May 05, 2006

An interview with jailed "eco-terrorist" Jeffrey Luers

Jeff "Free" Luers, Oregon
State Penitentiary, 2005.
Photos courtesy

by Gregory Dicum

In 2000, 21-year-old Jeff Luers and an accomplice set fire to three pickup trucks at a dealership in Eugene, Ore., to bring attention to gas-guzzlers' contribution to global warming. They were promptly arrested. Luers, who refused to plea bargain, was sentenced to 22 years, eight months in prison. It is the longest term ever handed down for environmentally motivated sabotage in America -- and far longer than sentences given to arsonists in Oregon who have destroyed more property and endangered peoples' lives.

But Luers' sentence may be surpassed if any of the upcoming trials of 11 people arrested in January for eco-motivated arson and vandalism yield convictions. Though Luers' crime was minor by comparison, his case serves as a precedent: the fact that one of those arrested, Daniel McGowan, used to run a website for Luers was raised in an attempt to deny McGowan bail.

Because Luers is already in prison and knows he is under total surveillance, he is willing to speak his mind on eco-sabotage as few others are. He regularly issues communiqu├ęs from prison through a website maintained by outside supporters, and co-published Heartcheck in 2005, a prison zine that sounds a call for unflinchingly hands-on eco-revolution.

But Luers' ability to communicate more widely with the outside world has been hampered by the authorities. He has been classified as a member of a "security threat group" -- a measure designed to disrupt gangs, but applied in Luers' case to his anarchist and environmental affiliations. Restrictions on his communications have frustrated many reporters, but Grist was able to interview Luers over the phone from Oregon State Penitentiary -- the first interview he's given in nearly a year.


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