By Hayley Gorenberg
Linewaiters’ Gazette of the Park Slope Food Co-op, Brooklyn
May 25, 2006
It was a most unusual reason for leaving the Park Slope Food Coop.
Daniel McGowan, a member since 2002, responded to a routine Coop questionnaire about why he’d left, explaining not only that he had moved to Manhattan, but that he was currently under house arrest for alleged “eco-terrorism.”
McGowan was arrested on December 7, 2005, and charged in federal court on multiple counts of arson, property destruction, and conspiracy relating to two incidents in Oregon in 2001, according to members of his support network, who contributed to this story via email. He pleaded not guilty and faces life imprisonment if convicted.
In an official statement, the FBI explained that it had charged McGowan and several others in a 65-count indictment against alleged perpetrators of 17 acts of “domestic terrorism” between 1996 and 2001 in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California and Colorado, including “arson, conspiracy, use of destructive devices and destruction of an energy facility,” highlighting “the $12 million arson of the Vail Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado, in 1998 and the sabotage of a high-tension power line near Bend, Oregon, in 1999.” The indictment covered attacks on federal land and animal management sites, meat packing plants, lumber facilities and a car dealership.
McGowan’s supporters said in email that his arrest was part of “a well-coordinated, multi-state sweep of numerous activists by the federal government, who has charged the individuals with nearly every earth and animal liberation case left unsolved in the Northwest.” They asserted that the charges were filed just as statutes of limitations were about to expire on charges connected with various direct actions and referred to the sweep as an “FBI offensive [that] appears to be only the beginning of a nation-wide ‘green scare.’”
The term has since appeared in Wikipedia, which recognizes its allusion to the Red Scare of the 1940s-50s in referencing “legal action by the U.S. government against the radical environmentalist movement, including indictments of alleged Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front activists on charges relating to acts of property damage, conspiracy, arson, etc.”
Via email, Jenny, who identified herself as McGowan’s partner, explained that his former housemates and supporters have planned an informational session about Daniel’s case on the afternoon of July 29 at the Coop. McGowan is currently free on bail in the custody of his family and has restricted access to the internet. His friends and family run a website at www.supportdaniel.org and accept and respond to email through the address email@example.com, where they recently collected best wishes for his 32nd birthday. A “Call for Artwork,” advertised under the caption “Anarchists in Trouble,” closes June 1 for a New York City gallery show at ABC No Rio on the Lower East Side, co-sponsored by Visual Resistance and Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan (Contact firstname.lastname@example.org). The two-night gallery show and silent auction on July 27th and 28th will help pay for McGowan’s legal defense.
The posting for the artwork solicitation includes anonymous testimony regarding McGowan: ”On December 7th, my friend was arrested at his workplace by federal marshals. The friend I know as a tireless activist and a funny, generous, caring person was ripped from his friends and family without warning and held without bail in federal prison, facing multiple felony charges and life in prison.
”I met Daniel McGowan during the buildup to the protests against the Republican National Convention in New York. The Visual Resistance crew was organizing the No RNC Poster Project, and Daniel was our first ally. In the time since, Daniel has been a personal friend to all of us in Visual Resistance and to many more in the larger New York activist community. His constant smile and good humor belied his selfless devotion to making this world a better place.
”And on December 9th, he was disappeared. Daniel was extradited to Oregon and held without bail for two months on charges whose statute of limitations were close to expiring. His arrest came as part of a massive government crackdown on the radical environmental movement which many are referring to as the Green Scare. His arrest left the community in shock.”Via email, his supporters forwarded additional background material regarding McGowan, emphasizing that a guilty verdict could condemn him to federal prison for the rest of his life.
The Rockaway Beach, Queens native, younger brother to three older sisters, is the son of a transit officer for the New York Police Department and an elementary school cafeteria worker. He ran cross-country and track at Christ the King High School, and double majored in Business Administration and Southeast Asian studies at SUNY Buffalo, graduating in 1996.
After several months exploring Thailand, he returned to New York and began working in both paid and volunteer positions for environmental and nonprofit organizations. In 1998, he moved to the Northwest, working at environmental and social justice projects before returning to New York in 2002, when he joined the Park Slope Food Coop and worked as a web and office administrator for Rainforest Foundation US. He also worked on a temporary basis for the development department at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
McGowan organized protests during the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004 and then in 2005 entered a graduate program at Tri-State College of Acupuncture to earn a Master’s degree, hoping to practice acupuncture on a sliding scale, or even for free, for those in need. The interest dovetailed with his work on so-called “really, really free markets,” including one set up at a church in the East Village to allow people to contribute and take anything they wanted. His supporters described such a market as “a market space based on giving rather than buying or exchanging. The premise behind the market is that everyone has skills, ideas, objects, smiles, talents, friendship, excitement and many other things to share and that if people would share these resources there would be less need to buy new things and everyone would live a more balanced and full life using fewer of the Earth’s resources and fewer working hours, leaving more time to devote to ourselves and our communities.”
McGowan also worked part-time updating the website and providing technical support at Womenslaw.org, a nonprofit organization which provides online resources to help targets of domestic abuse navigate the legal system. He was arrested on the Womenslaw premises. McGowan’s family and friends have issued a public invitation to join his support network and receive updates on his case, by emailing email@example.com. They are asking people to make donations and organize benefits to help raise funds for his legal representation “which is expected to be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” and have requested that checks or money orders be made out to “Lisa McGowan” and sent to Lisa McGowan, P.O. Box 106, New York, NY 10156.