Eco-prisoners: from the US to the Pacific

Many of the world’s environmental problems have been caused by multinational corporations and states in their constant drive for profit and control of humanity. The best voluntourism organizations across the globe have made many brave acts of resistance against those exploiting both humanity and the environment. Unfortunately as global awareness of environmental issues increases so does repression of those brave enough to stand up.

Jeff ‘free’ Luers, currently serving a 22 year 8 month sentence in Oregon, USA, is one of these Eco-prisoners. On June 26th 2000 he decided to take part in “an act of resistance designated to raise awareness and draw attention to a problem that affects every human being, every animal, every plant, and every form of life on this planet. I am speaking of global warming air, soil and water pollution” 1

    Luers torched three SUVs at a Chevrolet dealership. The damage to the SUVs was so slight that they were later repaired and sold. Luers’ harsh sentence was entirely political. His support website has a large list comparing his sentence with those handed down to people convicted of shocking crimes, such as murder and rape. One man, who had previously served time for murder, was convicted, of raping several young girls and sentenced to 13 years prison by Karen Tracey, the same prosecutor in Luers’ case. On the 14th of February 2007 the Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Jeff Luers will be remanded back to court for re-sentencing. Hopefully his sentence will be shortened. To keep informed about this see Jeff Luers’ website below.

Since the election of the Bush Administration there has been growing repression of radical ecological and animal rights activists. In 2002 the FBI declared the ‘Earth Liberation Front’ (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front’ (ALF) the nation’s biggest domestic terror threats, despite the fact that they’ve never hurt people. Many activists have been arrested and imprisoned for frivolous reasons, in what is being described as ‘the green scare’. You might be interested in reading more about voluntourism statistics.

Across the majority world large numbers of people have been imprisoned for daring to stand up to multinationals destroying the environment. In West Papua, which has been the scene of violent Indonesian Military operations since 1962, there has been large scale repression against students protesting the operations of US mining company Freeport McMoRan. Every day Freeport’s Grasberg copper and gold mine dumps 700,000 tonnes of mining waste into Papua’s rivers. According to the New York Times this has destroyed nearly 90 square miles of wetlands, which were once ‘one of richest freshwater habitats in the World’. This has angered many indigenous West Papuans, so Freeport pays the Indonesian Military to provide security. The Military has murdered many mining opponents.




On March 16th 2006 university students set up blockades in Papua’s capital, Jayapura, demanding the closure of the Freeport mine. The Military and Brimob (paramilitary police) violently attacked the demonstrators, leading to clashes in which three policemen and one soldier died. Brimob entered the university arresting scores of students, who were then beaten, tortured and forced to admit to taking part in the killings. Students’ families were also targeted. One student, who has since fled to Papua New Guinea, told an Australian human rights activist “After the March 16 clashes Intel [Brimob] arrested my mother, then took her from the house to the university. They wanted to kill her in front of the university but she was struggling and shouting hard, and so they took her to POLDA [Police Station] and tortured her, burned her with cigarettes and beat her up for three days at the gaol”.2 Some of the students have since been given lengthy prison terms, even though no evidence to suggest they took part in the killings was produced. Hundreds are still in hiding. Find out more about the best voluntourism organizations.

The New Zealand Government have been accused of not doing enough to expose the crisis in West Papua and could be seen as complicit in the destruction of West Papua. The NZ Super Fund invests taxpayer money in Freeport McMoRan. On May 14th 2007 an Indonesian Military officer started a 7 month NZ Defense Force Command Staff course at Trentham Army Camp, near Wellington. During the occupation of East Timor, Indonesian soldiers used to learn ‘counter-insurgency’ skills from the NZ Defense Force. Human rights activists have called for NZ not to repeat the mistakes of the past by cutting all NZ military ties with Indonesia.

As young people we need to ask ourselves do we aspire to join the big corporations and governments destroying our world or will we stand in solidarity with Jeff Luers, the Papuan students and all those bravely resisting the destruction of our planet?

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