“Direct Action” The Tactics of Radical Activism: Part 1, How Environmental Groups Use Violent Tactics to Advance their

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<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />July 8, 2000 –Kwajalein Atoll, U.S. Marshall Islands – American scientists stationed on this tiny Pacific island are making last minute preparations before testing a prototype missile defense system.  Two hours before the test, a security camera picks up a small skiff speeding towards the test site, a restricted area.  The skiff lands.  Two people get out, raise a banner reading “Stop Star Wars, Greenpeace,” and begin hurrying towards the test site. Quick-thinking staff scientists jump into a golf cart and chase down the intruders, who are arrested.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


February 6, 2002 – Paris, France – a French court decides to uphold a 90-day jail sentence for a militant anti-American French farmer named Jose Bove.  Bove participated in a burst of anti-American vandalism in 1999. During that episode, saboteurs wrecked a construction site in a small French town called Millau.  The site was to be the location of a McDonald’s.  The court dismissed Bove’s argument that the destruction of the McDonald’s was “legal and necessary” to protect French agricultural interests against competition with US farmers.


June 22, 2003 – Sacramento, CA – Thousands of protestors stream into California’s capital city to protest a biotechnology summit. A group of 12 demonstrators break away from the main crowd and enter a community garden.  They lock themselves together using an intricate series of steel pipes.  Anti-biotech activists complain that when police arrive later in the day to break up this unorthodox protest and saw the pipes apart, they use far more force than is necessary and hurt the demonstrators.


Most Americans understand that they live in a free republic that provides democratic means to achieve political ends.  They agree with the radio talk show host who tells his listeners, “If you want a revolution, go to the ballot box.”  However, important fringe elements in the environmental and animals rights movements disagree.