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Animal Rights Whackos = Terrorists?

I think we’re onto something here (emphasis mine):

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - New Jersey is using an anti-terrorism law for the first time to try six animal rights activists charged with harassing and vandalizing a company that made use of animals to test its drugs.

Prosecutors say the activists, who will stand trial next week, used threats, intimidation and cyber attacks against employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British company with operations in East Millstone, New Jersey, with the intention of driving it out of business.

The six, members of a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), are charged under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, amended in 2002 to include "animal enterprise terrorism," which outlaws disrupting firms like Huntingdon.

If convicted, the group and its accused members face a maximum $250,000 fine and three years in prison.

SHAC argued that the charges are a violation of free-speech rights and it is the victim of a government crackdown on dissent. "This is a frightening step in the Bush administration’s path to war on domestic dissidence," the group said on its Web site.

The defendants are also charged with interstate stalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 fine, and with conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking, carrying the same penalty.

Whoa, stop.  So this group is saying that the charges are a violation of free speech, huh?  Since when does committing a crime, such as stealing, trespassing, destruction of property and assult constitute "freedom of speech?"  Protesting peacefully is one thing, but these whackos are out causing harm to people and property.  They SHOULD be charged:

Their tactics included invading offices, damaging property and stealing documents. They also charged with physical assault — including spraying cleaning fluid into the eyes of employees — smashing the windows of their homes and threatening to kill or injure members of their families, prosecutors said.

The list of potential defense witnesses includes actress Kim Basinger (she joined a protest outside a Huntingdon laboratory in Franklin, New Jersey to try to stop such companies using animals to test their pharmaceutical products).

Hey - wasn’t she supposed to leave the country when Bush was elected or something like that?  Oh yeah, I forgot.  She’s an "actress."  She must have been "in character" at the time.

If you take the animals out of the picture, and just focus on the crimes by themselves, we have a bunch of hoodlums here.  If any of these whackos had their items stolen, had someone trespass on their property, or had been assulted, you can bet they’d be crying foul.  Who do they think they are to presume they are above all that?

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