Struggles for Justice: late 1980’s to late 90’s
The following photos were taken by Orin Langelle.
Struggles included below are separated by subheadings, while captions explain the photos more in depth. They are mostly in chronological order, but the struggles themselves take precedence over a straight time-line.
These are photographic examples of the many campaigns and issues in which Langelle was fortunate enough to be involved.
As Leslie Marmon Silko says in her book Ceremony, “…as long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together.”
Stopping Dolphins from being caught in tuna nets
Banner drop on three-story building where Ralston Purina shareholders were meeting in St. Louis, MO. Ralston at that time owned Chicken of the Sea tuna, and their boats were killing thousands of dolphins caught in their tuna fishing nets. The building was free-climbed by the activist above, using no ropes. (1988)
Spurred by actions such as the above banner drop, environmentalists launched a nationwide consumer boycott of the three major tuna processors in the US: Heinz’ StarKist Tuna, Ralston Purina’s Chicken of the Sea and Pillsbury’s Bumble Bee Tuna. Together, these three companies controlled 70% of US tuna market. In 1990, after two years of concerted efforts by environmental groups, all three tuna processors agreed voluntarily to accept only “dolphin-safe” tuna, meaning tuna that was not caught by purse seine fishing or drift nets.
The Ocean Conservatory reports: “In 1990, Congress enacted the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (DPCIA), which established criteria for labeling canned tuna products as “dolphin safe.” To carry the label, tuna caught in the Eastern Tropical Pacific must have been caught on a trip during which no dolphins were encircled…Dolphin encirclement continues in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, but gear innovations, altered fishing methods, and international education efforts have reduced dolphin mortality in encirclement dramatically, by as much as 99 percent.”
Early Earth First!
EF! formed in 1980 as a no compromise movement for the protection of wilderness. Edward Abbey’s 1975 book, The Monkey Wrench Gang, was an inspiration for EF!’s formation. Another influence in the shaping of EF! was the philosophy of Deep Ecology. As the movement grew so did different factions and other political ideas within its ranks.
This was his last appearance at an EF! annual gathering.
Many of the EF! “old guard” placed the onus of the destruction of the planet on humans, without acknowledging the root causes of the destruction–such as dominant political and economic systems. Newer activists who were drawn to Earth First! challenged that misanthropism. However, they were drawn to Earth First! because of EF!’s “no compromise” position and use of direct action, but these activists brought a social awareness into the movement they felt needed to be incorporated into the EF! structure. Debates ensued over strategy, tactics and political philosophies such as anarchism. These debates caused some of the old-time EF!ers to leave the movement.
Earth First! tribal dance declaring war on the U.S. at the NM Rendezvous. (1989)
Earth First!: The Next Generation
Judi Bari, center, walks on a Pacific Ocean beach in California two years after a pipe bomb exploded under the seat of her car in May 1990. Although the bomb was intended to kill her, and did severely maim her, the FBI immediately arrested her while in the hospital. They never looked for the real bomber. Bari maintained she was targeted due to her success in bringing environmentalists and workers together to stop the logging of the ancient redwoods in northern California. This intimidated the timber industry, especially when she was one of the lead organizers of Redwood Summer. Judi died of breast cancer in 1996, but her estate sued the FBI over their handling of the bombing, resulting in a $4 million settlement.
Organized in 1990, Redwood Summer, nicknamed “Mississippi summer in the California redwoods” brought together environmentalists from all over the country to defend old-growth redwood trees from logging by northern California timber companies. Headwaters Forest Reserve near Eureka, California is the largest area of old-growth forest protected as a result of the Redwood Summer protests.
Bari was one of the people who challenged the old guard of EF!
Earth First! and the Industrial Workers of the World ( IWW) join autoworkers in a Fenton, MO protest against Chrysler. (1989)
Stopping a Three-Mile Island nuclear waste train
This train derailed in Times Beach, MO two weeks before depleted uranium from Three Mile Island was scheduled to pass on those tracks. EF! staged a protest during a fundraiser for then MO Senator John C. Danforth. Due to the action Danforth stopped the shipment. (1988)
Protecting a St. Louis green belt area
Big River Earth First!ers, calling themselves the “New James Gang” hung this banner next to I-44 outside of St. Louis, MO in 1989. “Forest 44” was the largest green area outside a major metropolitan city west of the Mississippi River and was scheduled for industrial and residential development. Forest 44, due to public outcry, still remains intact as the developers were kept out.
Timber wars in Illinois
In the late 1980’s, Earth First! activists from Illinois and Missouri blockaded two entrances of an Illinois State Forest where active logging was taking place.
The EF! action made headlines in print, radio and television throughout the state and the public was outraged that their state forests were being logged.
Due to the public outcry spurred by the blockade, the logging was stopped. To this day, no trees cut in Illinois State Forests.
Earth First!ers (and Ronald Reagan) blockade the Fairview Timber Sale area in the Shawnee National Forest in southern IL by burying themselves up to their necks.
EF! occupied the timbers sale area for 79 days – at that time the longest EF! occupation in EF! history. The area slated to be cut was rich in biodiversity, a haven for songbirds and loved by the many locals who went there to watch the birds, camp or enjoy nature.
The major daily newspaper in Springfield, IL, the state’s capital, called the Earth First! occupation “a popular uprising.” (1990)
The Forest Service was chased away from the Shawnee in this scene. By the time this photo was taken, the occupiers had three tree platforms for sitters perched high in the hardwoods. (1990)
Woman with monkey wrench on top of buried car in blockade of Fairview timber sale in the Shawnee. The car blocked the entrance to the Shawnee National Forest during the EF! occupation. The blockade was a replica of a photo taken during the then-ongoing “Oka Crisis.” According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “The Oka Crisis was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, police, and army. At the heart of the crisis was the proposed expansion of a golf course and development of condominiums on disputed land that included a Mohawk burial ground. Tensions were high, particularly after the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, a police officer, and the situation was only resolved after the army was called in. While the golf course expansion was cancelled, and the land purchased by the federal government, it has not yet been transferred to the Kanesatake community.”
EF!ers in the Shawnee publicly stood in solidarity with the Mohawks and also with Redwood Summer. And earlier that year, EF! Redwood Summer organizer Judi Bari was almost murdered when a pipe bomb exploded in her car. (1990)
U.S. Forest Service uses blowtorch to cut kryptonite lock attaching a Shawnee defender to a piece of logging equipment (under the silver shield). The EF!er, who turned thirty years old that day and was wanted by the Forest Service for entering a closure area illegally, turned himself in by locking his neck to a logging skidder. The Forest Service responded by putting an aluminum shield around his head and cutting off the lock with an acetylene torch while he sang, “God Bless America.” (1990)
Earth First! and Mud People expose Monsanto’s Earth Day takeover
Earth First! and “Mud People” present a check to the 1990 Earth Day Committee in St. Louis, MO. Monsanto was the main sponsor of the event.
The action was the feature evening news story on the St. Louis NBC affiliate with a reporter attempting to interview a mud person. An Earth First! “translator” fielded the reporter’s questions in English and then translated to the mud person in mud language; the mud person responded in mud language and then the Earth! First! translator gave the answer to the reporter.
Protester protesting mud person protester at the 1990 Earth Day in St. Louis.
Indigenous Sovereignty issues and solidarity
Abenaki Chief Homer St. Francis (right), points finger at the judge who presided over court cases against Abenaki for their refusal to recognize the state of Vermont or the U.S. The judge told St. Francis that he was out of order and the chief replied, “No judge, you’re out of order.” (1991)
The Abenaki never ceded their land to any state or federal government. The Abenaki issued their own license plates, fishing and hunting permits, and demanded all Abenaki land be returned to the Abenaki. Many were arrested numerous times for their actions.
Burlington, VT protest on 12 October 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ invasion of the Americas.
Just prior to this day, the VT Supreme Court issued a ruling that all Abenaki claims had been “extinguished due to the increasing weight of history.” Protesters went to the VT Supreme Court and used sandbags to blockade the judges in their chamber stating, “This is the increasing weight of our resistance.”
Street scene in Burlington, VT on 12 October 1992.
Police prepare to use nunchucks on EF! protester blockading the major bridge between Burlington and Winooski, VT on 12 October 1992.
Climber on crane protests construction of a dam on the Winooski River, in Vermont in solidarity with the Abenaki. (1992) Winooski is the Abenaki word for “onion.” The Abenaki were going through intense legal trials in VT for their refusal to recognize the state of VT or the U.S. The Abenaki never ceded their land to the state or federal government.
James Bay – Indigenous Peoples vs. Hydro-Quebec
Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle spent a month on a documentary and fact-finding trip to the James and Hudson Bay regions of Northern Quebec, Canada. They found out first-hand from the people who were involved in the day-to-day struggle against the multinational Hydro-Quebec exactly what the current situation was, both with the people who were already impacted by the nearly completed La Grande (Phase 1) Project and also with the people fighting to stop Phase II, the Great Whale Project.
The following photographs in this series are part of that documentation.
Scene north of James Bay, on Hudson Bay, Cree Territory. (1993)
Cree trapper’s tent in Whapmagoostui, Cree Territory, near the Great Whale River. (1993)
Hydro-Quebec’s La Grande project dam that flooded thousands of hectares on Cree land, displacing all Cree in that area. (1993) An untimely water release from this dam drowned 10,000 migrating caribou.
Cree elder woman, Whapmagoostui. (1993)
Cree car in Chisasiibi, Quebec. (1993)
Cree elder women listen to presenter in Whapmagoostui at the first gathering of Cree, Innu and Inuit assembled to discuss the James Bay Project. (1993)
Cree Helen Atkinson stated, “Cree culture has a lot to offer in the area of nature, which is something very much needed in the world. In western society, everything is segregated. That is what is ruining the world. People have to think more holistically about their actions. Everything comes down to ‘how much money can I make from this.’ Until this changes, all this talk of environmental protection is bullshit.”
Stream runs free in Cree territory. (1993)
Cree Robbie Dick stated, “The importance of saving the environment is as important as saving one’s life. The land is our life.”
Activists at the Quebec Government Office (Consulate) in London, England. The Native Forest Network called for an International Day of Action on Hydro- Quebec’s 50th anniversary. There were over eighteen protests in six countries. After many years of First Nations’ intense resistance, and shortly after the global day of action, Hydro-Quebec put the Great Whale Project “on ice” indefinitely. (1994)
Orin Langelle toured England and Scotland with a slideshow depicting the situation in the James and Hudson Bay regions in the beginning of 1994 prior to HQ’s 50th anniversary.
The Zapatista Uprising
The Zapatistas condemned NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) as “a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico” due to many of its unjust provisions, but especially that which eliminated Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.
Article 27, which guaranteed the rights to communal ejido lands in Mexico, was an outcome of the revolution led by Emilano Zapata – after whom the Zapatistas took their name – in the early part of the 20th century.
But in order for NAFTA – the free trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico – to be passed, Article 27 had to be eliminated. Its eradication was accomplished by Edward Krobacker, the Forestry Division Vice President and later CEO of International Paper. He intervened due to the fact that most of Mexico’s forests were on ejido lands, meaning they could not easily be obtained or controlled by multinational corporations such as IP.
According to anthropologist Dr. Ronald Nigh:
In June of 1995, the [Mexican] government received a letter from Edward Krobacker, of International Paper… establishing a series of conditions, some requiring changes in Mexico’s forestry law, to “create a more secure legal framework” for IP’s investment. According to La Jornada, all of Krobacker’s (original) demands were agreed to and new forestry legislation has been prepared. Upon returning from a Wall Street meeting with Henry Kissinger and other top financial celebrities, [ex-Mexico President] Zedillo announced the rejection of proposed legislation that would have implemented the Zapatista accords. Instead he presented a counterproposal, designed to be unacceptable, which the Zapatistas rejected. Shortly thereafter, Environmental Minister Carabias announced a large World Bank loan for “forestry,” i.e. commercial plantations.
Comandante in La Realidad, Chiapas, Mexico—headquarters for the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee, General Command of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation). (Rebel territory, Mexico 1996)
Nicaragua – Bosawas
Indigenous Mayangna traveling by panga (dugout canoe) on the Rio Pis Pis in Nicaragua’s Bosawas Reserve (1998)
Nicaragua’s east coast featured the largest intact ancient tropical rainforest ecosystem north of the Amazon Basin. SOLCARSA (a Korean multinational) began illegally cutting in the Bosawas on Indigenous Peoples territory in 1997.
Man from the community of new Fenicia explains what a SOLCARSA plywood installation has done to his village. Fenicia was forcibly relocated to make room for the installation. (1998)
Due to internal and international pressure, SOLCARSA was forced to shut down. At that time over 186,000 sq. kilometers of original forest were saved. Unfortunately illegal logging continues in the Bosawas and the reserve is being depleted of its biodiversity, threatening the lifestyles of forest dwelling peoples.
Road Wars in England
Exploring 20th Century London states: “One of Britain’s largest and longest anti-road building protests took place in East London during the 1980s and 90s. It came to a climax in 1993 when, after exhausting all other avenues, the campaign turned to direct action.
“The protest concerned the demolition of 400 houses in Leyton, Leytonstone and Wanstead to make way for an inner-city motorway. The new road was to link the M11, opened in the early 1970s, to London’s road network. This meant pushing the road through the Victorian terrace streets between Hackney marshes and Redbridge roundabout.
“The first Link Road Action Group was formed in 1976. For the next 15 years, the residents fought government plans through public enquiries. The residents’ solution was to build a road tunnel, leaving the houses untouched. By the 1980s, planning blight had affected the area and many of the houses had become home to a community of artists and squatters. Some were tenants of the housing co-operative ACME, which let derelict East End property to artists on short leases.
“Construction of the road began in the early 1990s, followed in 1993 by the start of a direct action campaign to resist the final evictions. Residents transformed the Victorian terraces into a makeshift walled city, blocking up the entrances and creating new interior routes between the houses and over the rooftops. The streets became a daily battle of wills between the bailiffs, trying to evict people, and the inventive residents.”
“The presence of so many artists created a visual protest. The houses themselves were turned into artworks, vividly decorated with slogans and banners.
“…The protestors’ last bastion was Claremont Road, where the final evictions took place in December 1994. By this time, the protest had become an international news story and the world’s press and media witnessed the occasion.”
Dolly Watson, a 92-year-old woman, in front of her home on Claremont Road, East London. (1994)
Dolly was born there, survived two wars, and lived there all of her life. Her home was scheduled to be demolished for the motorway. She vowed to stay to the end.
The Department of Transport came to evict her from her lifelong home. After a bitter struggle she was taken away to the hospital and placed in an old people’s home that she hated. She passed away soon after. She was affectionately called “Dolly: Queen of the Street” by the anti-road protesters. Watson said of the protesters, “they’re not dirty hippy squatters, they’re the grandchildren I never had…”
The road was eventually built as planned, and opened to traffic in 1999, but the increased costs involved in management and policing of protesters raised the profile of such campaigns in the United Kingdom, and contributed to several road schemes being cancelled. Those involved in the protest moved on to oppose other schemes in the country, while opinions of the road as built have since been mixed.
Stopping Forestry Commission Tasmania for a day
The First International Temperate Forest Conference took place in Tasmania around the time the photo was taken. The conference led to the formation of the Native Forest Network.
Office workers inside of the building fled and the entire Forestry Commission Tasmania was taken over by the demonstrators.
After stopping all work that day many of the protesters retired to a local working class pub. When the evening news came on, workers in the pub were upset about the protests and tensions began to flare. One of the protesters stood up from his bar stool and began singing the famous Industrial Workers of the World song, “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.” The workers knew the song, tensions abated and the workers bought the protesters many rounds of beer as it was evident the protesters were not against workers, but against the exploitation of the workers and the timber industry itself.
Resistance in the northeastern United States
Paper mill in Rumford, ME.
Langelle moved to Burlington, Vermont in the fall of 1991 and immediately became embroiled in ecological issues and Indigenous Rights struggles in the northeastern U.S. Some of those topics are covered in above subheadings.
Earth First!ers s prepare “Champ”, the beloved Lake Champlain sea monster, for a funeral procession, claiming International Paper Company killed it with their discharges of dioxin into Lake Champlain. (1991)
The protest received widespread media coverage in VT and upstate NY. International Paper countered by issuing a press release blaming EF! for causing a “spill” of over 200,000 gallons of untreated wastewater contaminated by dioxin the next day. EF! spokespeople explained to the media that EF! attempts to stop environmental catastrophes, not cause them.
At a NY state environmental hearing to see if IP would be allowed to continue their present operations, IP introduced a man in a “Champ” suit, proclaiming “Champ Lives.” IP was allowed to continue business as usual.
On top of a tripod during a Forest Activist Training Week in northeast VT. (1998)
The Forest Activist Training Weeks lasted many years and hundreds of activists were trained in non-violent direct action, including blockading, banner making, climbing, tree-sitting, and tripod construction (above).
EF!er locks down on R & J Chipping Enterprise’s wood chipping machine at the Maine – New Hampshire border after a Forest Activist Training Week in VT. Another protester offers support. (1997)
The protester unlocked himself after being threatened by employees who offered to remove the lock “with a sledgehammer.” The entire chip mill was shut down for the day, however.
This photo was picked up by the Associated Press and was on page 3 in USA Today, one of the many of the major corporate media outlets that rarely covered protests to protect the environment.
Father’s Day Action at the Maine – New Hampshire border where the office of the chip mill was located. Father on left, son right. (1997)
This activist was arrested for handing out fliers that urged the public to write their senators and congressmen about the Kearsarge North Timber sale in the White Mountain National Forest of NH. The arrest occurred in North Conway, NH, after a Northeast EF! Regional Rendezvous.
Cassini is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. The Cassini rocket is powered by 72 pounds of plutonium — the most ever rocketed into space. Protesters pointed out that if the rocket exploded on takeoff, or crashed into the Earth, it could permanently irradiate the planet.
Eleven people were arrested in Burlington, Vermont when they protested the Cassini launch by carrying 72 lbs. of cow manure into the office of U.S. Senator James Jeffords, a Republican. The protesters chained themselves by the neck to his desk with bike locks. The Burlington Fire Department had to cut the desk apart to remove the demonstrators. There were demonstrations across the U.S. including at Cape Canaveral, the launch site.
In support of Mumia Abu-Jamal
National Governors’ Association conference in Burlington, VT. People were protesting the Contract on America and the potential execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award-winning journalist and political prisoner. Militant protests spanned five days. (1995)
National Governors’ Association conference in Burlington, VT. Then PA governor, Thomas Ridge, ordered Jamal to be executed.
Graffiti at National Governors’ Association conference in Burlington, VT. The graffiti was spray-painted all over the Ethan Allen homestead garage where the Governors were to arrive by bus for breakfast. Then-Governor and former presidential candidate, Howard Dean, called the militant protests an embarrassment to the state. Anarchists took this as a tremendous compliment. One of the protesters commented, “We not only rained on their parade, we pissed on it.”
Arrests while attempting to block President Clinton’s motorcade at National Governors’ Association conference in Burlington, VT.
Stopping herbicide spraying in Vermont
Anti-herbicide spraying protest at the VT state capitol in Montpelier. Leading the march is Marsha Burnett, activist and one of the longest survivors of HIV-AIDS at that time. (1995)
In August of 1995, VT’s Department of Agriculture granted a permit to Boise Cascade paper company to aerially spray applications of the herbicide “RoundUp” on their forestland. Champion International, then the largest landholder in VT, also wanted to spray the herbicide. RoundUp is manufactured by Monsanto.
The Eastern North American office of the Native Forest Network stated that chemical warfare was declare on VT forests.
Abenaki testifies against herbicide spraying in VT.
Public forums were held throughout the state. The overwhelming majority of people were against the spraying. At one point, angry protesters disrupted the full body of the Forest Resources Advisory Council (FRAC). FRAC was appointed by Governor Howard Dean to make a recommendation on the spray or no spray decision.
Monsanto PR man at herbicide spraying public forum. (1996)
During the public forums industry consistently said the herbicide was less harmful to humans than salt, coffee, or aspirins. They had clearly never read the warning label.
After a long struggle that included direct action and organizing the public, Vermont was forced to declare a moratorium on the spraying. It became a de facto ban and Champion International and Boise Cascade sold their VT holdings and left the state.
After an Earth First! northeast regional rendezvous, EF!ers stormed the dedication of the Stafford Center, the University of Vermont’s new biotechnology building. The “luminaries” who were outside dedicating the center were chased inside another building where the dedication took place, much to the chagrin of the so-called experts.
The University of Vermont has a dark past when it comes to association with people trying to manipulate genetics.
From The New Atlantis:
Henry F. Perkins, a zoology professor at the University of Vermont and sometime-president of the American Eugenics Society, was head of his state’s efforts to “improve” the population, overseeing a major genealogical study begun in 1927. In conjunction with various aid societies and social work groups, Perkins masterminded the Eugenics Survey, a project seeking to ferret out Vermont families of medical or social concern and recommend them for sterilization…
The Nazis’ debt to a great body of American eugenics theory is well known, and was only embarrassing to the Americans after the fact. Psychologist Henry Herbert Goddard prophesied as much in an eerie 1934 letter to H. F. Perkins:
We have carried on for several years and what have we accomplished? It was good fun as long as we could afford it, but now it is a different matter. If Hitler succeeds in his wholesale sterilization, it will be a demonstration that will carry eugenics farther than a hundred Eugenics Societies could. If he makes a fiasco of it, it will set the movement back where a hundred eugenic societies can never resurrect it.
Emerging Issue: Climate Change
In Nicaragua, this tree was uprooted and stuck upside down in the debris when the crater lake in the Las Casitas volcano collapsed during Hurricane Mitch and a major mudslide ensued. The land affected by the mudslide resembled a desert. (1999)
The main drivers of Hurricane Mitch’s devastating impacts were deforestation and Climate Change. Climate change strengthened the Hurricane and heavy rains caused massive flooding. This inundation, combined with deforestation around the crater lake in the Las Casitas volcano caused it to collapse. The crater of Las Casitas volcano collapsed at 11 am on Friday, October 30, 1998, causing a mudslide that swept down the side of the volcano obliterating all in its path. Over 2500 people in small villages were killed at the onset and upwards of 3000 people died in total.
At the refugee camp in Posoltega: Johana Medín and her baby boy were swept away in the torrent of the mudslide of the Las Casitas volcano during Hurricane Mitch. For over 2 kilometers she held on to her baby and saved his life. Other survivors were not so lucky. Some were stuck in the mud for up to six days and had to have their limbs amputated. Others swallowed stomachs full of the mudslide and became gravely ill. There were over 5000 refugees. (1999)
Welcome to the new normal.
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