Gandhi as Terrorist
In the not too distant past, when activists blocked driveways or staged sit-downs in federal offices, they were routinely arrested and charged with misdemeanors. Soon, however, as a result of H.R. 4239, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, they may be considered terrorists.
“Supporters say it is meant to stem illegal actions taken against controversial animal enterprises, or any company that does business with an animal enterprise. But the sweeping language in the bill goes much, much further,” notes Information Liberation. “AETA labels the tactics of Martin Luther King and Gandhi as ‘terrorism.’ It spells out penalties for ‘an offense involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise or a business having a connection to, or relationship with, an animal enterprise, that may result in loss of profits but does not result in bodily injury…’ In other words, a terrorism law includes nonviolent civil disobedience.”
AETA is a perfect cover for characterizing non-violent civil disobedience as terrorism. “Lawful and peaceful protests that, for example, urge a consumer boycott of a company that does not use humane procedures, could be the target of this provision if the activity resulted in economic damage to the company,” explains K9 Magazine. “The bill would also make it illegal to expose cruel conditions at facilities such as puppy mills and research labs, if exposure of such conditions even if done lawfully would result in economic damage to the animal enterprise. There is no exemption in the bill to exclude economic damage that results from the disclosure of information about a company’s treatment of animals, which is disclosed through public information.”
But it is not only the First Amendment rights of animal liberationists at stake. “The AETA will not only affect the animal protection movement, but it will affect all social causes and, without question, the media. Many journalists pride themselves on investigative pieces, but if the AETA gets passed, these important exposés will be classified as ‘terrorist acts.’ If they can do this to us, they can do this to anyone,” explains Chris DeRose, president of Last Chance for Animals.
Arresting and throwing in the hoosegow violent animal liberationists who burn down “puppy mills” is one thing. Criminalizing as terrorist those who engage in “nonviolent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise or a business having a connection to, or relationship with, an animal enterprise” is quite another. Once passed, the AETA will become the legal standard for all non-violent civil disobedience. Moreover, once non-violent activism is categorized as “terrorism,” we can expect activists to be disappeared under the so-called Military Commissions bill, soon to be signed into law by the unitary decider.
Imagine Mahatma Gandhi arrested for engaging in satyagraha—the philosophy and action of nonviolent resistance—and disappeared to a torture dungeon. Under AETA, coupled with Bush’s detainee bill, all of this will not only be possible, it is more than likely a done deal, considering the long and sordid track record of the state.
In 1930, Gandhi initiated the Salt March to Dandi in opposition to the British salt tax. The British did not arrest Gandhi because he did not incite others to follow him. However, under the AETA, Gandhi would be considered a terrorist because his activity resulted in a “loss of profits” for the British Raj.
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