Harassment: http://tap.epn.org/westernstates/hndbook.html

peace through reason (prop1@prop1.org)
Sun, 12 Jul 1998 17:29:47 -0400


         A Handbook for Environmental Activists

         A joint project of the Western States Center=20

         and the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious



    This handbook is intended to provide basic information for

    environmental activists to counter the threats and intimidation

    that they often face. Activists are encouraged to contact the

    resource references for further assistance as needed.

    Additional copies of this handbook are available from the

    Western States Center or the Northwest Coalition.

    The Western States Center is a non-partisan research and

    educational institute based in Portland, Oregon, that monitors

    key issues and trends in eight Western states: Alaska, Idaho,

    Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

    The Center has studied the anti-environmental lobby as a

    social and political force since 1992.

    The Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment is a

    coalition of organizations formed in 1987 to address the

    issues of bigotry and extremism in Colorado, Idaho, Montana,

    Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.


    Intimidation of activists is an ongoing problem. Attacks on

    environmental advocates have come in many forms ranging

    from violent assaults and arson to threats, telephone

    harassment, and name-calling. Whatever form it takes,

    harassment is intended to make you hesitate before taking a

    public stand, compromise your principles, or quit your

    activism altogether.

    This booklet presents positive ways to deal with and

    overcome harassment, including what to do when you are a

    target of harassment, how to increase your personal and

    organizational safety, legal recourse available, who is doing the

    harassing, and how to build an effective community response

    to harassment. The Western States Center, in coordination

    with religious, civil rights, and environmental organizations,

    has established a program to counteract harassment. The

    telephone number to report an incident and request additional

    information is 503-228-8859.

    Harassment may feel very personal, but it is really a political

    act committed by your opponents in order to silence and

    intimidate community activists like yourself and your allies.

    You should not feel guilty or ashamed if you are harassed;

    instead, talk about it with your friends and colleagues and seek

    their support. When a community hides in the face of

    harassment, it gives in to political bullies and leaves its

    members unprotected. While we might wish harassment

    would simply go away, the best way to stop it is to organize

    against it.


    What are harassment and intimidation?

    The following are real examples of harassment and


        A man who was critical of clear-cut logging in his town

        received a death threat on the phone the day his letter to

        the editor was published.=20

        A woman was threatened by a man with a hangman=92s

        noose after she testified at a public meeting on local

        environmental laws.=20

        A Native American activist reported a series of obscene

        phone calls and hang-up calls after he was quoted in the

        paper on the environment.=20

        A woman had pictures of her home with her address and

        phone number listed on them posted around town,

        encouraging people who opposed her stance on

        environmental issues to =93visit=94 her and her family.=20

        An environmentalist had the brakes on her car

        =93sabotaged.=94 No one was hurt, although the brakes went

        out while her daughter was driving on the freeway.=20

        Women and men have been threatened with job loss or

        refused jobs because of their advocacy of clean air and

        water in their communities.

    What to do when you are the target of harassment:

        Harassment is often an act of desperation and may

        indicate that you are being effective. There are many

        positive ways to respond to this kind of intimidation.=20

        Take steps to protect yourself and family. Report

        incidents to the police or county sheriff, and find out

        your case number for future reference.=20

        Document harassment through video or audio

        recordings, photographs, or a written account.

        Establishing a =93paper trail=94 will be helpful with law

        enforcement or the press.=20

        Talk about the incident within your organization and seek

        its support; it is an organization=92s responsibility to take

        care of its members.=20

        Contact other organizations who are allies in your

        community to develop a constructive public response

        such as a signature ad in the local paper, a public rally,

        or a meeting with law enforcement and elected officials.=20

        Contact the Western States Center at 503-228-8859 and

        report the incident.=20

        Urge local elected officials, clergy, and law enforcement

        to publicly condemn all forms of political intimidation

        and harassment.

    Ways to protect yourself:

        If threatened in a public place, collect names, phone

        numbers, or license plate numbers of witnesses the

        police can contact for testimony.=20

        If you receive a threatening call on your answering

        machine, immediately remove the tape and save it. Put a

        notepad by the telephone and keep a log of harassing or

        threatening calls. Many locations now have caller ID

        services available. Contact the telephone company

        regarding features such as *69 (last-call return) or *57

        (call trace).=20

        If you receive a threatening letter, handle it as little as

        possible. Put the envelope and each page of the letter in

        separate see-through plastic bags. Make copies of the

        letter and ask the police to check the original for

        fingerprints. If the letter was delivered by U.S. Mail, you

        may also want to report the incident to your Postmaster.=20

        Don=92t waste your time worrying about phone taps, or

        imagining that strange clicks or hums or other noises

        indicate a tap. Many taps are virtually impossible to


        Don=92t include your address in your telephone directory

        listing. Consider getting an unlisted personal number.

    Ways to protect your organization:

        Don=92t throw internal memos, membership lists, or

        sensitive information about your organization=92s finances

        into the trash. Shred or burn confidential information.

        Get locking filing cabinets for your office.=20

        If someone that you do not know calls asking for a lot of

        information about your work or organization, take their

        name and number and ask to call them back. Check the

        phone book to see if the number is legitimate. Do the

        same if an unknown person calls claiming to be a


        Check with knowledgeable people in your area about

        alarm systems, outdoor lighting, surveillance cameras,

        locks on doors and windows, and other security

        measures to protect against break-in.=20

        Lock computers to desks and store back-up computer

        files in a safe place out of the office such as a safety

        deposit box, or with another member of your

        organization. Make sure computers have anti-virus


        Collect reliable information about the extremist groups

        that are operating in your area. Be prepared, not


    (Information on personal and organizational security provided

    in part by Sheila O=92Donnell, Ace Investigations, P.O. Box

    1633, Pacifica, CA 94044.)


    Sometimes harassment is a crime. When a crime has been

    committed, law enforcement is required to step in and

    investigate the incident. When the perpetrator is caught, it will

    expose the motive for the harassment, and send a message to

    others that harassment will not be tolerated.

    Examples of criminal acts committed against activists:

        A woman who was repeatedly threatened over the

        telephone recorded the calls, had the perpetrator

        charged, and successfully prosecuted for a misdemeanor

        crime of telephone harassment.=20

        Two men were charged with assault because they

        attacked an activist at home after his organization had

        protested logging operations near their town.=20

        A man was charged and prosecuted for trespassing

        when he damaged buildings and property on private land

        where an environmental conference was convened.

    Investigate the laws in your state regarding telephone

    harassment, criminal trespassing, assault, criminal mischief,

    battery, and menacing. The law library located at the county

    court house is open to the public and a clerk may be able to

    help you to understand the definitions of legal terms and

    criminal acts.

    Know your rights!

    If you have been harassed, contact city police or the county

    sheriff and explain the situation. The county or city attorney

    will be able to explain if the act is criminal. Knowledge of

    applicable laws in your state may help persuade law

    enforcement to pursue your case. In cases where you believe

    local law enforcement is not taking a prosecutable case

    seriously, contact state police, the State Attorney General, or

    your local representatives. Remember, an organized response

    is more powerful than acting alone! Work with your allies to

    urge law enforcement to investigate.

    Where can you find a lawyer?

    Some lawyers will take your case on a contingency basis if

    you decide to sue a suspected harasser in civil court. Contact

    the Bar Association or the National Lawyers Guild office in

    your state and explain your case to them. They may be able to

    refer you to a lawyer.


    Some harassment comes from individuals affiliated with

    extremist organizations. The following are cases of

    harassment committed by members of militias and =93wise use=94


        A man collecting signatures for a ballot initiative was

        threatened with =93tar and feathers=94 by the local militia


        An armed militia member marched back and forth in

        front of an environmental activist=92s home.=20

        Christian Patriots left anti-Semitic and threatening

        messages on an environmentalist=92s answering machine.=20

        Extreme =93property rights=94 proponents warned an

        environmentalist that if he came to a public meeting

        again, he should =93wear a bullet-proof vest.=94=20

        A leading member of a =93wise use=94 organization was

        convicted of telephone harassment for threatening a

        woman and her family.

    Many right-wing extremists believe the U.S. Government and

    the United Nations are part of a global conspiracy to destroy

    American democracy. They believe that environmentalists are

    partners in this conspiracy and therefore target them for

    harassment. Militias and Christian Patriots have been able to

    stir up additional anger against environmentalists by blaming

    them for job loss in rural communities.

    Christian Patriots are extremists often associated with white

    supremacists who want to form a white, Christian nation

    based on selective and erroneous interpretations of the Bible

    and the U.S. Constitution. Militias are the paramilitary arm of

    the Christian Patriot movement. =93Wise Use=94 is a network of

    anti-environmental and =93property rights=94 groups with ties to

    extremists, and strong backing from resource and

    development industries (such as mining, timber, and real




    Harassment succeeds when it goes unchecked and those

    targeted decide to stop their work. Here are steps you can

    take to build a strong community response and protect

    community members:

        Get the facts about incidents of harassment in your area.

        Discuss the harassment openly within your organization,

        and seriously address people=92s fears and concerns.=20

        Respect the wishes of those who have been harassed,

        and work with them to develop responses.=20

        Create a strategy for working with the media. Submit

        opinion pieces and letters to the editor denouncing

        harassment as an attempt to silence people and damage

        our democratic process. Consider running a signature ad

        in your local paper where all the signatories publicly

        support democracy. If the paper is not covering

        incidents of harassment, identify a sympathetic reporter

        and pitch your story to her or him. You might also want

        to set up a meeting with your local editorial board.=20

        Meet with law enforcement. If a crime has been

        committed, make sure they are investigating and ask

        them to increase patrols around homes of people

        targeted or threatened.=20

        Your organization can take the moral high ground and

        appeal to the community=92s sense of fairness and the

        freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Organize a

        public rally with diverse participation that supports free

        speech and public safety. Gather representatives from

        clergy, civic organizations such as the League of Woman

        Voters, the business community, political parties, labor

        unions, health professionals, and others to publicly

        denounce the harassment. Call upon all groups and

        individuals to uphold civility and the principles of

        democracy. Some of these groups may not necessarily

        support your views on the environment. They just need

        to support the idea that your organization has the right to

        speak out without being threatened, attacked, or

        otherwise harassed.=20

        In sensitive cases where a target of harassment does not

        want publicity due to fear of reprisal, groups can still

        work quietly with law enforcement and local officials to

        make sure the case is thoroughly investigated and, if

        warranted, prosecuted.=20

        Support the democratic process; we all have the right to

        free speech and assembly.

    When you organize in the community you may also make new

    contacts who will become long-term allies. For example, an

    environmental group that worked on cleaning up local rivers

    called for community support because it was being harassed.

    At the rallies to denounce harassment, members of the

    environmental group met leaders of a farm workers

    organization that was working to diminish the use of

    pesticides on local farms. After they worked together to stop

    harassment, these two groups found they had a common

    interest in promoting alternatives to pesticides for the benefit

    of the workers and the environment.

    Build bridges to other organizations before a crisis

    develops. Too often people do not see how environmental

    issues affect them. Think of ways to frame your issues as

    community concerns. Craft a simple message that will have

    broad appeal. If you are working on cleaning up rivers, show

    how this will provide benefits to recreationists as well as

    families who drink the water in the cities and suburbs. A

    successful campaign could ally you with anglers, hikers,

    parents, health care professionals, and businesses that value

    clean water.

    Do not let your organization become isolated from the rest of

    the community. A diverse network of allies can provide

    crucial support if harassment becomes a problem. Opponents

    of environmentalism will attempt to isolate you by organizing

    resource workers, businesses, hunters, anglers, off-road

    recreationists, churches, and politicians. It is important to seek

    out opportunities to work with various groups in your

    community and engage them in ways that build community

    support for your work.


    For more information on community organizing:

        Northwest Coalition Against Malicious

        Harassment, PO Box 21428, Seattle, WA 98111-3428

        206-233-9136 http://www.nwb.net/nwc=20

        Western Organization of Resource Councils, 2401

        Montana Ave., Billings, MT 59101 406-252-9672


        Western States Center, PO Box 40305, Portland, OR

        97240 503-228-8866 http://epn.org/westernstates

    For more information on organized bigotry and


        Northwest Coalition Against Malicious

        Harassment, PO Box 21428, Seattle, WA 98111-3428

        206-233-9136 http://www.nwb.net/nwc=20

        Coalition for Human Dignity, PO Box 21266, Seattle,

        WA 98111 206-233-9775=20

        Montana Human Rights Network, PO Box 1222,

        Helena, MT 59624 406-442-5506=20

        Western States Center, PO Box 40305, Portland, OR

        97240 503-228-8866 http://epn.org/westernstates

    For more information on computer safety:

        OneNorthwest, 1601 Second Ave., Suite 605, Seattle,

        WA 98101 206-448-1008=20

        Computer viruses:


        Online security covering email, email lists, Web sites and


        http://www.onenw.org/html/security final.shtml

This page came from Western States Center/Northwest Coalition Against Mal=
icious Harassment: http://tap.epn.org/westernstates/hndbook.html


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