SABOTAGING THE SABOTEURS

NEED SOME HELP CUTTING DOWN THOSE POWER LINES? CALL THE FBI.

That rarest commodity, a saboteur with a sense of humor, wrote the Arizona media in the second week of November 1987.

A letter claiming credit for vandalizing ski lifts at Flagstaff's Snow Bowl arrived on editors' desks from a group calling itself the Evan Mecham Eco Terrorist International Conspiracy, EMETIC (the Greek-based word that identifies an agent used to induce vomiting).

The letter writer immediately suggested reconciliation between the developers and the environmentalists.

The EMETIC representative acknowledged that there was an honest difference of opinion. The owners of the resort, the Fairfield Corporation, wished to expand and build condominiums over the objections of local Native American tribes. EMETIC wished to "chain the Fairfield CEO to a tree at the 10,000-foot level and feed him shrubs and roots until he understands the suicidal folly of treating the planet primarily as a tool for making money."

More to the letter writer's point, winter was approaching.
"It is colder than a Bruce Babbitt speech crawling around that mountain at night," wrote the correspondent, "and all of us would prefer to return to our usual nocturnal diversion of pursuing meaningless relationships in sleazy, but warm, bars."

The representative of EMETIC proposed detente. Fairfield should stop its plans for growth and "consult with appropriate spiritual authorities on the Navajo and Hopi reservations and agree not to operate at all on the days of greatest religious significance . . . if our compromise is accepted Fairfield should place a small ad in the classified personals [saying] `Uncle!' Otherwise, better hire more security."

The owners of the Snow Bowl, after consulting with the appropriate spiritual authorities at a major corporate law firm, offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those in EMETIC.

From this seemingly isolated incident in northern Arizona sprang an FBI investigation that rocked America's most notorious environmental organization, Earth First!.

In the courthouse that overlooks Prescott's historic town square, the federal government of the United States is determined to crush what it characterizes as a nationwide conspiracy of violent environmentalists.

Indicted are the co-founder of Earth First!, Tucson's Dave Foreman, and four Prescott residents: Mark Davis, Margaret (Peg) Millett, Ilse Asplund, and Marc Andre Baker.

The government charges that these five are terrorists who plotted to sabotage the largest nuclear power plant in America, Arizona Public Service Company's Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, just west of Phoenix. It is also alleged that Diablo Canyon, a nuke plant in California, as well as the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility in Colorado were on the Earth First! hit list. Prosecution by the U.S. Attorney commences June 10.

The indictment and thousands of pages of government records reveal the sensational components of the upcoming trial: sabotage, an FBI agent's pose as the damaged, yet sensitive, offspring of a dysfunctional family, LSD, snitches, thermite grenades, the long-lens photography of surreptitious meetings, marijuana, surveillance, love triangles, wiretaps, spiritual guides, body bugs, Joseph Wambaugh theories, cutting torches, Evan Mecham, dynamite, massage and ghosts.

Even this unwieldy list must be expanded to include the subversive element of laughter.

The indictment, you see, neglects to mention that Earth First! was most dangerous when it insisted that acts of environmental civil disobedience be salted with outlandish humor and sarcasm.

Earth First! ridiculed big business, satirized the polluters of Mother Earth, and hooted at the government.

The government's funny bone, however, proved to be more sensitive than ticklish. The feds reached a point where they'd had all the mockery from Dave Foreman and his ilk that they were going to take. It got to the point that every time you turned around, Foreman and his gang were razzing the pants off somebody.

When the government and the University of Arizona involved private companies and the Vatican in the construction of giant telescopes atop Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona, Earth First! organizers showed up at public hearings dressed as six-foot-tall creatures of the forest to argue the case for an endangered red squirrel who lived in the path of big-buck astronomy.

While mainstream environmentalists lobbied Congress, members of Earth First! suspended themselves in giant fir trees hundreds of feet in the air, squatting atop homemade platforms that looked like something God might jury-rig had God wanted to window-wash the clouds. Earth First! banners from these spectacular perches raised hell over the clear-cutting practices of timber barons.

When more responsible environmentalists spoke out on behalf of the Pacific Northwest's nearly extinct spotted owl, followers of Earth First! took more direct action. They dug post holes in the wilderness roads, poured quick-drying cement in the pits, and then jumped into the jelling muck up to their knees. As the cement dried, the activists became human fence posts blocking the roads while the television cameras rolled. Newsreel tapes showed overweight deputies and brawny lumberjacks confronting a pack of what appeared to be refugees from a Grateful Dead concert, all of whom seemed, at first glance, to have their goddamned legs cut off--or, were they imbedded in the road? Total pandemonium erupted.

Anyone tuning in the evening news and seeing these images had to ask themselves, "What the hell are these hippies up to now?"

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