Monday, March 2, 2009

Tucson, AZ: Anarchists Break Things

Vandals who claim to act in the name of animal rights and the environment are expanding their targets from laboratories and constructon sites that offend them to homes and cars of those with whom they disagree.

On Feb. 19 in Tucson, a UA researcher had her water valve cemented shut and a mining company employee had her car tires flattened and her windows etched with hateful sayings.

A press release posted on the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center site by a group calling itself "Tucson H.A.A.N.D." or "Hooligans Attack at Night, Duh," claimed responsibility for the acts.

It said UA Health Sciences researcher Katalin Gothard's water meter was turned off and cemented shut because of her research with monkeys and Kathy Arnold's car tire was slashed and her window etched because of her job with Augusta Resources Rosemont Copper Project. Augusta wants to open a 1.2-square-mile open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains.

The incidents were verified by police, one of the victims and a University of Arizona Health Sciences Center spokesman.

A post on a site called "Social Rupture" said the same group was responsible for a Jan. 15 vandalism attack that targeted Si Schorr, Tucson attorney and former chairman of the Arizona Transportation Board.
The post said Schorr was targeted because of his espousal of an Interstate 10 bypass route that environmentalists say would damage valuable habitat.
Vandals painted and etched expletive-laced slogans on the home's windows and garage doors. Schorr called the language "vile."

"They were hateful expressions directed at me in my capacity as a public official," he said.

Schorr said he expected opposition to his proposal to build a bypass route for Interstate 10 around Tucson. "The vigorous debate one had to anticipate," he said, "but it was almost always respectful."

The incidents are being investigated by several police agencies, including the Oro Valley and Tucson police departments, University of Arizona police and the FBI, which investigates cases of domestic terrorism.

In its press release, the Tucson H.A.A.N.D. group dedicated its most recent actions to four animal-rights activists recently arrested by the FBI for alleged attacks on animal researchers at the University of California.

Those four are being charged with using "force, violence, or threats to interfere with the operation of the University of California in violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act," a San Francisco FBI press release says.

A spokesman for that office said he had not heard about the Tucson vandalism but said illegal attacks often occur in bunches across the country.

"There is a huge spectrum of people who are involved in the cause of ensuring the rights of animals and protecting the environment and the vast majority of those people are conducting themselves within what the Constitution envisions and the law allows," said special agent Joe Schadler.

"There is a fringe crowd that delights in causing havoc and causing damage and causing fear in the course of either attempting to get policy and action changed or simply for the sake of being thugs," Schadler said.

Leaders of environmental groups opposed to the Rosemont Copper Mine and the Interstate-10 bypass said they condemned the attacks.

A spokesman for Chuk'shon Earth First, which held a protest against the Rosemont Copper Mine on the day of the latest attacks, said, "Those are tactics that Earth First doesn't engage in.

Gayle Hartmann, president of a group trying to prevent the mine from being built on U.S. Forest Service land in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, said such actions do nothing to help her cause.

"We've made a special point to make sure the huge amount of public opposition to the mine is respectfully resolved," Hartman said.

Her group, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, is working with other groups and Arizona's congressional delegation to stop the mine's construction.
Kathy Arnold, who is director of environmental and regulatory affairs for Rosemont Copper, said she did not understand why she was targeted.
"It's an irrational thing to do. I go to work each day and I'm thankful to have a job and to work for a good company."

University of Arizona police referred questions about the attack on the researcher's house to Arizona Health Sciences Center spokesman George Humphrey. Humphrey said all he knew was what he read on the Web site.
"This sad example of malicious vandalism and intimidation is absolutely unacceptable and should be repugnant to everyone. This dangerous and unlawful behavior clearly threatens our scientists and their families as well as the safety of our community," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said he could not recall similar acts directed against researchers. "They've done protests in front of the Health Sciences, that's been it, as far as I know."

Schadler, the San Francisco FBI agent, said researchers' homes have been firebombed in California by "that fringe group of people that has decided to completely ignore the law and engage in terrorism in the truest sense of the word."

"In a country that has so many options to make one's voice heard or to alter policy both legally and in the realm of civil disobedience, it is unconscionable for these people to be engaging in violent acts to change policy," Schadler said.

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