Jessica Kubusch - UNC Chapel Hill

Two prominent activists have launched a campaign on college campuses to argue that the federal government ignores “right-wing violence” while it unlawfully targets environmentalist protestors.

Journalist Will Potter, often accompanied by notorious animal rights activist Jake Conroy, has visited several universities over the last few months to tell students and professors – including law school students and educators – that the FBI is abusing the 2006 “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act” to target and jail animal rights activists and other social justice protestors.

They claim law enforcement officers use the law to convict non-violent protestors as “eco-terrorists,” but meanwhile don’t prioritize capturing “right-wing extremists” who commit heinous crimes against minorities. They use Conroy – convicted under the act – as a prime example.

Underscoring their campus speeches, Potter’s 2011 book “Green Is The New Red” is frequently becoming required reading on many colleges campuses, including: Georgetown University’s “Politics of Terrorism and Political Violence” course; University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law’s civil rights litigation class; American University’s social justice course; Northern Arizona University’s politics and protest course; and at other colleges, according to a compilation on Potter’s website.

And while Potter’s rhetoric largely accuses the FBI of targeting so-called left-wing protestors while ignoring what he frequently refers to as “right-wing extremists,” the law has also received criticism by conservative groups that say it goes too far.

“The law has emerged as a central example of how Congress has eroded the legal concept of mens rea, which is Latin for ‘guilty mind’—a long-held protection that says a defendant must know they’ve done something wrong to be found guilty of it,” states a Sept. 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal. “The 2006 act was cited in a joint study by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as an example of an overly broad law, particularly the way it clashed with First Amendment free-speech protections.”

A late January speech by Potter and Conroy at Duke University’s school of law echoed those sentiments. They discussed Conroy’s prosecution to raise questions about the violations of protestors’ First Amendment rights.

Conroy was convicted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act and sentenced to forty-eight months in federal prison. Recently released, he is now completing three years of probation.

Conroy had been a member of the infamous SHAC 7, which campaigned to close a notorious animal testing lab. In his speech, Conroy alleged the Philadelphia-based corporation killed upwards of 500 animals per day and participated in acts of animal cruelty, such as dissecting animals without first euthanizing them.

Conroy said he used an assortment of tactics in the campaign to stop the lab, but denied using any physical violence against people or animals.

“The ‘terrorist’ campaign of the SHAC 7 didn’t involve anthrax, pipe bombs, or a plot to hijack an airplane,” Potter’s website states. “They ran a website. On that website, they posted news about the campaign — legal actions like protests and illegal actions like stealing animals from labs — and unabashedly supported all of it.”

Conroy, in his speech, said his group considered their campaign successful as the corporation’s stock price went from $30 to cents on the dollar, but he added that’s when the trouble started.

He said he was investigated as a domestic terrorist for acts of economic sabotage, as the federal government considers economic damage to a specific corporation in an amount greater than $10,000 to be an act of domestic terrorism.

But Conroy said he saw his involvement in the campaign – maintaining the group’s website and participating in nonviolent demonstrations – as protected free speech.

Conroy and Potter claimed the feds’ priorities are out of whack.

Potter, in his talk, argued “right-wing violence” such as rape, murder, and assault, have increased 400 percent since 1990, yet the federal government considers eco-terrorism America’s greatest threat, citing various government documents.

On his website, Potter loosely defines right-wing violence as crimes directed against ethnic and religious minorities as well as the homosexual community.

“When examined side-by-side with FBI reports on domestic terrorism, the data … shows that the FBI has been either grossly miscalculating, or intentionally downplaying, murders and violent attacks by right-wing extremists, while exaggerating the threat posed by animal rights activists and environmentalists, who have only destroyed property,” Potter states.

Potter, in his speech at Duke University, said American’s First Amendment rights are in jeopardy from the federal government through its use of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, noting the law is used to prosecute nonviolent civil disobedience, citing Conroy’s experience as one such example.

He added individuals who conduct undercover investigations, such as news organizations, to gather evidence or expose animal cruelty can also now be prosecuted as domestic terrorists under the law.

Potter warned attendees that due to the extensive research for his book, conducted using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain hundreds of thousands of documents relating to eco-terrorism, that he is often monitored by the FBI.

He even suggested the feds could be monitoring his presentation, and said FBI agents have previously attended his lectures.

Potter also warned the animal terrorism act could be abused by law enforcement if groups of consumers banded together to choose not to purchase a product and encouraged others to do so as well, thus disrupting a specific corporation’s ability to create a profit.

He said those protestors could be seen as domestic terrorists engaged in economic sabotage. At what point, he asked, does ideology become illegal instead of protected free speech?

Several students appeared visibly upset after the talk.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

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As Americans today mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, college junior Tianna Spears is busy prepping to re-launch the Beautiful Pain Movement, a secular campus outreach program that helps students heal from abortion trauma.

Spears, 20, a business major at North Carolina State, founded the campus group after she helped a close friend through the emotional after-effects of an abortion, noting on her blog that “I saw her pain, heard it in her voice, saw it accumulate and drip from her eyes.”

“I saw how she struggled,” Spears said in an interview with The College Fix. “She would go for counseling, but they would be really religious or pro-life. That really encouraged me to make the group not affiliated with anything.”

The Beautiful Pain Movement is apolitical and non-religious. It fashions itself as “a loving community of understanding and acceptance among people who have experienced the same thing.” Its slogan? “Come as you are.”

The group, founded in September, will launch its latest five-week session Wednesday, the day after the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. An estimated 55 million abortions have occurred since that ruling.

While many feminists and staunch pro-choice advocates often insist there’s no real harm or mental or psychological after-effects from an abortion, Spears’ personal experience through her friend indicates there can be emotional scarring.

The most commonly discussed emotions are guilt, regret and denial, she said. For the men, they felt like they had not done enough, and some were denied a voice when it came time to make the decision, she said. That’s where the group comes in, offering empathetic support.

“As a whole, a society, we are supposed to be strong, but handle our pain in private, behind closed doors, and bury our skeletons in the closet,” Spears blogged recently. “I disagree. People need people to get through difficult situations, no matter what the circumstances may be.”

That comfort is especially vital given the lack of counseling available for women after an abortion, Spears said. While women are scheduled for a follow-up medical appointment to make sure the pregnancy has cleared, there’s no support provided for the emotional turmoil that may follow, she said.

Outside the context of a person being for or against abortion, Spears said most mainstream discourse about abortion doesn’t come close to touching on what her group tackles.

She said she intends for the sessions to be a safe, open place where participants can share how they have been affected by abortion, and through the support of peers, determine their own steps to find peace with what happened.

By hosting the sessions on NC State’s campus, Spears said she hopes more students will come – though the group is open to all, students and non-students alike. As an official on-campus organization, Spears has received support from the university as well.

And that support comes at a crucial time.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank which compiles statistics on reproduction, abortions have been on the rise since 2008. Prior to that, they were on the decline. Suggestions have been made that the increase could be due to the recent recession.

In fact, Spears said finances have played a part in participants’ reasoning for getting an abortion, though she is careful to point out that it is not the only reason. She also cites lack of support and pressure from boyfriends or parents as indicated reasons for abortions among group members.

Spears said she hopes to further develop the Beautiful Pain Movement, with plans to file for recognition as a non-profit by May 2014. Further information can be found at the group’s website: thebeautifulpainmovement.org.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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Not everyone agrees with the decision to let male and female students live in the same suite together at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, as one student leader calls it segregation, and statewide conservative groups decry it as pandering to special interests.

Lucas Mavromatis, council president of the university’s LDS Institute of Religion, a Mormon student group, said in an interview that gender-neutral housing is akin to segregation. He argues it basically allows the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer student community to ostracize themselves, because it’s a safe presumption they will choose to live together.

It was the campus’ LGBTQ community that lobbied hard to get the program approved. The program is application-based, meant only for those who opt-in.

“There is a growing population of students who have not interacted with LGBTQ students, and by segregating part of the population, UNC is keeping those students from interacting,” Mavromatis said. “UNC is so excited by its diversity, but I don’t think it realizes it’s segregating its diversity instead of encouraging interaction.”

To further prove his point, Mavromatis noted UNC already offers living-learning communities specifically for Hispanics, Chinese, Transfer Students and Women.

“When you segregate people, you’re keeping them from being able to interact with one another,” he said. “I believe that interaction is what most helps do away with stereotypes and (helps us) love one another.”

Mavromatis speaks from experience. He was born in Brazil, and said he has enjoyed connecting with students at UNC who do not share his background.

“We need to do something that will promote more social interaction,” he said.

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s board of trustees’ unanimously approved gender-neutral housing on Nov. 15. Starting next fall, male and female students may live in the same dorm suite.

Chancellor Holden Thorp initially vetoed the proposal in February, calling it unnecessary. However, after a student lobbying campaign sponsored in part by the LGBTQ Center, Thorp had a different message in November, saying instead gender-neutral housing is an issue of safety.

Not all students on campus agreed with Thorp’s decision, based on anecdotal stories and informal discussions among some groups of students. Several members of Christian groups on campus declined to comment to The College Fix about their thoughts on the matter, however.

Mavromatis said he thinks he knows why.

“At UNC, there’s a lot of liberal ideas, and they’re the ones published by (the student-run newspaper The Daily Tar Heel),” he said. “And so I think a lot of groups are hesitant to voice their opinions because they don’t want to be looked down upon. So they quiet down and accept whatever the new status quo is going to be.”

Mavromatis said he knew the measure was going to pass at the November board meeting because trustees faced “a lot of pressure.”

“Gay rights are such a hot topic right now,” he said. “They already rejected the plan the first time, and so it’s coming a second time around and I feel like they’re thinking – if we let this go again, the students are just going to go crazy on us, so let’s just pass it and it will keep them happy for now.”

But it’s a slippery slope, he said.

“Who’s to say that in the future other groups, maybe a Hispanic group, maybe a group of color, maybe an international student group, (is) going to start saying they’re not safe, and because you made an exception for this group of people now you’re going to have to make a neutral housing for this group and that group, and before you know it – everybody’s segregated,” he said.

Meanwhile, several other conservative groups off-campus have also voiced concern over UNC’s gender-neutral housing decision.

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said it sets up “a special privilege primarily based on sexual orientation” in a recent Christian Action League article.

He said while the university has the responsibility to ensure students are safe, this is a far-reaching effort that insists that alternative lifestyles are totally embraced and accommodated, the article stated.

“If a person is harassed and threatened by his or her roommate for whatever reason, then the problem should be reported and dealt with,” Creech stated. “But to elevate sexual orientation above other considerations is giving those who choose an alternative lifestyle special protections that are uncalled for and at the cost of society at large.”

The article also quoted Tami Fitzgerald, director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, who called the move “another misplaced ‘diversity’ policy.”

The group is lobbying for the decision to be reversed.

“The UNC Board of Trustees is bending over backward to please the homosexual lobby – a group that represents only about 3 percent of the population – without regard for the consequences…,” Fitzgerald said in the article. “To make matters worse, our tax dollars subsidize the University of North Carolina system.”

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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Several professors across the nation have dismissed efforts by more than 500,000 Americans to secede from the U.S., labeling petitioners as emotional, even “idiots,” and likening the movement to a fairy tale. One professor even implied the effort is racist.

Dr. Brian Ellison, chairman of Appalachian State University’s Department of Government and Justice Studies, told The College Fix in an email that “these people are idiots. Mostly they have no understanding of how government works and they’re caught up in a make believe world created by Fox News.”

He is not alone. Several other professors who have opined about the effort disregarded the petitions as simply emotional reactions to President Barack Obama’s re-election, according to various news reports.

One scholar has even gone so far as to imply those who signed the petitions to secede from America as a result of last week’s presidential election are racist, in that they’re unhappy with a black President.

Dr. Art English, science professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, told reporter Dustin Barnes (of Fox affiliate KLRT) that “it’s hard to tell if it’s strictly Obama’s policies or his race that led to this bold petition.”

Another college educator claimed the petitions run afoul of constitutional law.

“It’s not really legal,” Ken Collier, a political science professor at Stephen F. Austen State University, told ABC news affiliate KTRE. “We joined the Union under the terms everybody else did.”

Collier said he believes people are just upset over the election, and they’ll simmer down.

“I think you’ll see this die down pretty quickly,” the Texas professor was quoted as saying. “People want to secede, people want to move to Canada, or whatever, but in the end they step back, reflect and understand how much they love their country and how much they would give away if they moved away.”

McMurray University history professor Don Frazier cited similar reasoning for the petitions, focusing instead on what would happen if secession were granted in an interview published by the Abilene Reporter-News.

“Do you want the tyranny of Washington or the tyranny of Austin? If you secede, the new capital isn’t going to be Brenham or Amarillo or Abilene,” he said. “It’s going to be Austin and Austin is populated by government bureaucrats who see things through a government lens.”

Frazier referred to the idea of an easy secession for Texas as an “old-wives tale.”

It remains to be seen if the effort will die down as people continue to access the White House’s site We the People, which hosts the petitions.

A petition calling for the secession of Texas has garnered nearly 100,000 signatures in just over a week. In total, more than 40 states have filed petitions to secede from the United States, many requesting that the Obama Administration peacefully grant a state the right to withdraw from the United States and create a new government. The petitions declare:

“As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government…”

It is unclear how many of the signatures represent registered voters, as the White House site only requires that participants be 13-years-old or older, and register using their name and email address. Also, there is no polling data to determine how many Americans would support state secession.

However, there are petitions on the White House page that also call for a peaceful secession (1, 232 signatures); for the U.S. to “allow the States that have asked to secede to do so peacefully” (1, 826 signatures); and even one to “deport everyone that signed a petition to withdraw their state from the United States of America” (13,399).

To date, states that either have not filed or have not met the White House’s threshold to be listed on “We the People” include Washington, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Hawaii.

Petitions with more than 25,000 signatures can expect to receive a response, as the White House is committed under its terms of participation to do so. Petitions from states that have crossed that threshold so far are Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina.

The petitions from Oregon, Alaska and Virginia (each with less than 13,000 signatures) request that these states be allowed to vote as a state whether or not to secede. There are also several states with more than one petition for secession:

South Carolina: (2 petitions) 32,000+ signatures

Missouri: (2 petitions) 26,000+ signatures

Georgia: (3 petitions) 42,000+ signatures

Oklahoma: (2 petitions) nearly 22,000 signatures

Ohio: (2 petitions) almost 15,000 signatures

Although Texas has nearly 100,000 petitioners , Texas Governor Rick Perry’s spokewoman, Catherine Frazier, told reporters that while Perry “shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government” he “believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it.”

Meanwhile, a petition filed with the White House for the city of Austin to withdraw from Texas and remain a part of the United States is gaining momentum, as 3,500 signatures have been collected so far.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

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In a recent speech to North Carolina college students, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. stumped for Barack Obama and described members of the Tea Party movement as slavery supporters.

In a speech Friday at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, billed as a get-out-the-vote rally, Jackson drew a difference between the original Boston Tea Party, which he said aimed to “end occupation and wipe out the tea tax,” and the contemporary Tea Party, which he characterized as a group that wants to “overthrow our government, engage in secession, sedition, segregation and slavery.”

Jackson continued that the Tea Party “has lost that war.”

Referencing slavery in America’s past several times, Jackson also warned the students that because of this country’s history they have a responsibility to vote.

“We have struggled for so long with the hypocrisy on paper of being one nation under God… but we couldn’t be one nation half slave and half free,” Jackson said. “We couldn’t be one nation when women did not have the right to vote. We couldn’t be one nation when workers do not have the right of collective bargaining. We could not be one nation when people of a language other than English could not express themselves and be seen as citizens.”

When Jackson took the stage, he started by asking the crowd to repeat after him:

“I am somebody, red and yellow, brown, black and white. We’re all precious in God’s sight. Everybody is somebody. My mind is a pearl. I can do anything in the world if my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it. I know I can achieve it. Stop the violence. Save the children. I can hope. I will hope. I must hope. Keep hope alive. Forward by hope. Not backwards by fear. Keep hope alive.”

Another focus of Rev. Jackson’s speech was the moral authority he said he feels the United States lacks as long as there are barriers between people.

“Separate but unequal” was a term he proffered multiple times in his speech to describe the disparity between blacks and whites and the rich and the poor, saying: “Where there is inclusion, there is growth … at the heart of justice is fairness, even and equal.”

In a speech that sounded similar to one Obama might give, Jackson commented on the high number of black men in prison, the amount of loan debt with which students are saddled, and the necessity for a safety net in Medicare.  Jackson said the answer is to “create the world you want to live in.”

Jackson ended his speech by telling students to “honor the legacy and vote.”

Although Jackson was careful not to advise people to vote for Obama outright, those around him were more direct. After finishing his speech, Jackson asked everyone to rise, saying he was going to march with them to an early voting location on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.

Upon exiting the auditorium, attendees were given signs, fans and bumper stickers proclaiming Obama as their candidate.  Among the sponsors of Jackson’s visit were The Black Student Movement, the NAACP, Tar Heels for Obama, and the UNC Chapter of Young Democrats.

The one-hundred strong march headed to Ram’s Head Dining Hall, where voter registration and early voting took place. Also present were tables set up by the Orange County Democratic Party and the UNC chapter of Young Democrats, who doled out pizza and soda provided by the Obama for President campaign.

The Orange County Republican Party also had a table where a volunteer handed out sample ballots. One volunteer said he had no idea that Rev. Jackson was going to be on campus that day.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

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Feminism has been dealt a huge setback because of iconic conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and Phyllis Schlafly, who use the crusade’s more radical ideas to create unflattering caricatures of feminists, notions then perpetuated by the mainstream media, a North Carolina history professor says.

This misrepresentation has distorted feminism’s accomplishments and goals, so that today many young women don’t relate to the extreme stereotypes promulgated by conservatives and ultimately reject the movement, said North Carolina feminist and scholar Rachel Seidman.

Seidman, a visiting lecturer at Duke University and adjunct assistant professor at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, is the professor behind the “Who Needs Feminism?” campaign.  Launched in the spring as part of a Duke women’s studies assignment, it turned into a global social networking and Internet phenomenon, with more than 200,000 visits to the project’s Tumblr blog.

Seidman made the comments about conservatives’ influence on feminism at a recent forum at Duke, as well as in a subsequent interview with The College Fix.

At the Sept. 20 forum, called “Who Needs Feminism? Reflecting and Continuing,” Seidman and the students who co-founded the campaign bemoaned feminism’s current public relations problems before discussing ways to reignite and expand their campaign.

Today there’s a “profound misunderstanding of what (feminism) was in the first place,” said Seidman, who laid blame for that on “conservatives who caricature and erase history.”

Seidman’s comments were followed with a presentation by student Ivanna Gonzales, co-founder of the campaign, who attributed the following quote to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh: “Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

Gonzales also attributed evangelist Pat Robertson as saying feminism “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

She then took aim at Phyllis Schlafly, attributing a quote to the prominent conservative activist that “feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad. Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it. Some of them are pretty. They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.”

With the three quotes looming large on a screen behind her, Gonzales told the two dozen people in the audience she agreed with Seidman that “lots of negative stereotypes are perpetuated by conservative people in the media.”

If more women would simply educate themselves on real feminism – instead of buying into what conservative leaders say – they’d agree and identify with and support the modern feminist movement instead of reject it, several women leading the presentation indicated.

Seidman expanded on that point in an email to The College Fix.

“Those who felt threatened by the movement have drawn caricatures based on some of the more radical ideas and writings out there, and created a stereotype based on that, which became very popular in the press,” Seidman stated. “So today, young women carry around that stereotype in their head, rather than images of all the various types of real women who were active in the feminist movement, and if they don’t identify with that stereotyped version of radical feminism, then they think they must not ‘be a feminist.’”

“Who Needs Feminism?” spawned from a class Seidman taught at Duke in the spring called “Women in the Public Sphere.” It focused on women’s activism across the United States, and students were encouraged to develop a project with the intent of promoting social change.

Student Ashley Tsai, co-founder of the campaign, said at the forum that at Duke, many of her peers believe feminism is no longer relevant. To show why it is “relevant to people’s lives – not just in academics,” their project asked students to take pictures of themselves holding a dry erase board stating “I need feminism because,” then the reason why.

Initially the photographs were turned into posters and placed on campus, however the project founders said they wanted to include a social networking element and established a Tumblr page. The campaign grew to include a Facebook page and website. The Tumblr page features about 3,000 photographs submitted by individuals and groups from around the world.

There has been a backlash, however. A You Don’t Need Feminism Tumblr blog was started. Other feedback included negative or obscene comments posted online that poke fun of the original message.

Undeterred, the project’s co-founders are updating their website, and adding more resources to it. They provide a Start Your Own Campaign guide to those who ask. And the women are currently working with schools across North Carolina to promote a “Week of Action” in mid-October, during which students will be encouraged to add to the campaign and to discuss feminism.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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