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Earth Liberation Front

From Academic Kids

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a radical environmental movement. It is a loosely-knit organization that, according to the ELF, "uses direct action in the form of economic sabotage to stop the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment" [1] (http://www.earthliberationfront.com/library/elf_faq.pdf), mainly in the United States, Canada and England. To ELF activists and sympathizers, the ELF is an eco-defense group that is dedicated to taking the profit motive out of environmental destruction by targeting and causing economic damage to businesses through the use of direct action.

Opponents see the ELF as an eco-terrorist group that needs to be brought to justice. The FBI considers ELF actions to be "...special interest extremism...which seek to resolve specific issues, rather than affect widespread political change. Such extremists conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to the extremists’ causes." [2] (http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress04/lewis051804.htm)

Their techniques involve destruction of property that they believe is being used to injure animals or the environment. This vandalism, arson, and theft has been labeled ecotage by opponents.

According to news articles contemporary to the times, the "ORIGINAL" ELF [3] (http://www.originalelf.org/) Environmental Life Force was founded in Santa Cruz, California on March 16, 1977. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the first ELF action shot out several windows in US Senator Dianne Feinstein's home to demand the formation of a prisoner medical screening program at the San Francisco county jail after a diabetic inmate died while in custody. At the time, Ms. Feinstein was a San Francisco county supervisor. The second ELF action placed timed fire bombs on seven crop-duster aircraft at the Salinas, CA airport on May 1, 1977. ELF guerillas left a communique listing alternatives to the excessive use of pesticides. Print media reported on other armed actions in 1977 both in California and at the corporate headquarters of the now defunct Publishers Paper Company in Oregon City, Oregon. An article in the Oregonian said the Oregon City bombing was in retaliation for the intentional spraying of herbicides on several Rose Lodge, Oregon protesters that had chained themselves to trees owned by Publishers. The founder of the "ORIGINAL" ELF, John Hanna, was arrested at his Santa Cruz home on November 22, 1977 by the local SWAT team and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The "ORIGINAL" ELF disbanded in 1978. In 1979, Mr. Hanna was given a five year sentence in a San Jose, California federal court.

The re-establishment of the acronym ELF - for Earth Liberation Front, took place in 1992 in Brighton, England by radical members of the British environmental organization "Earth First!" who felt the organization was becoming too mainstream. It is unlikely that they were aware that a similar eco-guerilla group called ELF existed fifteen years earlier in the U.S. The first time a United States cell of the "NEW" ELF claimed an action was in 1996 at two McDonalds in Eugene, Oregon; the locks had been glued and spray painted in protest of capitalism.

The ELF has been classified as the number 1 domestic terrorist group by the FBI. [4] (http://prfamerica.org/EarthLiberationFrontNo1onFBIList.html) Supporters and sympathizers of the ELF deny that they are a terrorist group and publicly claim to disavow harming any living being. Opponents, however, consider it luck, more than anything, that no one has been killed by the ELF's arson. [5] (http://www.stopecoviolence.com/pdfs/2_12_02.pdf)

The current group's first claimed action was in 1997; followed in 1998 by an arson attack on the Vail Mountain ski resort in Vail, Colorado. Since then they have claimed responsibility for dozens of destructive actions [6] (http://www.earthliberationfront.com/about/)—32 in 2001 alone [7] (http://www.earthliberationfront.com/library/2001DirectActions.pdf)— resulting in "$50 million in damages."

On August 1, 2003 a 206-unit condominium being built in San Diego, California was burnt down causing damage in excess of $20 million. A 12 foot banner at the scene read "If you build it, we will burn it," signed, "The E.L.F.s are mad." [8] (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20030802-9999_1n2condos.html) — sympathizers often refer to themselves as "elfs".

On August 22, 2003 arsonists associated with the group attacked several car dealerships in east suburban Los Angeles, burning down a warehouse and vandalizing several cars. All told, several dozen cars were damaged or destroyed causing over a million dollars in damages, most of them SUVs or Hummers (which were probably targeted due to their lower than average fuel efficiency). [9] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34235-2003Aug22.html) On September 12, 2003, Federal agents arrested Pomona, California resident Joshua Thomas Connole in their investigation of this incident. [10] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6867-2003Sep13.html) Apparently, the FBI profiled Connole based on his anti-war protest activities. [11] (http://www.laweekly.com/ink/03/44/news-lewis.php) He was soon released due to lack of evidence. [12] (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-hummer18sep18001420,1,624211.story)

On April 19, 2005 William Jensen Cottrell, a Caltech graduate student, was convicted of firebombing sport utility vehicles and was sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.5 million. It is believed his two co-conspiritors have fled the United States. Though Cottrell, Johnson, and Coe spray painted "ELF" on some of the vandalized SUV's it is not clear if they had any connections to the organization. [13] (http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/magazine/la-tm-humvee15apr10,1,6253893.story)

On December 6, 2004 many homes in a suburb of Maryland near an 8.6 acre (35,000 m²) wetland were destroyed by arson. Since many environmentalists believed the housing development posed a danger to plant and insect species living in the wetland, many investigators and reporters were quick to blame the fires on the ELF. By December 17, however, investigators arrested a security guard who they suspected of being the perpetrator of the crime [14] (http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/12/16/homes.destroyed/).

See also

External links

de:Earth Liberation Front

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