On Friday, November 17th, Andy Stepanian will be sentenced for his role in numerous Animal Liberation Front crimes committed in the Long Island, New York area. Over the weekend a letter from Stepanian circulated on several animal rights mailing lists defending his actions and urging animal rights activists to protest outside the court room at his sentencing hearing.
In 1999 Stepanian started the Long Island chapter of the Animal Defense League. This came just a year after a wave of Animal LIberation Front violence began — over thirty acts of vandalism and property destruction probably in excess of $100,000 were committed in the Long Island area in 1998 and 1999. A coordinated attack on Long Island McDonald’s restaurants in October 1999 cost tens of thousands of dollars alone.
On February 3, 2000, Stepanian and another member of the Long Island ADL, Ron Blaich, were arrested for smashing windows at a fur store in Huntington New York. Stepanian’s case went to trial and he was convicted — he currently faces 2 1/2 to 7 years in jail. So what does Stepanian have to say for himself? He and the animal rights movements are the real victims!
I am writing this [letter] to you not to ask for help, but rather to assure you that “they” (Police, FBI, Cointelpro) want you to be frightened by what is happening to me. Their goal is to scare each activist on LI [Long Island] by making an example of me by sending me to prison. If you allow them to scare you then they have started winning, they prey on fear and weakness in activist collectives.
Of course when Stepanian and other activists were running around smashing windows, vandalizing store fronts, and other criminal activities they weren’t at all trying to instill fear in their victims. They probably thought that smashing windows would contribute to the self esteem of the store’s proprietors. Leave it to terrorists to start ranting and raving about how police are trying to instill fear (it probably never occurred to Stepanian that instilling fear in lawbreakers is considered by many people to be one of the primary goals of criminal justice).
After noting that furriers in New York are planning to attend his sentencing, Stepanian rails against this “harassment.”
We (ADL) Have proposed that we return to them the same level of harassment they use against us. IF THEY TREAT US LIKE CRIMINALS, THEN WE HAVE THE DUTY TO TREAT THEM LIKE THE CRIMINALS THEY ARE! … the FBI and DA’s office are spearheading a campaign to dissolve the animal rights movement…
Stepanian could have easily avoided being treated like a criminal — all he would have had to do is simply not commit any crimes. Most people who have political and ideological disagreements don’t go around smashing each other’s windows (although property destruction directed against animal rights groups has occurred, furriers, medical researchers, and others don’t go around smashing the windows and vandalizing the exteriors of the headquarters of animal rights groups).
Ironically, contrary to Stepanian’s claim that the FBI is trying to destroy the animal rights movement, it is people like Stepanian who threaten it most. There are at least two lawsuits currently in pre-trial phrases that claim various above-ground animal rights groups are simply fronts for terrorist groups like the Animal Liberation Front. Convictions like Stepanian’s only make it more likely that a civil jury will accept that argument that groups such as the Animal Defense League are part of a larger conspiracy to destroy legitimate animal enterprises.
When a large jury award causes the animal rights movement to implode, activists shouldn’t blame the FBI or local police, but rather activists who combine their daytime legal activism with their nighttime criminal activity.
Andy Stepanian letter, October 12, 2000.