California is experiencing a substantial increase in ecoterror activity. During the past few months, the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, the most active ecoterrorist movements in the United States, have claimed responsibility for planting bombs at three housing developments, vandalizing fast food restaurants and other related activity.
Unexploded bombs have also been found northeast of Sacramento at the Placer County Courthouse and at a Department of Motor Vehicles office. There have been no claims of responsibility by any ecoterrorists, but authorities are investigating whether the incidents are connected to other recent ecoterror activity in the area.
One arrest had been made in connection to the recent activity. Twenty-one-year-old Ryan Daniel Lewis, of Newcastle, was arrested February 8 on arson-related charges for his alleged role in planting five incendiary devices at an office building under construction in Auburn on January 12. All five devices failed to ignite.
Lewis admitted transporting "components of the incendiary devices knowing that they would be used to commit arson," according to the criminal complaint. He also said he did not act alone and denied being involved in an attempted arson a month before in Lincoln, although he acknowledged communicating with those responsible.
ELF claimed responsibility for the attempted arsons in Auburn and Lincoln in a letter sent to several area newspapers in January. The letter said ELF had acted "in honor of everyone who has felt helpless to sprawl and development," and it threatened additional action. It concluded with references to eight Web sites, including that of crimethInc, an anarchist group formed in the mid-1990s.
Lewis acknowledged to authorities that "crimethInc" was written on his skateboard and that he agreed with the group's philosophy. CrimethInc recently compiled a 624-page manual (which the group also calls an "anarchist cookbook") entitled Recipes for Disaster that bills itself as "a tactical handbook for revolutionary action." Many ecoterrorists affiliate themselves with various forms of anarchism.
A similar spike in ecoterror activity in California occurred during the second half of 2003, when several fast food restaurants, housing developments and car dealerships were burned down or vandalized. The most serious attack occurred on August 1, when arsonists burned down a housing complex under construction in San Diego, causing extensive damage that included the destruction of a five-story building and 100-foot-high crane. Losses were estimated at $50 million, making it the costliest act of eco-terrorism in American history.
California's rash of ecoterror attacks coincides with the launching of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office in Van Nuys. Jerry Vlasak, a spokesman for the organization, said, "There's obviously a cell of the Animal Liberation Front operating in the area." The Press Office's Web site has posted communiqués taking credit for some of the recent attacks. Additionally, the Earth Liberation Front Web site, which had been inactive for several months, has recently been re-launched.
It should be noted that Bite Back, an animal rights magazine that provides information about the criminal activity of the radical animal rights movement, recently issued a report stating that in 2004 California was the site of more acts of ecoterror than any other state.
The following is a sampling of recent incidents in California that have either been claimed by ELF or ALF or are being investigated for potential ties to ecoterrorism.
- February 15, 2005: A pipe bomb was found behind the Auburn office of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The FBI and local law enforcement evacuated businesses in the area before authorities safely detonated the bomb.
- February 14, 2005: ALF claimed responsibility for vandalizing a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a McDonald's in Carson. Vandals spray-painted the slogans "ALF," "McKillers" and "KFC Kills," and smashed windows. The message, "Until the slaughter stops, neither will we" was also left at the scene.
- February 13, 2005: An incendiary device was found on the steps of the Placer County Historic Courthouse. The device was dismantled by the county sheriff's bomb squad robot.
- February 7, 2005: An apartment complex in Sutter Creek was firebombed and a storage container was spray painted with the words "We will win - ELF." All seven devices ignited, destroying one apartment and causing damage to three others; the FBI has offered a $50,000 reward.
- February 6, 2005: Windows were broken at a McDonald's in Torrance and vandals spray-painted the fast-food restaurant with various slogans, including graffiti reading "McMurder Killers" and "ALF." A statement issued by the Animal Liberation Press Office a day after the attack read: "McDonald's has been designated a poster-company for the fast food, meat and dairy industries, which are responsible for massive and unimaginable animal cruelty, as well as participating in environmentally destructive practices and anti-union efforts."
- January 18, 2005: ALF claimed responsibility for releasing an entire deer herd from GNK Deer Farm in San Miguel. Its communiqué said, "We believe this to be the first ever deer liberation in the US….For the liberation of the helpless we will strike - ALF."
- January 12, 2005: Five incendiary devices, which failed to ignite, were found in a building under construction in Auburn. In a letter sent to several news agencies, ELF claimed responsibility for planting the devices and said the office building was targeted as "a statement against work and the horror of the (cubicle)."
- December 27, 2004: Incendiary devices were found at a housing development in Lincoln. Graffiti left at the scene included the messages "U will pay," "Quit destroying their homes" and "Leave." ELF claimed responsibility for planting the devices in a letter sent to several news agencies.
- December 24, 2004: The home and car of an employee with the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services were vandalized in an apparent attack by animal rights extremists. "ALF eyes on you" was spray-painted on the employee's home in Sylmar, California.