Animal activists still a top threat

Games security focus broadened after Sept. 11

By Jerry Spangler
Deseret News staff writer

Published: Monday, Nov. 19 2001 1:40 p.m. MST

Law enforcement has been actively gathering intelligence on activists for years, but activists say it has accelerated in recent months. They say officers have been videotaping them, writing down license numbers of cars parked at their homes and even infiltrating a meeting sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union to discuss protests during the Winter Games.

According to the Web site, Salt Lake Police detective Jill Candland, a member of the terrorism task force, has been telling activists that law enforcement's objective is to stop animal rights terrorism leading up to and during the Winter Games.

But Candland denies ever telling activists the task force was targeting animal rights activists or animal rights terrorism. Nor, she said, do security forces have concerns about peaceful protests planned for the Olympics.

"Our concern is they could be infiltrated by anarchists who come to town, whose only agenda is to cause violence and property destruction," Candland told the Deseret News. She added the anarchist agenda is to "cause disruption like what happened (at the WTO) in Seattle."

"But we would never target a group for their peaceful demonstrations," she said.

So concerned about the potential for violent protests is Salt Lake Police Chief Rick Dinse that he recently announced creation of "mobile field forces" trained in crowd control — a euphemism for riot police, according to officers interviewed on the condition of anonymity.

Beyond Utah's borders

Law enforcement's concern is rooted in the history of the animal rights movement in Utah — a crusade that over the past 10 years has initiated more than 50 attacks on private and government property resulting in nearly $3 million in damage. In the past decade, nearly a dozen activists have been arrested on felony arson, burglary and weapons charges.

Most have served their jail time and are currently free, while several were acquitted or had charges dismissed.

Officers say they know exactly who the Utah animal rights activists are and who poses a threat. But they aren't so certain about outsiders who might be coming to Utah to draw attention to the causes.

Surveillance of the movement also apparently extends far beyond Utah borders. One Utah activist attending a rally in Southern California was approached by an officer there who called him by name.

In late October, the FBI, Secret Service and other representatives of the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command met with Utah business representatives to warn them about potential domestic terrorism during the Games. Among the targets they identified were animal products companies.

"It is pretty much self-evident," said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Steve Wooldridge, co-chairman of a UOPSC terrorism task force. "The (ALF) Web site speaks for itself."

Wooldridge also identified concerns about potential terrorism perpetrated by the Earth Liberation Front, a cousin of ALF opposed to urban sprawl and destruction of animal habitat.

Prime targets

Why are February's Olympics considered a major target of such groups?

Some of it has to do with some of the sponsorship tie-ins associated with the Games. McDonalds, a major corporate sponsor of the Olympics, has been a longtime target of animal rights attacks. Another potential target could be Certified Angus Beef, a supplier for Olympic Products of the United States, the marketing arm the U.S. Olympic team.

Wooldridge believes any of the large corporate Olympic sponsors could be targets.

"They (ALF activists) are sponsors of a campaign against globalized economics that they see as being in conflict with their belief systems . . . to raise the level of animal rights to human rights," he said.

And the tactics of the more extreme, he said, go far beyond First Amendment speech and into the realm of terrorism.

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