CHICAGO, Illinois, July 25, 2001 (ENS) – Twenty national environmental and social justice activists, authors and musicians were arrested near Chicago today as they protested the practices of timber giant Boise Cascade.
After a press conference this morning at which the activists claimed that the timber company has mounted “a crusade to silence critics of its logging practices,” the group conducted a protest at Boise Cascade’s Office Products headquarters in nearby Itasca, Illinois.
“Boise Cascade has launched a covert campaign designed to limit free speech and muzzle critics of its old growth logging operations,” asserted John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA, one of those taken into custody by police.
“As an American citizen, I’m here to support our fundamental right to free speech – to peaceably encourage a healthy debate of all sides of the issues,” said Raitt, who was also arrested. “The smear tactics of attributing dangerous and illegal activities to responsible, environmental public advocacy groups clearly opposed to such tactics, I find both reprehensible and undemocratic.”
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) says that Boise Cascade has harassed the group’s funders, and has tried to smear RAN by attempting to link the organization to acts of eco-sabotage which it did not commit. “Most recently, the anti-environmental coalition is striking at the heart of American democracy, attacking the 501(c)(3) non-profit status of organizations that participate in non-violent civil disobedience,” RAN said today.
RAN claims that because the timber company has been the target of an intense public campaign for more than a year, that Boise Cascade has begun attacking critics of its logging operations as part of an alliance with Wise Use groups Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and Frontiers of Freedom Institute.
Boise Cascade spokesman Mike Moser says his company is not attempting to revoke RAN’s non-profit tax status, but acknowledges that the group Frontiers of Freedom is. “They’re talking about this other group that has brought up the 501 (c)(3) status issue, Moser told ENS. “It’s outside of our hands. Frontiers of Freedom, they issued a press release today saying we have nothing to do with it. And we have nothing to do with it nor do we fund Frontiers of Freedom,” he said.
Nor is the company attempting to limit the activists’ right to freedom of speech, Moser said. “The allegations issued by them are inaccurate, misleading, and some are downright lies. They had their oportunity to speak and assemble in Itaska, we allow that happen within the limits of the law,” he said.
RAN says it “adheres strictly” to the principles of non-violent protest in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.
The jailed protestors include five members of the RAN Board of Directors: musician John Densmore, Jodie Evans, RAN founder Randy Hayes who is president of the San Francisco City Commission on the Environment, Michael Klein, and Mike Roselle who is founder of the Ruckus Society.
Also arrested was Maria Gilfillan, a retired Chicago school teacher who says she was harassed by Boise Cascade employees after her students wrote letters to the company urging protection for forests that were threatened by a proposed Boise Cascade plant in Chile. Boise Cascade subsequently decided not to go ahead with the facility.
Also in custody are:
Catherine Caulfield, author and executive director, Environmental Action Committee of West
Bea Covington, executive director of Missouri Coalition for the Environment and president of the Board, Dogwood Alliance
Ronnie Dugger, founder and director of Alliance for Democracy
Michael Ferner, assistant director of Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy
Michael Green, executive director of Center for Environmental Health
Dan Hamburg, a former member of Congress, and executive director of V.O.T.E.
Thomas Hansen, director, Mexico Solidarity Network
Julia Butterfly Hill, renowned for her two year treesit in a California redwood tree
Juliette Majot, executive director of International Rivers Network
Marla Rose, chairperson, EarthSave Chicago
Randi Spivak, executive director of American Lands Alliance
Tom Weis, executive director of National Forest Protection Alliance
In a statement of support of today’s protest, film director Oliver Stone said, “Given the success of Rainforest Action Network’s campaigns to save old growth forests, it’s not surprising that the oil and timber industries are trying to shut them down. But undermining Americans’ right to peaceful protest is a gross miscalculation on their part.”
On its website, Boise Cascade characterizes environmental groups such as RAN as “extremist” and attempts to establish its own environmentally sound credentials. The company’s website slogan is “Products you use from the environment we protect.”
Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Boise Cascade is a major distributor of office products and building materials and an integrated manufacturer of paper and wood products. The company owns and manages more than two million acres of timberland in the United States.