First we made an attempt to hold an solidarity action outside the US Consulate in Edinburgh. Due to being a bit too disorganized (people turning up on different times) we didn't have time to do anything before the police turned up. The security probably saw those of us waiting outside and called the cops. And according to the police officers it's illegal to make protest outside of the consulate and we would all be arrested if we tried. After deciding it wasn't worth spending the night in a police cell we accepted the offer from the police that one of us could go inside and leave a statement of support for Jeff. The statement was as follows:
Statement of support for Jeff “Free” Luers
To whom it may concern:
As part of the June 12th international solidarity day for Jeff “Free” Luers, we in the Bilston Glen Collective are doing this protest outside the US consulate in Edinburgh, UK, to draw awareness to his case.
On June 11th 2001, 23 year old forest defense activist Jeffrey "Free" Luers was sentenced to 22 years and 8 months in prison for the burning of three Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV's) in Eugene, Oregon, US, on June 16th 2000. To make a statement about global warming, Free and a friend named “Critter” set fire to 3 Sport Utility Vehicles at a car dealership. Their stated purpose was to raise awareness about global warming and the role that SUVs play in that process. Both activists took measures to make sure that no one would be injured as a result of their action and scouted the location for months beforehand. An arson specialist later confirmed that the action did not pose any threat to people based on its size and distance from any fuel source. Despite the fact that this action hurt no one, caused only $40,000 in damages and the cars were later resold, Jeff was sent to prison for a sentence considerably longer than those convicted of murder, kidnapping and rape in Oregon state.
The three counts of Arson that Jeff "Free" Luers was charged with for the single fire that he set, should have only been one count. Furthermore the action itself did not pose a sufficient risk factor to qualify as first-degree arson; therefore it should not qualify as a Measure 11 crime. The court should consider the actual harm and not the risk to greater harm which is a "what might have happened" scenario that the prosecution likes to entertain to scare juries and judges. In other words, the sentence Jeff was given has little to do with what he actaully did what rather what the prosecution thinks might have happened in a worst case scenario.
Jeff's sentence is cruel and unusual under the 8th Amendment. Also, the evidence gathered by the illegal search and seizure of the vehicle Jeff was driving is a 4th Amendment issue. A motion to suppress evidence may have been filed. The classification of Jeff's incendiary device (a milk jug with camping fuel) as a bomb is inaccurate.
Jeff and Craig “Critter” Marshall should have gotten separate trials. We also attack the circumstantial evidence and speculation that convicted Jeff of an attempted arson at Tyree Oil which Jeff denies any knowledge of. Our main point is to attack the "amplified" sentencing. The court has drawn out as many charges as possible. For example, Jeff was charged and penalized with both possession and manufacture of a destructive device when manufacture implies possession. By interpreting the criminal code and applying it in this way the court is able to inflate the sentence and amount of time Jeff has to spend in prison.
By inflating the risk factor the prosecution invokes the idea of "deterrence". For example, they are in effect saying that "the risk is so great that we must punish severely to deter future similar crimes". The intention of the state is to discourage those who might take similar actions with a similar motivation.
In light of Jeff Luers stated political beliefs and the unusual length of his sentence, we recognize him as a political prisoner. We also support his appeal process, and call for a review of his sentence that would lead to a reduction in time served.
June 15th, 2004
The Bilston Glen Collective
After that we walked towards the city centre handing out flyers about Jeff.
In the evening we showed the film "Green with a vengeance" to about 30 people at the Forest cafe in Edinburgh. After the film we gave updates about Jeff's case, ideas about how you can help Jeff and updates on the Earth Liberation Fronts struggle. The showing was finished off with a poem from our own Fruity Blue. After it some people signed the Sign-on letter of support for Jeff and some stayed to discuss whether burning SUV's is a good idea or not. All in all a good event.
Picture from the action outside the consulate to follow...