The Term “Eco-Terrorist” is Being Used to Harass Activists

Status: Active

In an article for Grist, Justine Calma and Paola Rosa-Aquino discuss a 1990s tactic that is growing in popularity once again: labeling activists as “eco-terrorists.”

Across the world, we are witnessing growing efforts by governments and corporations to silence environmental activists. According to Calma and Rosa-Aquino, “The consequences of treating environmentalists like terrorists can go to much further lengths than denying them entry to a climate conference.” Numerous authoritarian regimes have invoked anti-terrorism laws to suppress the free speech rights of critics. In 2018, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte attempted to label Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, as a terrorist.

The same trend exists within the United States. Calma and Rosa-Aquino point to the example of the Dakota Access Pipeline, being built by Texas-based Energy Transfer. Protesters at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have raised concerns about the environmental and health impacts of the pipeline. Energy Transfer and its allies have responded with a range of tactics, including SLAPPs against environmental organizations like Greenpeace and individual activists like Krystal Two Bulls. These SLAPPs allege acts of “eco-terrorism.” The Protect the Protest task force is helping to defend against these frivolous lawsuits and has so far succeeded in having SLAPPs against BankTrack and the Earth First! movement dismissed.

By labeling activists as “eco-terrorists,” companies such as Energy Transfer hope to win political support for their efforts to silence their critics. As Calma and Rosa-Aquino note, the ACLU uncovered U.S. government documents in 2018 suggesting that law enforcement agencies were collaborating with private security contractors to use counter-terrorism surveillance tactics against Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

For more information, please read Calma’s and Rosa-Aquino’s January 2, 2019 article in Grist.