Federal agents have been going to anti-tar sands activists’ homes, calling and texting them, and even contacting their family members, the Canadian Press reported.
A lawyer for some of the protesters, Larry Hildes, said that he personally knows of at least a dozen people in the northwestern US who have contacted by the FBI, and believes that the number is probably higher.
“They appeared to be interested in actions around the tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline,” Hildes told the CP. “It’s always the same line: ‘We’re not doing criminal investigations, you’re not accused of any crime. But we’re trying to learn more about the movement.’”
Hildes has advised the activists contacted not to talk to investigators, and because of this “lack of communication,” the true motives of the FBI aren’t clear.
“The FBI has the authority to conduct an investigation when it has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has engaged in criminal activity or is planning to do so,” said Ayn Dietrich, an FBI spokesperson. “This authority is based on the illegal activity, not the individual’s political views.”
While some of the people contacted don’t belong to the same activists groups, or even live in the same state, the common link between them all is their opposition to oil sands, particularly the participation in the “megaload protests.”
These protests involve the activists blocking the highway to prevent the “enormous, football-field-sized shipments of processing equipment up to the oil sands.”
Helen Yost, of the group Wild Idaho Rising Tide, said only two people from her group participated in the megaload actions – Herb Goodwin and herself – and they are the only ones that have been contacted by the FBI.
Yost was left a voicemail by an agent, who left his name, phone number, and said, “I work with the FBI. Could you give me a call back? I would appreciate it.” She refused to cooperate.
Goodwin was visited at his home by a federal agent and a detective from the local police force in Bellingham, Washington. The agent told Goodwin, “We’re here to ask whether you’ll answer some questions for us about Deep Green Resistance,” a group that identifies itself as a “radical” environmental movement.
Yost’s and other environmental groups have expressed opposition for some of DGR’s more extreme views/plans, and she believes the FBI “might be trying to sow division in the movement.”
Despite the attention from the FBI, activists have no plans of stopping their protests. Goodwin, who is one of the nearly 100,000 people who have signed a pledge for civil disobedience regarding the Keystone pipeline, called it “a life mission” to sotp the development of oil sands in Canada and the US.
“If we don’t stop that … we’re never going to convert to alternative energies that don’t polute the atmosphere,” he said.