E.L.F. Strikes Seattle Suburb

By Matthew Harwood

Arsonists under the moniker of the Earth Liberation Front torched five luxury homes deemed "built green" by developers in a Seattle suburb Monday morning, reports The New York Times.

A sign left at the crime proclaimed, "McMansions + R.C.D.'s r not green." (RCDs refer to "rural cluster developments.") It bore the signature, E.L.F., or Earth Liberation Front, a radical group of environmentalists that engage in property destruction to send their message. E.L.F. has recently focused its energies on suburban sprawl, reports the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, stating "if you build it, we will burn it."

Much like the new generation of al Qaeda terrorists, E.L.F. is "more of an ideology," said Fred Gutt of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Seattle, relying on self-starters organized into autonomous cells to carry out attacks.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that "ecoterrorism" attacks engaged in by the likes of E.L.F. became prominent in the 1990s.

Attacks dating back to 1997 have been directed at US Forest Service ranger stations, wild horse corrals used by the US Bureau of Land Management, a Bonneville Power Administration high-tension power line tower, an SUV dealership, three forest products companies, the University of Washington Horticultural Center, a Colorado ski resort, a horsemeat packing plant, and a police station in Eugene, Ore.

Other targets include the destruction by arson of a large condominium project under construction in San Diego in 2003, and housing and commercial developments in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. Property damage is estimated to have totaled more than $200 million.

Critics point out that some of the actions E.L.F. engage in hurt the environment more than what they protest.

“'This is releasing more carbon into the air than they ever would have by building the houses,' Patti Smith, the listing agent for one house that burned to the ground," told the Times, adding "That’s the tragic irony."

However, local residents claim the development threatened local woodlands, water sources, and the endangered chinook salmon.

E.L.F. officially states it only engages in acts of nonviolent sabotage and property destruction, according to the MIPT's online dossier. But since the organization is decentralized, relying on self-motivated cells, there is no command and control function, which has raised suspicions that its tactics have crept toward violence.

As the Christian Science Monitor highlights, a University of California biomedical researcher's husband was recently attacked in their home by masked intruders. His wife's research sometimes used lab animals.  No one has taken responsibility, but other staff and students have been targeted by animal rights activists in recent weeks, the university said.

In another incident, the University of California at Los Angeles recently sought and received temporary restraining orders against radical animal rights groups, including E.L.F.'s sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front (A.L.F.).

Also yesterday, a jury deliberated for the day in the case of Briana Waters, a 32-year old woman charged with being the lookout when E.L.F. torched the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington in 2001.

No article explicitly tied what occurred outside of Seattle yesterday with the Waters trial, although the Times story does mention it.


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