2.Protesters file lawsuit over 2003 incidents
3.Free Thailand's papaya activists
It's not exactly hard to spot the pattern.
Students at a British university peacefully protest against a "corporate venturing" conference on campus involving, amongst others, Lord Sainsbury, GM firm Dupont, arms manufacturer BAE Systems and Shell, the oil giant responsible for environmental devastation in the Niger delta. 5 months later the protesters suddenly find themselves facing charges of aggravated trespass and a possible jail sentence. (item 1)
In Denmark Greenpeace protesters go into a company building to hang up a banner protesting against genetically-modified crops and eight months later find the organisation is to be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.
In May 2003, protesters in St Louis who had come to demonstrate at the Monsanto-backed World Agricultural Forum (WAF) taking place in the city, found themselves arrested and held for hours before they could even make their protest. They're now bringing a legal case against the mayor and police chief for conspiring to stifle their protests. (item 2)
In Thailand GM protesters find themselves facing 5 years of prison for exposing an environmental crime involving illegal contamination of innocent
farmers' papaya crops. (item 3)
Among these attempts to silence protest what's happened at Lancaster University (item 1) is possibly the most depressing. The criminal charges could only have been brought against the protesters at the request of their university. As one of the students has commented, "[the University] has a duty to allow and even facilitate the expression of views opposing unethical companies and the university's involvement with them. It is wrong, and in the long term counterproductive, for an academic institution to ignore such concerns, let alone to prosecute those who raise them."
For more information on the Lancaster 6 and how to protest:
To protest what's happening in Thailand:
Private Eye 1132 (13 May-26 May 2005)
It seems the University of Wales isn't alone in heavy handedly employing Inspector Knacker to stifle free speech (see Eye 1130) as our supposed refuges of academic freedom are forced to cosy up to big business for funding.
Six students from Lancaster University are facing charges of aggravated trespass for taking part in in a demonstration on their own campus. They were protesting against a "corporate venturing" conference organised by the university, which had speakers from BAE Systems and Shell and other companies which the students felt had records of environmental or human rights abuses.
After demonstrating outside the George Fox building, they took their protest inside the lecture theatre until they were removed by university security staff. They then continued their peaceful protest outside.
The students maintain that when police were called, officers told them at the time that they were not committing any offence. But last month - five months after the protest and to the students' utter disbelief - they received summonses to appear in court in September for alleged aggravated trespass, charges that can only have been instigated by the university.
Local Green Councillors have written to Lancaster's vice-chancellor, Prof Paul Wellings, urging him to drop the case and asking him what he thinks education is for if not to encourage people to express opinions.
So far there is no sign Lancaster is relenting. The students' only hope is that magistrates at least recognise what a waste of taxpayers' money it is to try to stifle debate and protest through the police and courts.
2.Protesters file lawsuit over 2003 incidents
By Peter Shinkle
St Louis Post-Dispatch
Activists arrested in 2003 have filed a federal lawsuit claiming St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Joe Mokwa conspired to stifle their plans to protest at that year's World Agriculture Forum.
The 24 plaintiffs claim that their arrests on May 16, 2003, on charges that included occupying a condemned building, were intended to prevent them from exercising their rights.
Nine of the activists were arrested while riding bicycles through Tower Grove Park, allegedly for violating a bicycle ordinance that had been repealed two years earlier, the suit says.
One of the plaintiffs was walking along a street when he was picked up by police, who then drove around the city holding him in the back of a patrol car for as long as five hours, and all charges were later dropped, according to the suit. Attorneys working with the American Civil Liberties Union filed the case Friday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
The suit seeks $2,000 in damages for each plaintiff, attorney's fees and an order by a federal judge blocking the police from using "pre-textual" arrests in the future.
Mayor Slay and Chief Mokwa declined to comment, they said through spokesmen who said they had not yet seen the suit.
In May 2003, police officials became concerned that protests of the agricultural conference would take a violent turn, as had happened at a similar event in Seattle in 1999.
Some of the activists had come to St. Louis from across the country to protest at the conference, which had been criticized for supporting genetically modified foods.
Denise Lieberman, the ACLU legal director for eastern Missouri, said her organization's clients had no plans to engage in any violent conduct. Police could have obtained search warrants if they had evidence of criminal conduct, but they obtained no such warrants, she said.
Instead, the police carried out a series of "pre-textual" arrests, including one in which a housing inspector arrived with numerous police officers at a house at 3309 Illinois Avenue, where protesters were gathering, the suit says.
Fourteen of the plaintiffs were among those arrested at the house and charged with occupying a condemned building. They spent 20 hours in jail, the suit says. Police noted that some ofthe defendants were "anarchists," even though they did not offer that description of themselves, the suit says.
Lieberman said the police seized address books, diaries, photo albums and other items that had nothing to do with the alleged housing code violation.
She said the arrests caused many of the people at the house to miss the planned protest, and the arrests had a "chilling effect" that caused others to stay away from the protest.
The mayor and police chief conspired to stifle their protests by having them arrested.
What they want:
$2,000 each plus attorney's fees, and an order blocking police from using "pre-textual" arrests.
Reporter Peter Shinkle:
3.Free Thailand's papaya activists
29 Apr 2005
Exposing an environmental crime and calling for the destruction of GE cropshas become a criminal offence. If the charges against these two activists are held up in a court of law, its open season on all kinds of activists (If it wasn't already!)
Bangkok, Thailand ”” Why are two activists facing 5 years of prison for exposing an environmental crime
Meet Pat and Jay
Jay has a Phd in Ecology from the University of Gorgia. Pat is a journalist and yoga instructor.
Their story is papaya. Papaya is grown in almost every backyard and is a staple food in some parts of Southeast Asia. It is a vital part of the Thai kitchen and features in famous Thai dishes such as Som Tam, a spicy papaya salad. Large numbers of people in Thailand grow the fruit, and were worried when the Thai government began to experiment with genetically engineered (GE) strains
Hawaiian papaya disaster
Their worry was well founded.
Commercial plantings of GE papaya in Hawaii had been disastrous for organic papaya growers. The selling price of GE papaya fell to 30-40 percent below production costs, and the price that farmers got for their GE papaya in 2003 was 600 percent lower than the price for organic papaya. Japan screens to ensure no GE papaya enters the market, and it is illegal in many countries.
The government approved experimental plantings at a number of research stations regardless
Greenpeace discovers contamination
On 24 June 2004, we received test results showing that the fruit of a papaya tree on a local farmer’s land had been genetically engineered. The GE papaya tree was 12 months old and had been grown from papaya seeds purchased from the government research station at Khon Kaen in June 2003. Sale of GE seeds is illegal in Thailand.
In July of 2004, Pat and Jay took this story public when they acted as spokespersons for Greenpeace activists who sealed off GE papaya in experimental fields at the Khon Kaen research station; the source of GE papaya contamination in the region. The activists, dressed in protective suits, removed GE papaya fruit from trees and secured them in hazardous material containers.
Pat and Jay call for destruction of test field
Pat and Jay appeared on television and in print demanding that the government complete the process begun by the activists and immediately destroy all papaya trees, fruit, seedlings, and seeds in the research station to prevent further contamination. The story became one of the biggest scandals in Thailand
They were charged with theft, trespassing and destruction of property.
No charges were made against the officials at the research station, who threatened to rob papaya farmers of their livelihoods by contaminating their crop, whose seeds trespassed into the fields of farmers who didnt want them, and whose error led to the contamination of papaya which then had to be destroyed.
Almost two months after Greenpeace took action against the contamination, the government acknowledged that a plantation 4 kms from the research station had been contaminated, and destroyed the farmer's papaya
Greenpeace was proven right
The government collected samples from 2,345 plantations in 35 provinces.
They admitted that 24 plantations had been contaminated
Government destroys test field
On September 15th, 2004, the government destroyed the GE papaya in the research stations experimental field.
Thus, they fulfilled their civic duty by completing the job that the Greenpeace team had begun.
Instead of getting to the bottom of who precisely was responsible for the contamination, the very department that was responsible for the contamination decided to take legal action against Pat and Jay
Shutting down opposition
These charges are not about the events of July 27th, 2004: they're about preventing future events of this nature.
This story is about putting a chill on further protest against GE crops in Thailand.
It's about making examples of a journalist and an ecology professor who dared to speak up, and throw them in jail for it.
At stake is the entire nature of civil society in one of the most developed countries of Southeast Asia.
Don't stand by and let Jay and Pat go to jail for doing the job their government was supposed to do.
Send a message to the Prime Minister of Thailanddemanding the Thailand Papaya Activists go free, and the perpetrators of the crime be prosecuted instead.