I know many of you have heard about my recent arrest, as some have reached out to me or my parents with concerned questions; as such, i decided to draft this impromptu update to assuage potential concerns through explaining the arrest in a bit more detail, clarifying my rationale behind it, and confirming that all is well with me.
On June 3rd i was arrested on charges of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor trespass, charges that could potentially carry years of jail time. After spending two nights in the Sonoma County Jail, myself and the other 78 activists arrested on the same or similar charges were released without charge. At this point, the prosecutor has reserved the right to file charges against us, and is currently in the process of investigating the action and the activists (including through combing through social media accounts like this blog). From what we understand, the prosecutor can wait up to one year to file charges regarding the misdemeanor and three years to file charges regarding the felony. However, that said, i expect to have more information in the coming weeks.
For those of you who know me well, you know that social justice work has been integral to my being for years. While i began heading this direction sophomore year of college, my passion and commitment to social justice became pointedly accentuated during my time in India. While perhaps trite to say, India, and Varanasi in particular, changed me; while there i came to know myself at a radically deeper level than anything i had explored before, finding immense personal meaning and understanding through Hindu philosophy and cosmology. It is from this tradition that i find meaning for this life. The framework that resonates most powerfully within me is an idea called Karma Yoga, or selfless service to others, and is a path and understanding that informs and fuels every aspect of my being, from my career path down to the inspiration and purpose of starting my dreadlocks. But i digress…
While in India, studying with professors from Benares Hindu University, i studied the philosophy and ideology of Gandhi and Gandhian ethics. It was there that i first became acquainted and comfortable with the integral importance of non-violent direct action in challenging oppressive systems to create just alternatives. The inextricable connection between core Hindu philosophical tenants and Gandhi’s ideology further led me to understand and identify with both at a deep personal level.
Shortly after returning from India i began community organizing with Greenpeace and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network. The strategy and theory of change of both organizations is deeply steeped in the legacies and traditions of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who cited Gandhi as his central inspiration). While working with these organizations i participated in a number of non-violent direct action trainings, where we covered the theory of change behind peaceful disruptions. It was during my time organizing within these spaces in early 2016 that i had my first two encounters with civil disobedience, and sincerely explored the possibility of getting arrested.
Fast forward a few years: While my commitment to public service has remained resolute, my area of focus has evolved. Early on in my Peace Corps service, through deep introspection aided by stark ideological isolation, i came to understand that i can most effectively serve the public good through a career dedicated to animal rights, animal liberation. This bottom line is in part what led me to move to Medellín last year, as i wanted to plug into a center of the animal rights movement in Latin America; it is why i’ve decided to complete an M.A. in Animal Studies beginning this fall, and is the cause i seek to dedicate my law degree to.
Fully articulating why i believe animal liberation to be the most poignant issue to dedicate my energy and passion to is out of the scope of this update, but i will try to briefly summarize. First, i believe any explanation or justification for working on animal rights not centered on non-human animals is speciesist and problematic. The 150 BILLION individuals we humans kill every year is reason enough. Simply put, there is no greater source of suffering in the world than animal agriculture, an industry that supplies the demand for our carnist diet.
However, even if one was to discount the moral relevance of saving the lives of billions of individuals each year, i still believe the most effective way for me to serve humans is through creating a vegan world. I understand speciesism, the assumption of human superiority based solely on our species identification, to be foundational to how other systems of oppression function – all systems of oppression rely on creating the “other”, a group that is beyond our moral landscape, and is tied up with animality, wherein these “othered” groups are constructed as less than human and their subhuman status justifies their oppression. Through addressing speciesism, and extending our moral framework outward to include non-human animals, i believe all humans will benefit in the process. As Leo Tolstoy so articulately said, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
Furthermore, animal agriculture is the greatest source of climate change and of most other environmental crises; that said, a sustainable future wherein these crises are addressed can only be manifested, in part, through a transition to a vegan world. In terms of public health, the consumption of animal products is directly linked to many of our society’s main killers, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes; as such, helping society transition to a vegan diet would have transformative effects on the quality of life for people across the world.
The week before i was arrested i attended the Animal Liberation Conference in Berkeley. At the conference i met 1,000+ passionate activists and leaders of the animal rights movement from around the world. Each day a variety of trainings were offered; i generally elected to take trainings focused on the strategy of the animal rights movement as well as the theory of change behind social movements and the role of non-violent civil disobedience within them. Prominent speakers such as civil rights legend Bernard Lafayette and transformative journalists Glenn Greenwald from The Intercept and Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! led sessions, supporting both the importance of our work as well as lending their advice from decades of organizing work.
Following my past trainings and work in this area, these trainings provided a nice review of the importance and role of using civil disobedience to challenge and change unjust laws. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
Many folk, when viewing civil disobedience in real time, see these types of actions as illogical, radical, and even counterproductive. Indeed, the vast majority of USAians were staunchly opposed to the Montgomery bus boycott, Freedom Riders, Greensboro sit-in/the greater sit-in movement, and the March on Washington, actions that today are revered and respected. I’m confident a similar evolution of public thought will take place in the coming years in regards to actions like the one we did on June 3rd.
Following these trainings, after being steeped in the movement’s theory of change and understanding the integral role of civil disobedience in creating systemic change, myself and dozens of other activists arrived at Reichardt Duck Farm (who we estimate murders ~1,000,000 ducks each year) ready to risk arrest in advocating for the inalienable rights and freedoms of these ducks.
Teams of activists split up, using our bodies to shut down the slaughterhouse, barricade the entrance, and lock down the slaughter line. We rescued 32 baby ducklings in the process, 32 individuals who want to live, and who will now have the opportunity to live out their lives with love and in freedom.
I do not believe we broke the law. In my view, we have the moral right and responsibility to rescue sentient life from slaughter, and will continue doing so until every cage is empty, every being is free.
If you are interested, i highly recommend checking out the content in the three links shared below – they help to provide context to the action, and will hopefully help to give you a better picture of what happened.
A powerful video from the action can be viewed here. (note, you have to click “Uncover Video” below the video to watch) (warning: some of the footage is disturbing)
You can also check out Democracy Now!’s coverage of the action here.
And finally, here is a video of the 32 ducklings we rescued from slaughter.
If you have any lingering questions or concerns, i would be more than happy to chat in greater detail with you – please feel free to shoot me a message.