by Anneli Rufus
For weeks beforehand, word spread via postings such as this one on a MySpace page: "January 5 will be a day of action against UC Berkeley vivisection and those complicit in institutionalized animal abuse and exploitation. Email email@example.com for meetup time and location. Because 40,000 non-human animals are currently held captive and being tortured at UC Berkeley."
Sure enough, activists assailed several UCB researchers' homes that day, according to Berkeley Police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss: "They tend to wear bandannas over their faces so that they can't be recognized," and "chalk messages onto the surrounding sidewalk such as 'cat killer,' 'torturer,' 'murderer,' and 'An animal-killer lives here.'" Chalking isn't a crime - but one confab qualified as vandalism after protesters broke a fourteen-inch planter pot on the front steps of a researcher's Vine Street home. They also left his hose spigot on long-term, apparently to waste water, and affixed to a front window and mailbox animal-rights stickers including one depicting a white rat behind bars with the message, "Animals in laboratories: Unseen, they suffer. Unheard, they cry. In agony, they linger. In loneliness, they die." It was the seventh time the house had been targeted. "This is an ongoing, recurring protest," Kusmiss says. Starting last summer, BPD began "paying attention and giving some extra support to the professors" - many of whose names, home addresses, and phone numbers are posted on animal-rights web sites.
Where, in these contentious times, do you draw the line between compassion and crime? A news release posted by "the North American Animal Liberation Press Office" at Indymedia.org sites from Portland, Oregon to Athens, Greece on January 3 exulted: "There were at least 53 claimed actions by the animal liberation underground in North America in 2007, almost twice the number from the year before. ... From amongst these acts of liberation and sabotage, we were able to document and publicize numerous successes." Several are cited, such as: "Eco-warrior Jeff Leurs had his 23 year prison sentence for burning SUV tires overturned. ... A Norwegian whaling ship was sunk in its harbor. ... 20 rabbits saw freedom in South Carolina as a result of an ALF liberation. ... UCLA, UCSD and OHSU vivisectors come under increased attack." As did the El Cerrito home of a UC Berkeley toxicology professor last October, where a protest resulted in several arrests but no charges filed. "To all those liberationists and liberationists-to-be," the release continues, "you have our eternal thanks and never-ending support. And to those who exploit, abuse, torture and murder our non-human brethren, may you feel the heat in more ways than one in 2008!"