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Activist Who Freed 2,000 Minks From Illinois Farm Sentenced Under Obscure Terrorism Law

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 23, 2016 6:41PM

Tyler Lang, left, and Kevin Olliff (aka Kevin Johnson), right. (Photo courtesy
A second animal rights activist was sentenced Wednesday in a case dating back to 2014, in which two men were accused of releasing some 2,000 minks from a fur farm in Morris, Illinois.

Tyler Lang, who was arrested alongside Kevin Johnson in August, 2013 during a routine traffic stop in Woodford County where police found bolt cutters, camouflage clothing and masks, was sentenced Wednesday. The two men were indicted in 2014 under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law created by the American Legislative Exchange Council and pushed through Congress in 2006 which gave more authority to the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute animal rights activists.

The Tribune reports prosecutors said the pair released more than 2,000 minks from the farm, along with spraypainting the words “LIBERATION IS LOVE” on the side of a barn, and damaging vehicles. The farm closed as a result of the action, and its owners say they suffered psychologically after the incident.

Johnson was sentenced last month to three years in prison with time served and ordered to pay $200,000 restitution to the farm owners. Lang was also sentenced to a $200,000 restitution payment, along with three months time served, six months house arrest and an additional six months of “community confinement.”

Both men had already served time under state law and entered into non-cooperating plea agreements to lessen their sentences under the AETA. According to a report from the Guardian published last year, the pair are one of a small but seemingly growing number of people who have been prosecuted under the act for widely-ranging so-called crimes—including simple acts of protest such as handing out flyers or chalking sidewalks. According to Mother Jones, four protesters in California were indicted for doing just that, but the charges which were later thrown out by a federal judge in 2010.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, along with advocates for Johnson and Lang, said in a statement that the act is an attempt “to conjure public fear of the animal liberation movement and chill dissent.”

The law, supported by big pharmaceutical and agricultural companies at the time it was authored, attempts to equate non-violent civil disobedience and other activities—including undercover filming of alleged animal cruelty or abuse—with terrorism. In 2014, Johnson and Lang called their indictments “an attempt to indict an entire movement in the eyes of the public,” and a “slap in the face to a public that sadly knows what terrorism actually looks like.”

Wednesday, the support team for the duo said in a statement that their case should be a “reminder that we have to show each other love and support in the face of State repression.”