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Governor Rendell Signs PA Ecoterrorism bill into law
by david Monday, Apr. 17, 2006 at 1:25 AM (email address validated)

On Friday, April 14th, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed House Bill 213 into law. The bill amends the state's crimes code to include the offense of "ecoterrorism."

On Friday, April 14th, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed House Bill 213 into law. The bill amends the state's crimes code to include the offense of "ecoterrorism."

HB 213 is a sentencing enhancement bill that increases the severity of penalties for pre-established crimes, such a criminal trespass and vandalism, based on the motivation of the actor and the fact that the conduct is in some way related to an activity involving animals or natural resources.

A sizable coalition of interests lobbied on behalf of a bill, including the pharmaceutical industry, biotech industry, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Forestry Association, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh and University of Pennsylvania. Last week the Anarchist Black Cross protested against the bill and two of their members met with the Governor, who told them he had strong reservations about it.

But the Governor went ahead and signed the bill and in a release he said that "Destroying property, intimidating Pennsylvania residents or illegally confiscating animals as a way of political protest will not be tolerated in Pennsylvania."

Copy of bill here:

A copy of the Governor's signing message is below:

To the Honorable, the House of Representatives of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

Today I signed House Bill 213, which establishes the offense of ecoterrorism. I did so because I believe that this legislation strikes an appropriate balance to protect the safety and property rights of our citizens and the rights of law-abiding individuals who actively voice opposition to particular activity. In my view, in seeking to protect property owners, House Bill 213 does not infringe on individual peaceful protest or non-violent civil disobedience - hallmarks of the precious First Amendment rights that Americans enjoy.

The bill defines "ecoterrorism" as the commission of specified offenses against property intending to intimidate a person who is lawfully participating in an activity involving animals, plants, or natural resource facilities or preventing or obstructing an individual from lawfully participating in those activities. The specified offenses against property are already crimes in Pennsylvania. The purpose of this legislation, however, is to deter politically motivated property destruction with the intent of intimidation.

Persons who seek to influence political discourse by committing crimes against property with the intent of intimidation are putting the lives of innocent law-abiding citizens at risk. In the last decade our nation has witnessed an increasing number of costly and dangerous acts of destruction of property - in the name of animal rights or environmental protection. Most of these protests are lodged against pharmaceutical and other companies that are in the business of developing new medicines to provide treatments and cures for deadly diseases. Those who oppose animal research certainly have the right to use the political process to express their views. But if they intentionally destroy property as part of their protest they should be charged accordingly for any property crimes they have committed. These persons should receive additional punishment because their conduct is intended to intimidate and stop lawful activities.

If this legislation imposed additional penalties on persons who were only engaged in peaceful protest that did not involve property damage, I would have vetoed the bill. But to be subject to the additional penalties imposed under House Bill 213, protesters must do more - they must act against property with the specific intent to intimidate. That type of conduct cannot be countenanced in any free society.

In considering this bill, I met with animal rights activists and read the many letters I received from supporters of the bill. The activists shared with me their concern for their free speech rights. This bill does not infringe upon those rights. Those in favor of this bill cited specific examples of property destruction that in and of themselves are compelling reasons to sign the legislation. One telling example comes from W.B. Saul Agricultural High School in Southeast Pennsylvania. This public high school has been targeted by militant animal rights activists who have not stopped at peaceful protest, but who have vandalized the school, stealing animals and destroying property. That conduct is not protected speech; I believe that House Bill 213 will deter such conduct.

This bill strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the safety of our citizens and their property with one of the most important American freedoms - the right to protest.


Edward G. Rendell

detention camps
by cultural revoluton Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006 at 1:02 AM

I thought the high schools were the detention camps for re-education.

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