music is essential for mental health. I went overboard and spent all my money on music, which makes things tight for me but I don’t care I would rather listen to music than anything else in here.
The conversations and interactions I am subjected to in the CMU are repetitive and obsessive. There are the legal guys that just talk about law all day long, constantly and without end. There are the religious guys that just talk about god and scriptures and religious interpretation all day. And the institutionalized guys that just talk about every prison they have been at. Most of those guys have spent their entire lives in prison.
I quit talking to most people here because I don’t like to argue, it’s pointless and agitating. And outside of my circle of about 5 friends whose company I enjoy the rest of these guys can go flush themselves down the toilet, and go where ever the rest of the pieces of shit end up, for all I care!
I’ll tell you this, I still feel as hardcore about my beliefs as ever but I am completely over preaching to people that don’t want to hear them, protesting is different than proselytizing.
PE: – Recently you quit using the Muslim name you had been given. Have you completely given up on Islam? Religion altogether? Do you still maintain some type of spiritual beliefs?
WALTER: I am going to be honest about my feelings towards religion and much of what passes for spirituality. I don’t believe it. It’s a human shibboleth. Animals in a state of nature have no use for it and neither do I. I am part of something bigger than any religion, ‘god’ or hocus pocus, it’s called LIFE. When I die I will go back to the Earth. I will go back to where ALL life must, and I will not know where that is until the time comes and death is upon me.
I know god is not in books. I have read and studied most world religions and many obscure spiritualities. I have learned for certain that god is not in books. The only thing in books is words. The entire concept and production of a book is a human construct. It’s our way for the dead and absent to infect the thoughts and lives of the living, for good or ill.
I Got involved in Islam under adverse and incredible circumstances, which is the only way I would have gotten involved in any religion, let alone one so incredibly dogmatic. I won’t go into the entire sordid tale except to say that I once promised an old woman that meant the world to me that one day I would attempt, one day, to try and find god. And I gave it my all. Unfortunately, I do not make a very good submitter.
Did you know that the first time I was ever in trouble with the law was for breaking into a church and burning a huge pentacle star into the carpet directly in front of the preacher’s lectern? It was a Methodist church in a rich white neighborhood, across the street from the police station. I also have a 14 inch upside down crucifix for half of my tattoo sleeve. On that same sleeve I also have a tattoo of the pope, except this pope has goat horns and is standing in flames. All the things I love the most in life: face tattoos, sex, fire, Animals, music, Liberation and Veganism seem to all be completely against religion. Oh well, I guess that’s how ‘god’ made me!
When I got involved with religion it completely shifted my focus and the focus the movement around me. Everything started to become about my new name and beliefs etc. I didn’t like that. I remember one night I went to bed and it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about Animal lib, Straight Edge or resistance all day, just religion. That was the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t like that feeling of assimilation, like the Borg on that sci fi show ‘Star Trek the Next Generation’. It was a calming feeling but also creepy. Next thing you know you have that glazed doughnut look in your eyes, the one that super religious people get. No thanks, I’m already off in the head enough without any help from the land of make believe!
I also got tired of reading all the terrible stuff about god hating gays and stoning people to death, or chopping off people’s hands for stealing. This crap is in all the so-called ‘holy books’ of various religions; right their in black and white print. And if you believe it then you have to do a bunch of mental gymnastics to somehow make it all not, horrible!
All this said, I did learn a lot about Islamophobia and I am completely against it! the media promotes Islam to be a terrorist religion and that is just not accurate. Every religion has violent fringe elements but we don’t paint all their followers as ‘terrorist’ or ‘extremist’. Look at those crazy evangelicals that drink poison or the ‘army of god’ psychopaths. Still the media doesn’t call them ‘Christian terrorists’. I learned along time ago that it’s not what people believe that makes them good or bad apples it’s the things they do and their capacitates for compassion, or cruelty. But as far as any more personal beliefs about ‘pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die’. I am a disbeliever, and will remain so.
PE: – About a year ago you put out a public statement saying you could no longer call yourself an anarchist, recently you have recanted, re-embracing anarchy. What was the reason for your change of heart? What brought you back to the dark side?
WALTER:– The reason with my disenchantment with anarchism was in reality a disenchantment with certain anarchists. I don’t like the concept of publicly battling with people and the spectacle it creates. It’s a mistake I have made in the past, and when I look back at those statements they just look egotistical and immature. That said, I will for the first time explain what was going on and what led up to not only that statement but also baseless rumors that have followed me since. I will be careful not to name drop or call anyone out, a courtesy that was not afforded to me by the anarcho-rumor mill.
At the time of my arrest in Colorado in the summer of 2010, the second letter I ever received was from a local anarchist group. They talked about supporting me and were even interested in being my official support team. Furthermore they had their own print shop. I was happy to have their support and planned to write extensively with them as the publishers. A visit was arranged and one of the collective came to visit me at the county jail in Golden. I was told by this person that there were rumors that I was an informant. I was taken back by this and said that ‘I was the only person on my case and no other arrests had been made so who exactly am I informing on?’ This person agreed, and from that moment support was forthcoming, for a whole four weeks anyways.
I gave my new support team my email address and password so that they could get another picture of me besides the mugshot the media had. I began writing articles about Animal Liberation from an anarchist perspective. I was calling the collective about twice a week. And then abruptly it all came to a screeching halt. Nothing I wrote ever got published or sent back to me. No one accepted my calls. No more visits. A couple weeks later I received a letter from the collective about some so called visit from my email account to a ‘homophobic YouTube video’. I was told I need to explain myself, defend myself and do it quick because ‘anarchists everywhere are calling to drop support for you’.
Words cannot describe how I felt. First I didn’t know what homophobic video they were talking about, and I still don’t. Second the only people that could be turning ‘anarchists everywhere’ against me were the self same people that were my support team, as I was newly arrested and they were the only anarchists I was in contact with. And third, I was not the only person with availability to that email. For all I know the FBI could have been in my email account trying to gather information or spread disinformation; which would make good sense from their end of things. In any event I have never to this day seen the homophobic YouTube video that was allegedly watched in connection with my email account. I haven’t seen it because it does not exist.
I was really pissed off about this for a couple of years because these rumors not only hurt elements of my support but also my feelings. Very, very few people know what it’s like to be in the position I was: In jail, on the news, facing federal prison as a ‘domestic terrorist’ and all the while using this as a platform to discuss Animal Liberation through my writings while facing rumors and tear down tactics from ‘anarchists’! I mean there I was in jail for being an ALF operative and I was being questioned as if I was a Nazi fascist in jail for queer bashing!
When people that do know me tried to post comments to this collectives website stating that I am in fact openly bi-sexual they would not post them. I know this because friends printed me those defenses and mailed them to me in jail along with printouts of their webpage and blogs showing what they were posting, the only comments they would let stand were the ones against me.
So after my court case was finished in Colorado I wrote that statement about not Identifying as an anarchist. I wrote that at a time when Animal Rights activists were being very supportive and at the same time I was getting a lot of accusative mail from anarchists primarily from the united states. It’s one thing when you don’t get along with a group of people in person you just hang out with others. But when you’re in imprisoned and people from several different states critique and sometimes ridicule you in letters there is a feeling of totality to it. So I thought, fine I will cut my losses with the anarchist community and stick with Animal Liberation and Straight Edge which is not hostile to me.
It must also be said that many anarchists such as yourself and the international anarchist community have unfailingly showed true support and solidarity since day one. Two things that have a profound effect on decision making is a lack of information and emotional distress. I have had my share of both since my arrest. But these days find me much more grounded and less erratic. Due in large part to being done with court and in the routine of my current surroundings. I am an anarchist, this has always been a foundation of who I am. Before I was the ALF lone wolf, before I was Straight Edge, before I was Vegan. I was an anarchist. I don’t have to drop one thing to become another. I am all this and more.
PE: – What would you say to people that have characterized you as ‘single issue’?
WALTER: Calling me or the ALF or the Animal Rights movement a ‘single issue’ cause is a little verbal slur that otherwise thinking and activist oriented people like to use on Vegans. Seriously, anyone that has read my book or the statements that I have been making from prison for years knows that I am concerned with more than one issue and I always have been.
But more importantly why the single issue snub when it comes to Animal Liberation?
I have personal met gay rights activists that act like the only thing wrong on the planet is that gay marriage isn’t recognized legally. I have never heard anyone tell them that their cause is less valid because it is a ‘single issue’. Factually it is incorrect to typecast Veganism or Animal Liberation in this way. A.R. issues have to do with several different species of life and often tie in with environmental concerns. Nearly every other Liberation struggle is only concerned with a fragment of one species, humans!
To those people that equate me or Veganism to being a one hit wonder, I would challenge back: Fine then tell me exactly what you are doing to liberate all life, everywhere! The fact is Total Liberation is the connecting of many different issues and tactics, and Animal and Earth Lib are a big part of that. One need not give up movement autonomy to be valid under the umbrella of Total Lib. I am an Animal person. I love Animals! I am a Vegan activist. These are clearly compassionate and selfless pursuits.
of course not every group or individual is going to click but slighting the A.R. community as if we are going a different direction than Total Lib is messed up! We can point that finger anywhere. I know plenty of anarchists that think that anarchism is strictly a political ideology, or theoretical idea. Or what about independence struggles like my own Puerto Rican peoples struggle for independence from los Estatos Unidos? They are definitely very concerned with their own movement autonomy and the single issue of independence. People will always say whatever they feel and that is great but remember this, it’s harder to build others up than to tear them down.
Thank you Comrade for this interview. I really wanted to have the opportunity engage in a question and answer session that not only brought these critiques out into the open but one that also allowed me to lay it all on the table with nothing held back. And now my friend……I rest my case…. Take care and I will do the same.
Total Liberation, Whatever It May Take!
500 animals per day die in the labs of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), one of the largest contract testing companies in the world. Beagles, primates, rabbits, mice, rats, cats and other species are burned, cut open, or injected with poisons all while alive to ensure products like Viagra and diet pills will make it to the shelves of stores around the world; as well as GMO crops, pesticides, fertilizers and house hold cleaners. A small handful of dedicated activists started a campaign that nearly brought the giant to its knees as over 500 companies quit doing business with HLS, including their insurance company. Activists also managed to get HLS dropped from the New York Stock Exchange, eventually stopping their stocks from being publicly traded altogether.
Jake Conroy was one of the activists involved in Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign (SHAC) in the USA, helping to run the website, and lead demos. For this, Jake was sentenced to 4 years in jail.
PE: How did you get involved with animal activism, and more specially the SHAC campaign?
JAKE: I’ve always had strong feelings for the underdog throughout my life. It didn’t really occur to me until I was 19 that some of the biggest underdogs in the world were non-human animals. I had spent a long time thinking about the issues and reading books and pamphlets I picked up at hardcore/punk shows, and watching videos wherever I could find them (which actually was pretty hard to do in a pre-YouTube era). But I was somewhat on the fence about making that leap to get involved.
I was living in Seattle at the time, walking downtown to school, when I passed some folks protesting against the circus as they paraded the elephants for miles through the city. I passed them and didn’t say a word but it sat heavily in my mind that I should. So I turned around and walked back and asked what they were doing and who they were and how I could get in touch with them. They simply replied, “We’re in the Yellow Pages”. Sure enough, under Animal Rights, there was one listing – The Northwest Animal Rights Network. I called the number and listened to the info about the upcoming circus protests, and I went down that weekend by myself to join in.
The next 5 years I would participate in civil disobediences, run successful campaigns to close fur salons, help transform Seattle into one of the most animal-friendly cities in the country, and be arrested (with my current co-defendant Josh Harper) for engaging in the first whale hunt sabotage in US coastal waters by piloting a boat between whales and hunters.
In 2001 I had been working locally on the anti-HLS campaign in the Seattle area, when I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to move out east for a few months to help start the office for this group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA. I had nothing else to do, so I packed up my belongings, put them in storage, and headed out to Philadelphia. I became so excited and inspired by our first 3 months that I never went back. I would spend the next 5 years helping run one of the most exciting campaigns of my life.
PE: What can people learn from SHAC, and from the repression you faced?
JAKE:I think the most important thing people can learn is that their activism needs to be strategic, smart, and creative, while being thoughtful, careful, and calculated. We shouldn’t rush in head first because that’s the way it’s always been done; rather prepare for all outcomes, be ready to accept them, and not fear them. We need to realize that we are under a microscope, so our actions need to be significant and have a focus on duration and long term strategy.
PE: What do you think made SHAC so successful?
JAKE: Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, once said that in order to be successful you have to capture the imagination of the people, and the anti-Huntingdon Life Sciences campaign and SHAC USA did just that. It began in North America at a time when national welfare organizations started to dangle paychecks in front of grassroots organizers, when they began shifting the debate away from liberation to welfarism, and when they made you feel like you were doing your part by voting every couple of years and sending in your donations to cover their expanding paychecks. They were disenfranchising the animal rights movement and getting folks to fall into line. But deep inside, we all wanted more.
SHAC USA sprang into action quickly and furiously. It said loudly and proudly that we weren’t going to sit back and accept bigger cages, and we were going to hold everyone and anyone accountable for their actions and support of animal cruelty, no matter when or where. We were happy to push the envelope and support radical ideas and tactics when others wouldn’t. We believed in people power, horizontal and autonomous organizing, and supporting and using every tool in the toolbox to enact change. Within months, we managed to gain victories as an all-volunteer organization of 4 where huge national organizations couldn’t. We captured the hearts and minds of activist communities and the general public, and we were off and running, bulldozing anyone that got in our way.
PE: SHAC centers on vivisection, specifically contract testing for consumer products like viagra and diet pills. Why focus on vivisection rather than fur, circuses, or the horrors of the pet industries, food/meat, or other areas of animal exploitation?
JAKE: There are so many atrocities perpetrated against the earth, and the animals, both human and non-human, that live on it. It’s very easy to fall into a pattern of trying to save the entire planet all at once. But we need to be strategic about our campaigns and smart about how we go about them. There had been a campaign against HLS since the late 80’s, with some amazing actions, but it just wasn’t getting the job done. But the late 90s saw a perfect storm of sorts in England. Activists had closed Consort Beagle Breeder, Hillgrove Cat Farm, Regal Rabbits and they were closing in on Shamrock Primate Farm and Newchurch Guinea Pig Farm. Energy was extremely high and victories were coming in swiftly. Meanwhile, Huntingdon had two undercover investigations released against them in the UK and the US, and it had almost bankrupt them. They were a huge target, teetering on the brink of foreclosure, and they needed a firm kick to push them over the edge. It would be a gamble, but it was part of a larger overall campaign strategy that was proving to be successful. HLS is the third largest contract research organization in the world and they were on the brink of being brought to their knees by grassroots activists. The time was just right.
PE: Do you still think that the SHAC Campaign can succeed at this point? What is the relevance of the campaign today?
JAKE: Martin Luther King Jr said that the arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice. And to add a footnote by Becky Tarbotton, “sometimes we don’t see it bend, sometimes it feels like it flattening out. And other times we can see that arc perceptively bending towards justice.” We didn’t close down Huntingdon Life Sciences according to our timeline, but I still believe the campaign can and will be successful. It’s suffered some major blows to it’s infrastructure, but like all good things, it keeps moving forward, it continues to bend towards justice. People are still active all over the world in the quest to shut it down for good and HLS is still financially hemorrhaging.
I think the relevance of the campaign is that it represents the tenacity, passion, and drive we as a global movement has to see justice served, no matter how long that might take. The tactics the SHAC campaign used were innovative and powerful, and they continue to be replicated by a broad spectrum of movements around the world to fight back. That alone is a testament to the relevance of the campaign and how successful it was and continues to be, regardless of the outcome of our explicit goals.
PE: How can activists today become more effective?
JAKE: Effectiveness and success is going to come by studying our collective histories, working hard and being creative today, while keeping long term future strategies in mind.
As activists today we have a unique opportunity to still talk to and learn from some of the greatest revolutionaries of decades past. These folks are still involved decades later and they want to sit with you, to have you learn from their mistakes, and understand their successes. We need to take advantage of these opportunities any chance we get before it’s too late.
We need to recognize that we are living in one of the most oppressive times to be an activist. Our targets wield more power than ever before and are getting away with using every tool in the toolbox to silence and imprison us. We need to take their lead and fight back in kind. We as activists need to realize that perhaps our old ways and tactics aren’t going to work anymore and we need to start thinking outside the box; to be more creative and look for other ways around the blockades before us in order to reach our desired goal.
Finally, we need to be smart. We can no longer rush in head down, into brick walls. We need to pick our heads up and look forward and see how we can strategically plan not just for this year but the next generation. We need to look deeper and with more thoughtfulness into how we are making change and how we can make it lasting.
PE: Are you still involved with animal activism now that you are out of prison?
JAKE: I’m involved with animal activism as much as I can be. I am currently finishing my third year of probation (out of 3), which puts restrictive conditions on you and your actions. Your whereabouts, employment status and financial records are all monitored by the federal government. I have a list of 30 or so rules, some very specific, some very broad, that I am required to live by. If I violate any of these rules, the probation office has the right to yank me off of probation and put me back in prison. So while they can be lax about certain things, getting in trouble doing animal activism is a sure way to end back in prison.
However, I still do as much animal activism, prisoner support, and outreach that I can. I am also employed by a non-profit environmental organization that uses non-violent direct action and pressure campaigns against global corporate targets to affect change. In a sense it’s much like SHAC, minus the radical aggressiveness that landed us in prison.
PE: If we truly want to be effective in our activism, it seems like in today’s atmosphere we should get prepared for the very real possibility of prison. Do you have any advice on how to prepare or was there anything that helped you get trough it?
JAKE: While I think activists today need to be very aware of the repression going on around the globe and learn how they can fight back, I wouldn’t say that prison is a very real possibility for a large majority of us. In the grand scheme of things, very few of us have actually been imprisoned for the amount of actions and campaigns that have been going on. Unfortunately, while the number of folks in prison right now is rising, it doesn’t mean that we all are going to end up there some day.
The SHAC7 case was a perfect example of that. Thousands of people in North America alone participated in the campaign in their own way and it came down to a half dozen of us in court. The odds are in your favor.
If you are in the small minority of people facing prison time, I would highly suggest turning to those who have been or are currently incarcerated, for advice and counsel. Prison is a place like no other; nothing can possibly compare to it. It’s a place filled with bizarre rules and expectations and nothing can really prepare you for it outside of the experience of others. I spent a lot of time leading up to my incarceration writing friends that were serving time as political prisoners, asking them every thing I could possibly think of. We would write tomes back and forth. But ultimately nothing can fully prepare you for the experience.
Ultimately, prison is a dark and lonely and depressing place. And one of the few things that can put a smile on an inmate’s face is a letter. It is what makes the experience survivable. So I would encourage everyone to look through the lists of political prisoners and find a couple that resonate with you, and write them. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy diatribe on your political beliefs (its better that it’s not), rather, write them about your day, the last back packing trip you took, the last meal you made. Send a photo or a postcard. Anything will brighten their day. Take the time to foster a relationship with them and help them get through their experience. What may seem like an insignificant 20 minutes to you writing a letter, it can be a total life saver when on the receiving end while in prison.
PE: How much dose having a terrorist enhancement effect your life? And how do you feel about being considered a terrorist in the eyes of the government?
JAKE: Just to be clear, none of the SHAC 7 received a terrorist enhancement during sentencing. We were, however, classified by the Bureau of Prisons as domestic terrorists. This meant that during our stay in prison and our time on probation (and I’m sure afterwards), that label followed us around wherever we went. In prison, for me, that meant all of my phone calls were monitored and recorded, all of my incoming and outgoing mail was opened, read, and photocopied if they desired, and my ability to have my friends come visit me was drastically reduced. It also meant that I was put onto a ‘high visibility inmate’ watch list inside of the prison. I was one of 10 to 15 inmates that the administration said posed the biggest security threat to the institution, in a population of around 1300 inmates incarcerated for murder, rape, bank robbery, high-level gang activity, etc..
PE: Could you please recap what the charges against you were, and what you were accused of doing?
JAKE: Kevin Kjonaas, Lauren Gazolla and I were found guilty of 6 charges based on our direct involvement and so-called “leadership” roles with SHAC USA. They were one count of conspiracy to violate the 1934 Telecommunications Harrassment Act, one count of conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (now called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), one count of conspiring to commit interstate stalking, and 3 counts of interstate stalking.
Essentially we were found guilty of running a webpage that advertised and editorialized events, actions, and strategy; that published write-ups of those events and actions after the fact (much like an online newspaper); that shared ideas, and supported the thinking of controversial ideologies. By doing all of this online, we crossed state lines to enter into a conspiracy with essentially anyone who had ever used the internet. By simply publishing and editorializing ideas and actions, we were encouraging anyone who accessed our webpage to go out and do the same things.
It was a far-fetched (yet successful) attempt at criminalizing controversial, yet legal, forms of demonstrations, supporting radical and controversial ideologies like non-violent direct action, and the sharing of ideas.
PE: Can you talk about the role music & subcultures can play in Animal Liberation and other activism?
JAKE: Subcultures and music has played a very influential role in grassroots and radical movements. The first time I was introduced to the idea of black power and the Black Panther Movement was after buying the album Fight The Power by Public Enemy when I was in junior high. As a white, suburban kid growing up in New England, those radical ideas didn’t make it into our classrooms. Soon after I would be introduced to hardcore and punk rock, which would open the doors to a do-it-yourself subculture, the straightedge philosophy, and veganism. Bands, ‘zines, and literature acquired at record stores and shows filled my imagination and passion with big ideas about grassroots organizing and direct action; the idea that we didn’t need large organizations and governments to enact the change we wanted to see in the world. That change was something we could bring about on our own and on our own terms. This idea wasn’t just mine – this self-empowerment and introduction to direct action through music communities was shared by 5 of the 6 individuals in the SHAC7 case, and direct action legends like Rod Coronado and Keith Mann. It introduced a whole generation of young people in the mid 90’s to veganism, activism, and direct action, that would eventually shape the entire animal rights movement.
A year has passed since the free Nyki poetry contest. The contest brought hundreds of poets together from across the globe in support of wrongfully convicted artist, poet, and community activist Nyki Kish.
Nyki is still in prison awaiting her appeal and as we wait each day to get her back, she strives for social change from behind prison walls. Art and community are tremendously important to Nyki, lets show her once again that they are important to us too. Submit up to three poems of any length and style before November 1st to firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.
Approximately 15 poems will be featured in bound for Glory Magazine, a Hamilton Ontario based arts and literary publication, as well they will be published in a contest anthology, which will include last years featured poems as well.
All authors whose poems are featured will receive a copy of bound for glory.
This years top three prizes include a one of a kind hand bound version of the anthology as well as a copy of Nyki’s own anthology.Again,
Submissions are to be sent to email@example.com
Deadline is November 1st, 2012
Previously published poetry accepted
While we reserve the one time privilege of publishing submitted work in both the magazine and poetry anthology, the author retains all ownership/copy-right over all that they contribute
All poems are considered by Nyki, names of the authors are removed prior to consideration, and while this contest’s coordinators cannot afford to award every contributor a prize, every poem is valuable and a winner in Nyki’s eyes (she even asked that we try to refrain from terms like ‘winners’).
Please do know that every poem serves to brighten Nyki’s day while she struggles through the dark day of prison to get her freedom back. http://www.freenyki.org/