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Armed animal rights activists taking hostages?
That’s what the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement officials throughout the nation seem to be afraid of. Police recently engaged in a training drill that pitted SWAT and other police officers against gun-toting anti-vivisectionist “terrorists” who took a hostage at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB).
Other tactical scenarios in so-called “Urban Shield,” which is funded through a regional Homeland Security program, have included terrorists hijacking a plane and assaults on military installations. In other words, real-world scenarios that have happened before and are likely to occur again.
I’m all for preparation, but animal activists using firearms and taking hostages seems so out of the realm of reality that one can only consider this posturing an act of intimidation. Choosing UCB as the venue for this drill also sends a message to the animal rights movement. UCB, known as one of the most progressive campuses in the world, is frequently the site of non-violent animal and environmental activism. Moreover, animal researchers from nearby University of California, Santa Cruz, have been targets of protest, including a firebombing in August that may or may not have been the work of animal activists. (Some animal advocates have suggested that the UC Santa Cruz attack may have been carried out not by an activist, but someone trying to ensure the passage of legislation against animal activism, since the proposed bill, AB 2296, was foundering until the firebombing. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time animal rights opponents used such dirty tricks.)
As Will Potter observes, “[The UCB drill] was a choice, a carefully crafted and vetted decision by this multi-government-agency program…. Terrorism scenarios like this send a clear message that animal rights activists are to be feared. It instills that fear in law enforcement. And it instills that fear in the general public. It helps legitimize the sweeping government attacks on the animal rights and environmental movements, known as the Green Scare, by mainstreaming unreasonable fears.”