Open Letter From Jeffrey Luers

Letter Received by Earth First! Journal

gordon-riotThe radical environmental movement along with the animal liberation struggle has often stood on the fringes of social justice movements. There was a time not to long ago when these struggles were dismissed by the larger left leaning social justice movement as non-essential. I went to prison at such a time.

In June 2000, I along with Craig Critter Marshall set fire to 3 vehicles at a Eugene car dealership in an effort to call attention to climate change. Unbeknownst to us I was currently under investigation and surveillance by the same counter terrorist unit that years later would be responsible for operation backfire. As a result we were arrested and after a year of court battles Critter was sentenced to 5.5 years and I received a sentence of 22 years and 8 months.

Across the country and the world people expressed outrage that a young idealistic youth was to serve more time in prison than he had been alive for an action that harmed no one. In the years that followed that outrage would take shape in the form of the international day of solidarity with Jeff Luers and all eco-prisoners.

The majority of my incarceration was spent defending my actions to a skeptical public and media all the while being punished by the state for my articulate defense of direct action.

It was through this media campaign and the amazing work of my support group that my support network began to grow. Before my second year was finished Critter and I had been added to the list of political prisoners being supported by the Jericho Movement, ABCF, and numerous other prisoner support groups. We were among the first eco-prisoners in the US to be accepted in radial circles as political prisoners.

On June 11 2004, after years of networking and public outreach, the first international day of solidarity with Jeffrey Free Luers and all eco-prisoners was held. The event quickly drew the fury of the state and the FBI issued an unprecedented national security alert warning of imminent eco-terrorist attacks across the nation. News headlines for a week warned of the attacks, showing my picture along with the eco-terrorist caption.

In the years that followed June 11 came to be a rallying cries for social and environmental justice movements the world over to protect out planet and to demand that those that have sacrificed their freedom doing so be recognized as political prisoners and not terrorists.

I have spent the years of my life since my conviction combating the application of the terrorist label to activists and eco-activists in particular.

In recent years the meaning associated with June 11 has shifted to long-term anarchist prisoners. As a self-identified anarchist I find this distressing for many reasons.

The legacy of June 11 is one that helped move radical environmentalism into mainstream acceptance giving a wide spread social legitimacy to the radical environmental struggle that we had not previously enjoyed. June 11 along with all the international support and pressure made American media use my name and the words political prisoner in the same sentence drastically changing the public opinion of radical eco-activists.

Further I find the co-option of June 11 as an anarchist day of solidarity to be yet another example of how anarchist struggles often use our alley’s struggle as a platform to further our own agenda. It is a criticism that I have seen the anarchist movement face for decades. One we must regularly challenge ourselves on to overcome.

At a time of imminent environmental upheaval as a result of climate change, when environmental activists are still labeled terrorists and thrown in prison we cannot afford to forget the memory of June 11.

The international day of solidarity with all Eco-Prisoners is more relevant now than it has ever been before. If we forget that, if we allow June 11 to become something it was never meant to be we will have lost huge gains that took 10 years to make and countless personal sacrifices. We will have lost an important part of our radical environmental history and struggle and will continue to look to the future without learning from our past.

As an anarchist and a veteran activist who spent 9.5 years of my life in prison because I fought to protect an imperiled planet I humbly ask that we remember that June 11 is about gaining political recognition for eco-prisoners and their struggles.

Jeffrey Luers

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