Doubts Surround Activists’ Claims Of Vandalism of Cal Researchers

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday October 09, 2008 - 09:23:00 AM

Did animal rights activists vandalize the property of UC Berkeley researchers involved in animal experiments? 

A news release form the “Animal Liberation Press Office” faxed to this paper Monday afternoon claimed that a group calling itself “Feminists for Animal Liberation” had vandalized property of two UC Berkeley professors. 

But Robert Sanders, the university spokesperson who has been handling media inquiries about animal rights activism, said one attack appears never to have happened while the second may have happened well before the events cited as the provocation for the incidents. 

The communiqué, released through the Woodland Hills-based press office, said the attacks were “inspired by the recent passage of the 2296 bill and the raid of an infoshop in Oakland.”  

The legislation mentioned is AB 2296, signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the urging of University of California system chancellors. The law makes it easier to prosecute animal rights activists who target university researchers with threats and acts of vandalism. 

As a UC press statement explains, among the actions criminalized by the new law is publication of information “describing or depicting an academic researcher or his or her immediate family, or the location of an academic researcher or his or her immediate family, with the intent that another person imminently use the information to commit a crime involving violence or a threat of violence.” 

The raid mentioned by the feminist group was carried out by university police, the FBI and the Alameda County Sheriff’s department Aug. 27 on the Long Haul Infoshop at 3124 Shattuck Ave. 

Officers seized computers and data storage devices in search of threatening e-mails sent to UC Berkeley researchers. No arrests have yet been made because of the raid, which was criticized by civil liberties activists. 

Monday’s communiqué claimed the activists have thrown rocks that shattered two windows at one professor’s home on Vine Street and smashed the front window of another professor’s home and “scratched his car up with a hammer.” 

“And remember, cameras and motion lights have done nothing” for the two researchers, the activists warned. “Justice’s hammer falls again and again until it ends when the price is a helpless animals [sic] life.” 

The Animal Liberation Press Office serves as a bulletin board for groups across North America. Most of the recent postings involve actions against business in Mexico. 

At the same time the Berkeley communiqué was posted, a second group, “students and workers for the liberation of UCLA primates” claimed that three cars parked in the driveway of a UCLA researcher’s Santa Monica home had been “paint stripped” only because “Our spontaneity prevented us from obtaining the implements to blow up your car.” 

Sanders said Monday afternoon that he was checking with counterparts at UCLA to see if that claim was valid. 

In a follow-up e-mail Tuesday, Sanders confirmed that “there were no vandalism incidents this past weekend, so we don’t know what the communiqué is referring to.” 

“The person who wrote it appears to be bragging about earlier crimes while referencing the more recent passage of AB 2296,” Sanders wrote. “Because the incidents described are rather generic, it’s impossible to know which they are referring to.”