Interview with Debbie from the Blackmail 3 Case

from Because We Must

blackmail3We are very happy to have the opportunity to share with you all an interview we did with Debbie of the Blackmail 3 case in the UK. From their support site:

On the morning of 6th July 2012, several teams of police raided the homes and business premises of three people arresting them on suspicion of “conspiracy to blackmail”, in relation to animal testing laboratory, Huntingdon Life Sciences. The person in the UK is accused of committing this between 2001-2011 and the 2 people in Holland between November 2008-December 2010. In recent years this charge has been deliberately used against campaigners due to its good conviction rate and because it carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. This is the third UK conspiracy to blackmail trial involving people accused of campaigning against HLS.

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Debbie. Her trial begins on February 12, and is expected to last 4 weeks.

BWM: First, can you outline in as much as you are able, the details surrounding your personal case as one of the Blackmail 3?

Debbie: I was one of thirty plus people arrested during the first raids against SHAC back in May 2007, after being interviewed and then on bail. I later had no further action against me. Then in December 2010, the police raided me again, this time for alleged fraud which was an excuse to take personal property and campaigning property and I was interviewed and bailed (and re-bailed 8 times during the next 18 months) until the next raid in July 2012 where I was arrested (and later charged after two days of police interviews). Since then I have been on draconian bail conditions which have restricting my liberty to protest, to travel and do voluntary work. My trial will start on Wednesday, 12th February and expected to last 4 weeks.

BWM: Is there a lot of precedent for charges of this kind to animal activists in Europe, or is this a relatively new development?

Debbie: In the past in the UK, there have been many arrests under ‘joint enterprise’ where you can be found guilty as a group, even if you physically didn’t do anything other than be at the same demo/action. Conspiracy charges have also been used over the decades in the UK, but seem much more prevalent now. Along with the draconian charges of fellow campaigners in Austria and Spain, for example, the authorities continue to stifle real debate into animal abuse, corruption and speciesism as animal abuse industries are worth many trillions and unfortunately life is treated merely as a resource to be taken by the greedy and powerful and those weaker continue to have no voice.

BWM: How have the circumstances around being charged affected your daily routines or your personal life?

Debbie: I have been on bail for four of the past seven years, with different charges hanging over me.  Since December 2010 I’ve been raided 3 times, causing damage to two animal rescue centres where I helped out at. I’ve had a great deal of property stolen from me and been put on strict bail conditions that have effectively stopped me campaigning for animals and restricted my movements and my voluntary work at rescues. I’ve been under surveillance by the state because they consider me a threat, even though I have never harmed anyone. I have even been refused permission to stay with and look after very ill friends, just because they are fellow campaigners. But I will not be broken and will fight the charges against me and use the court to highlight the issues that greatly concern me. Being raided, arrested and on bail is very restrictive and is used as a way of isolating people from like-minded friends and fellow campaigners. The stress of it has also contributed to on-going health conditions. The UK authorities treat you ‘as guilty until proven innocent’, rather than the way the ‘law’ is meant to treat you – innocent until proven guilty – It is an example of the biased nature of political policing against activists here in the UK, and across the world. But I know I’m very lucky compared to many animals and humans situations.

BWM: Can you tell us a bit about how you became aware of animal issues and what it was that influenced your journey into activism?

Debbie: I became aware of cruelty, suffering and injustice through my own personal traumas and getting involved more with political issues regarding human rights, animal rights, environmental destruction and other pressing social issues when I studied at University. I got involved with hunt sabotage as a student and became Vegan in 1991 and have never looked back since. The main driving force of my activism is I can not stand by and watch all the injustices of our world, whether it be to do with the planet, all it’s inhabitants and the way the powerful and rich have little regard to ethics and compassion. The driving force of all injustice is power, corruption and greed and I strongly feel that generally the human species have lost their way.

Once you become aware of the pressing social issues crying out for justice. You can not turn a blind eye, otherwise you become as guilty as others that sit on the fence for whatever reason. As an activist, you have to act to change things, whether that be writing a letter, signing a petition or putting yourself in the way of others being harmed. Activism is about self-empowerment for social change, everybody can make a difference. I feel greatly blessed and humbled by fellow campaigners and activists I have met over the past twenty years or so.

BWM:  Is there a quote or passage that really speaks to you as an activist or on a personal level you’d be willing to share?

Debbie: I have many quotes I like that speak volumes, and it’s hard to give just one. So I’m going to be cheeky and give you three!

“All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourselves in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do? – Buddha

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.” – Alice Walker

“You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its Dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.” – Abbie Hoffman

BWM: How has the reaction from the community been to your case, do you have a lot of support?

Debbie: My case (and the raids) have not been publicized a great deal and when you are on long-term bail conditions you become isolated (out of sight is out of mind). As campaigners we are always busy with so many issues, so it’s not surprising that sometimes you can feel unsupported during this time. It is done by the authorities on purpose to isolate you. Although there is good support if you go to prison, there is less before court and after release. Maybe it’s something as a movement we should work on? I would say in the defence of others that I haven’t been in a position to promote my situation more publicly and spent a lot of last year helping and caring for friends in life or death situations. As well as my own ill-health, which have been more pressing to me. But I have many great friends who have (and are) supporting me and I feel humbled by their help, support and solidarity.

BWM: Is there anything specifically that people can do if they want to support you of the other Blackmail 3 defendants?

Debbie: Please do look on the support website, at: www.blackmail3.org. Support each other as well as activists in similar situations. Keep on fighting for social change, to abolish all cruelty, abuse, repression and greed.  Never apologize for being compassionate and free-thinking, and most of all, try to stay positive and active in this mad, destructive society we live in.

BWM: Is there anyone or any group that you are drawing a lot of inspiration from right now?

Debbie: Individuals in the local campaigning group in Bristol, Bristol Animal Rights Coalition have been very supportive since I moved here in February last year and I have met a lot of good people through the local vegan community centre, Kebele. Also, fellow campaigners that have kept in touch, offered advice and support. But most of all for continued to fight the good fight and help change the world for the better and even if we don’t succeed, don’t give up trying. Countless victims depend on us and we are stronger and more effective together.

BWM: Do you have any closing remarks that you’d like to pass along about your experiences or your case?

Debbie: Although the past few years have been stressful, so is day-to-day campaigning done by thousands of like-minded individuals and it’s important that we build strong bonds of support and solidarity to support each other on this continued struggle, otherwise we’ll not be able to campaign in the long run. Nobody said it was going to be easy and campaigning is more of a marathon than a sprint! Try to stay positive and strong and in times of need and adversity don’t hesitate to seek support to stay active and continue campaigning. We should stay proud of who we are and what we can achieve together, never apologize for being a compassionate person!

To support Debbie and the rest of the Blackmail 3 please visit http://blackmail3.org

You or your group can also:

  • Donate to help Debbie and her support group travel to court
  • Support Debbie in court (if you are planning to travel to the trial on a certain day please contact the support team so they can liase with you)
  • Share the Blackmail3.org website
  • Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter
  • Email  a solidarity statement, either on behalf of a group or individual
  • Organise info events and raise the issue of the Blackmail3 at local group meetings
  • Keep up to date with the case and calls for support action!

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