(Commentary by LIOR Webmaster)
Members of the Earth Liberation Front, which has claimed responsibility for several acts of arson across the country, burned three luxury homes under construction on a former peach farm on Long Island. Scrawled on one of the houses in red paint were the words "If you build it, we will burn it."
Police and prosecutors immediately said they would prosecute the culprits to the full extent of the law, calling the acts criminal — not environmental.
"We will not tolerate this," Suffolk County District Attorney James Catterson said. "Any protest over a social condition that violates criminal law will be prosecuted."
Police also believe the ELF is responsible for millions of dollars in arson and vandalism to six other unoccupied homes on the island in the past month. It also has claimed responsibility for dozens of actions elsewhere in the country since 1996, including a 1998 arson at a Vail ski resort that caused $12 million in damage.
A local builders association on Long Island has offered a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the vandalism, and police officials said they feared further sabotage.
"I am concerned with their latest statement that everything we build that they deem environmentally sensitive, they will destroy," said Suffolk County Police Commissioner John Gallagher.
The ELF, which sometimes acts in concert with the Animal Liberation Front, bills itself as a protector of Earth and an opponent of development. Its goal, according to a Web site the group maintains from Canada, is to hit developers and builders in the pocketbook in an attempt to halt new construction.
"The Earth isn't dying, it's being killed," the group insists. "And those who are killing it have names and addresses."
The homes targeted on Long Island were being built on a former peach farm, one of the few remaining farms in suburban Long Island. "This hopefully provided a firm message that we will not tolerate the destruction of ourisland," the ELF said a statement faxed to The Associated Press.
But another environmental group dedicated to saving Long Island's open space called the damage "worse than pointless."
"They don't have to commit random acts of violence to let people know that Long Island's overdeveloped, since everyone knows we are," said Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society.
"Should we burn down people's houses about it? No. We should probably throw some politicians out of office," he added.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report
Why did Fox
News choose to show an unrelated local construction site, rather than depicting
the millions of dollars of eco-damage? Afraid to turn public sentiment?
Newsday was similarly inclined, showing only mild graffiti rather than arson.
Neither publisher commented on the irony of causing air pollution (burning homes!) to support environmentalism.
Why did the "dedicated" environmentalist quoted only object to the redundancy of the terrorist's method, rather than decry the use of terrorism ?
Call (631-852-2500)or write the Suffolk County District Attorney's office and demand that the terrorists in our midst, and their backers, like ELF mouthpiece Craig Rosenbraugh of the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office, be sought out and punished!
(Commentary by LIOR Webmaster)
Group claims responsibility for LI condo fire
Middle Island, NY, December 13, 2000
Members of an environmental group claimed responsibility for setting a fire to stop a condominium development in Middle Island. The group calls itself the Earth Liberation Front, which has a related group called the Animal Liberation Front.
THE SUFFOLK COUNTY Police Department said that the fire was reported at 11:18 p.m. Saturday in Middle Island. It heavily damaged one condo, and caused minor damage to three others. Police said that slogans with the letters ELF were spray painted on the walls of the condo.
The environmental group has been wanted for graffiti and breaking windows in prior offenses, but the fire is the most serious offense according to police.
January 3, 2001
Builders Hit Back Over Attacks
$10,000 offered for info on environmental arsonists
Long Island builders are offering a $10,000 reward for information that helps police catch the environmental extremists who have burned or tried to burn nine new homes in Suffolk County and vandalized as many as 10 others in the past month to protest suburban sprawl.
Developers yesterday said police told them they are following several leads but have not yet closed in on those responsible for the arson and vandalism, which included spray paint, shattered windows and broken construction equipment. Earth Liberation Front, a loosely constructed international environmental organization, has taken responsibility for the actions through graffiti and national communiques.
"They can't keep doing these kinds of crimes and not get caught," said Lennard Axinn, whose Island Estates development in Mount Sinai was the target of the latest attacks over the weekend, which included three homes burned.
"They're trying to make out that they're motherhood and apple pie, right next to an occupied house-not to mention the fire fighters they endanger." Suffolk County police officials say they have no suspects yet and will meettomorrow with the district attorney's office to talk about setting up a taskforce on the issue. Police are also collecting a list of construction sites tokeep closer tabs on them. And a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the agency is "taking a much more active role" in helping county police.
Craig Rosebraugh, a spokesman for the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office in Portland, Ore., said that to the group's knowledge no one has ever been arrested for any of the hundreds of ELF activities across the United States.
"There have also been no injuries. They take the utmost precautions to ensure that no one is harmed," Rosebraugh said, adding that Long Island has become ground zero for environmental actions protesting suburban sprawl.
He added that police often focus on young loners as their suspects, although ELF's anonymous membership-unified by a single cause-ranges across the board in age and personality.
"Any sort of development or action that is taken for the profit motive that is going to be threatening our air, our water or our soil, the Earth Liberation Front is going to target," said Rosebraugh.
"The only thing about this that hurts the cause of the environmental movement are groups that come out and publicly condemn the actions of those like the ELF," he said. "People listen when significant actions are taken.
These are significant actions." But mainstream environmental activists said yesterday that "violence is unacceptable" and that the actions hurt their end.
"We've worked very hard to make environmentalism a mainstream concept and to be accepted through all walks of life, and I'd hate for this to turn people away," said Adrienne Esposito, associate executive director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Farmingdale. "We don't disagree with their goal of stopping development, but we strongly disagree with violent acts of any kind." Developers, however, said they are not deterred from continuing their projects and are stepping up their efforts to patrol their sites with private security firms. Rather than helping the environment, the group members are causing developers to use more lumber to rebuild the homes, they said.
"I'm definitely frustrated," said Guido Militello of the Lindenhurst-based Brockway Homes, whose project on Whiskey Road in Coram was vandalized recently.
"How many houses can I sit in? How many can I watch? But I'm not going to pack it in and go home." And some developers blamed the environmental terrorism, which they estimatehas caused several million dollars in damage across the county, on anti-construction rhetoric from politicians and environmentalists.
"They keep saying, 'Long Island is under fire, the last open space is being used up and eliminated,' and they're accelerating the rhetoric to a point where they're aiding and abetting this activity," said Bob Wieboldt, executive vice president of the Long Island Builders Institute. His group is offering the $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the recent arsons.
Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, called the actions "worse than pointless" and said no serious environmentalist would contribute to or condone the activity.
"They don't have to commit random acts of violence to let people know that Long Island's overdeveloped, since everyone knows we are," he said. "Should we burn down people's houses about it? No. We should probably throw some politicians out of office."
Staff writers Michael Luo and Robert E. Kessler contributed to this story.