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HB 433 (Allen): “Animal rights and ecological terrorism”

HB 433 amends the Penal Code to add the offense of “animal rights and ecological te rrorism.”  The proposal prohibits certain activities by an “animal rights or ecological terrorist organization”—defined as “two or more persons org anized for the purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources.”

The prohibited offenses include already prohibited offenses—vandalism, arson, breaking and entering, theft of an animal or natural resource, and trespassing—but also add a new Class B misdemeanor for taking photographs or videotape in an animal or natural resource facility, even if on the property legally.  In addition, “animal rights and ecological terrorism” would include peaceful civil disobedience, such as sit-ins or “disrupting” an animal facility.  People who donate to groups that sponsor peaceful civil disobedience would also be guilty of “animal rights or ecological terrorism” punishable as a Class B misdemeanor.   

Full Text of Alert Prepared by Texas ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of legislation just introduced.

HB 433 (Allen):  “Animal rights and ecological terrorism”

HB 433 amends the Penal Co de to add the offense of “animal rights and ecological terrorism.”  The proposal prohibits certain activities by an “animal rights or ecological terrorist organization”—defined as “two or more persons organized for the purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources.”

The prohibited offenses include already prohibited offenses —vandalism, arson, breaking and entering, theft of an animal or natural resource, and trespassing—but also add a new Class B misdemeanor for taking photographs or videotape in an animal or natural resource facility, even if on the property legally.  In addition, “animal rights and ecological terrorism” would include peaceful civil disobedience, such as sit-ins or “disrupting” an animal facility.  People who donate to groups that sponsor peaceful civil disobedience would also be guilty of “an imal rights or ecological terrorism” punishable as a Class B misdemeanor.

Violates First Amendment Rights of Speech and Assembly

This bill labels as “terrorist” many environmental and animal rights groups that engage in protected free speech activities and nonviolent civil disobedience. Simply by paying their membership dues, Texans could be charged as terroris ts.  The bill does not apply to exactly the same behaviors (like “obstructing the use” of a facility) conducted by a wide range of other political organizations, like peace protestors or Pro-Life groups. By singling out people who protest on environmental and animal rights issues, this bill violates their freedom of speech and their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

Vandalism, arson, and trespassing are already illegal

The Texas Penal Code already has stat utes to prosecute most of the offenses outlined in HB 433.  Other states have successfully prosecuted individuals who actually damage property, trespass, or otherwise violate criminal laws.  Rodney Coronado, for example, served 57 months in prison for setting fire to an animal research facility at Michigan State University.  There are many such examples, and no other state has passed a law like this. We believe that this new “terrorism” law will do little to deter extremists committed to destruction.

Threatens the Freedom of the Press

Under Sec 28.09(b)(E) it is a Class B misdemeanor for a journalist to enter legally an animal or natural resource facility “to take photographs or make a video recording with the intent to defame the facility or the facility's owner.”  In May ’98, Channel 13 News in Houston broadcasted an investigative report by Cynthia Hunt; the report featured hidden-camera footage of an animal facility that hosted controversial Dog and Hog Trials. Under HB 433, Ms. Hunt could be prosecuted as a terrorist. In another case, an employee of a large hog facility, with the help of an animal rights group, videotaped another employee beating young pigs with a metal hammer and a gate hook. After tapes of the incident were sent to the authorities, the individual was prosecuted for animal cruelty and the company publicly apologized. Under this bill, the employee could be prosecuted as a terrorist.

HB 433 regards nonviolent civil disobedience as terrorism< /B>

A top priority for the 78th legislature is keeping Texans safe from terrorism.  To fight terrorism effectively, however, we should not widen the definition to cover peaceful activities.  Civil disobedience—“disrupting” an animal or natural resource facility—does not fall under the Bush Administration’s definition of terrorism.  Few Texans would regard the peaceful tactics of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as acts of terrorism.  

HB 433 threatens the priva cy of nonviolent activists

The bill requires the creation of an Internet database of the names of “animal rights and ecological terrorists,” and requires that every person who commits an offense under the bill to provide all change of address information. This database will discourage people from exercising their rights to peaceably assemble and express their political views by labeling them publicly as terrorists.

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlo/78r/billtext/HB00433I.HTM

Sec. 411.0422.  INFORMATION REGARDING ANIMAL RIGHTS OR
ECOLOGICAL TERRORIST.  (a)  The department shall create a record of
each individual who commits an offense under Section 28.09, Penal
Code.
(b)  A record created under this section must include the
individual's name, residence address, and signature and a recent
photograph of the individual.
(c)  If an individual who is t he subject of a record makes a
change in name or address, the individual shall, not later than the
30th day after making the change, provide to the department written
notice of the change.
(d)  The department shall maintain an Internet website
containing each record described by this section.  A record must
remain on the website for at least three years, at which time the
individual who is the subject of the record may apply to the
department for a hearing on removal of the record.


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