By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
FOR UCLA, BAD NEWS COMES in lowercase, typo-plagued vulgarity and anonymous “communiqués,” like this one recently sent out to dozens of local and national media:
“on the nights of july 23 and 27, we stole two more UCLA vans from Riverside and Chino Hills and have expropriated the funds for the vans to help animals,” reads one communiqué. “So far we’ve cost UCLA over 150 thousand dollars in vans which is just a start to penalize them for the use of our tax money for gruesome primate experiments.”
Its animal-rights extremist authors — who implied that they were UCLA students — suggested that fellow classmates or “anyone else who care about monkeys being tormented and killed by callous fucks ... confront them covertly or overtly where ever and whenever you can. hey, how about following them to their cars in their parking structures? There are a lot of ways to cost the bastards money and make torturing nonhuman animals less rewarding.”
The announcement’s claim that two of the university’s vans were stolen last month was false, school officials tell the L.A. Weekly. But other claims have been true. In June, extremists destroyed an empty UCLA van in Irvine with a homemade bomb. In February, the front door of the home of biomedical researcher Edythe London — whose addiction research involves experimenting on vervet monkeys — was firebombed. Last October, the extremists flooded her house with a garden hose snaked inside, causing $30,000 in damages.
Masked, bullhorn-wielding animal-rights activists have made protesting outside these researchers’ houses a ritual. Bizarre threats — too many to list — are common. Dr. Arthur Rosenbaum has received two anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night claiming that a bomb was in his backyard, and giving him 30 minutes to flee.
Both were hoaxes, but a bomb placed under his car in June 2007 was not. His entire street was evacuated before a police bomb squad defused it.
One targeted UCLA ophthalmology professor, who oversees an experiment that holds clues for ending forms of blindness, doesn’t actually touch animals. Yet even he and Roberto Peccei, UCLA’s vice chancellor for research, have been targeted many times.
Last summer at 3 a.m., a lone extremist stood near the vice chancellor’s window and chanted, “Roberto Peccei, you will never be safe,” before pulling a security company sign out of the ground and throwing it against Peccei’s house, which he smeared with mud.
Throughout all this, law enforcement has come up short. Not one suspect has been apprehended, much less charged, prompting a basic question: Why are UCLA’s animal-rights radicals and chronic tormentors attacking the scientists and researchers with impunity?
Domestic terrorism experts at RAND say that their unique organizational structure makes identifying its members difficult. “They’re so decentralized,” says RAND terrorism analyst Brian Jackson. “The individual pieces are so loosely coupled together. ... The argument is that if you structure a movement in this way [it] can’t be taken down. The pieces aren’t even together.”
Increased government surveillance powers have made communication difficult, but the Internet helps them get around those problems.
“It’s one way that individuals who don’t know each other can get access to the strategic thinking [of others],” says Jackson. The Internet “provides a general link.”
That’s the approach used by Jean Barnes, a 55-year-old former Delta airlines flight attendant who says she hasn’t been to California in “at least 10 or 11 years.” But on her creepy, extremist Web site, in a section titled, “Targets,” Barnes’ UCLAprimatefreedom.com provided animal-rights radicals in Los Angeles with detailed information about UCLA researchers and staff, including head-shots, e-mails and home addresses. Under court order, Barnes was forced to remove that information from her site early this year.*
Blatantly inviting violence, she told the Weekly this year, “I am comfortable with that, or I wouldn’t have put it up there. Have you got a picture of the judge? Maybe I’ll put a picture of him and his home address up there, too.”
The amorphous, leaderless, violent, fringe nature of the animal-rights movement keeps such groups from planning large-scale, coordinated attacks, say researchers into the phenomenon. But, at the same time, “There’s no constraint on what an individual can do in the name of animal rights or liberation,” says RAND’s Peter Chalk, who has taught about domestic terror groups at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
Consider animal-rights extremistJerry Vlasak’s response last April to a Utah reporter’s question about whether murder was an acceptable tool for promoting animal rights. “Whatever it takes to stop someone from abusing animals is certainly morally acceptable,” said Vlasak, who likes to drop the names of major hospitals while purporting to be an emergency room surgeon and has duped much of the media into believing it. (The Weeklyhas been unable to find any hospital where Vlasak performs surgery.)
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city