United States: Monsanto's political prisoner, Marie Mason, part of 'green scare' crackdown

Marie Mason is a 52-year-old mother of two children, a long-time activist in environmental and labour movements, an artist, gardener, musician, writer, poet, an Earth First! organiser, a volunteer for a free healthcare collective, a worker for numerous charities and a political prisoner in the United States.

In 1999 and 2000, several acts of property damage and arson claimed by the Earth Liberation Front were carried out by Mason and her then-husband, Frank Ambrose. No one was injured in any of these protest actions.

Afterwards, Ambrose was arrested by federal authorities and agreed to become a government informant. He gave them information that then led to Mason's arrest on March 10, 2008 by FBI agents.

Mason was charged with involvement in two attacks. One was on an office at Michigan State University where research into genetically modified organism (GMO) crops was being conducted by agribusiness giant Monsanto. The other attack was damage to commercial logging equipment.

After being threatened with the prospect of life imprisonment, Mason accepted a plea bargain. She was sentenced on February 5, 2009 to almost 22 years in prison.

This is the longest sentence of any environmentalist “Green Scare” political prisoner in the US.

Green Scare is the name given to the recent arrests of environmentalist and animal liberation rights activists who have been charged with acts of economic sabotage against the property of unethical companies.

Federal authorities have frequently sought excessive sentences, often life in prison, and labelled these environmental radicals as terrorists. This is despite the glaring fact that no one has been killed or injured in any of these acts.

An appeal for a reduction in Mason's sentence was denied in 2010.

Mason’s supporters say the case is political persecution. It reflects the overly long sentences given to individuals who commit actions against the property of big companies, as part of the “Green Scare” campaign that seeks to frighten dissidents.

These laws are being used disproportionately against anarchists, socialists, radical environmentalists and animal liberationists. The acts of sabotage by militant activists have been redefined as “terrorism”, despite the fact people are not terrorised or injured.

Yet domestic terrorism charges are rarely used against those who assassinate abortion doctors, or commit racist or homophobic crimes. These cases are also being used to attack and erode basic civil rights in the US.

So, while Mason languishes in jail for 22 years for property damage, companies such as Monsanto continue their destructive business.

Monsanto has a sordid history of profiting from poisonous and deadly chemical products, such as Agent Orange, now-banned PCBs and other poisons.

Agent Orange is a toxic chemical herbicide that was sprayed over 10% of forests and fields of southern Vietnam by the US military for 10 years. More than 20 million gallons was sprayed from 1961 to 1971.

Agent Orange was more than 50 times more concentrated than the normal agricultural herbicides. This extreme concentration had a devastating effect on the affected areas, destroying all plants, as well as having adverse health effects on people and animals.

The Vietnamese Red Cross has recorded that more than 4.8 million people were exposed to Agent Orange. This led to more than 400,000 deaths, 500,000 birth defects, as well as miscarriages, cancers, mental illness and other disabilities.

Even today, its damaging legacy continues to be felt by the Vietnamese people. The use of Agent Orange was later declared to be in violation of the Geneva Contract.

The Vietnamese victims have received no compensation.

PCBs are toxic, chemical pollutants that cause cancer in animals. Its use also raised grave concerns about human health effects, due to it being found in chickens, eggs, fish, shellfish, and other foodstuffs. It was also discovered in seabirds and contaminated soil and water.

PCB production was banned by the US Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001. Before its ban, 99% of PCBs in US industry were used by Monsanto.

So, while people like Marie suffer long terms in jail for acts of resistance against Monsanto, it and other corporations continue to churn out chemical poisons, polluting the earth and producing engineered GM foods.

Mason has received support from many individuals and political groups, including Earth First! Anarchist Black Cross and the Industrial Workers of the World.

Political activist and indie singer/songwriter David Rovics has been organising benefit concerts to raise funds for Mason and the campaign for her rights.

In an April 10 letter last year to Earth First! journal, Mason wrote: “It’s been too many years away from the world now for me.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year-and-a-half that I’ve been living in this tiny little isolated unit here at Caswell. But nothing’s changed for me; my heart’s still wild and free and full of so much love and strength, when I feel connected to all of you still out there fighting for the Earth. Thank you. Until All Are Free. Marie.”

[Further information on Mason’s case and situation can be found at – supportmariemason.org. A protest has been called in Melbourne by Anarchist Black Cross as part of the June 11 International Day of Solidarity with Marie Mason and Eric McDavid ― another US environmentalist political prisoner being held in the US. The protest will held at 6.30pm, June 11, at at 1 Spring Street.

For those who would like to support Mason by writing to her, her address is: Marie Mason, #04672-061, FMC Caswell, Federal Medical Center, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX. USA. 76127.

Due to conditions political prisoners such as Mason face, including use of solitary confinement, mail from supporters is often the only form of communication with other human beings. All letters must be in English and you must use a first and last name on letters and cards when writing. Please also include a return address on the envelope.

It is also a good idea that you put Marie’s name and prisoner number on each piece of correspondence as well, as the prison tends to discard the envelope and then may “lose” track of who the letter or card is going to.

Letters that mention other environmentalist political prisoners may be rejected. Mail is also being read by prison officials,so be sensitive what you write about. Mason's birthday is January 26.]


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