[On May 22], the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other civil rights attorneys moved to dismiss the U.S. government's indictment of Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo (the AETA 4), four animal rights activists who are charged for the first time with conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism. Charges against the AETA 4 include protesting, chalking the sidewalk, chanting and leafleting --, and the alleged use of "the Internet to find information on bio-medical researchers." These actions are clearly and traditionally protected by the First Amendment.
The Department of Justice has brazenly called these activists "terrorists" under the auspices of a little known law called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA ). Passed by Congress towards the end of the Bush administration, the AETA aims to suppress speech and advocacy by criminalizing activities protected by the First Amendment, including protests, boycotts, picketing and whistleblowing. Though the AETA targets animal rights activists, its language is so broad and vague that it could easily be used to prosecute labor activists who might engage in peaceful activities such as picketing or organizing a successful boycott of a giant corporate supermarket that exploits its workers. The AETA criminalizes a broad swath of protected First Amendment activities -- and CLDC and the defense team have asked the Court to strike down the AETA as unconstitutional. Furthermore, there are already dozens of state and federal laws that could be used to prosecute criminal acts engaged in by animal rights activists; the addition of this federal crime of terrorism is thus clearly intended to chill the constitutional rights of citizens who advocate a particular political belief.
The case of the AETA 4 is the first use of the AETA since being signed into law -- it is clear that the law can and will be used against lawful activists. It is of critical importance that the case against the AETA 4 be dropped in order to protect our Constitutional right to dissent.
Take action today in solidarity with the AETA 4 by doing the following:
1. Call the Department of Justice at (202) 514-1057 and ask Assistant Attorney General David Kris to stop using counter-terrorism resources to criminalize animal rights activism.
2. Write your senator and representative and demand that they repeal the AETA, as it will only lead to violations of our Constitutional rights; and abundant laws already exist to prosecute criminal acts. and,
3. Join the Coalition to Abolish the AETA and work with us to protect everyone's Constitutional right to dissent.
Stand with us today and call for justice for the AETA 4.
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