Like a Many-headed Hydra, Everglades Earth First! Returns to Kolter Offices

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For nearly two hours yesterday, the streets of downtown West Palm Beach echoed with the cries of forest defenders, demanding that Kolter and their construction subsidiary, KAST, remove their machines of destruction from the Briger Forest, and spare wild species the pain and suffering of having their habitat and families killed for needless development. About fifteen activists brought the noise to Kolter’s offices, chanting, banging pots, howling like wolves, and handing out flyers to neighbors and passerby.

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Despite Kolter’s attempts at intimidation—with security guards breaking glass, shoving protesters, and stealing signs and megaphones at last week’s protest—EEF! returned to Kolter’s offices yesterday to show that the company’s petty vandalism and outright thuggery won’t stop environmentalists from speaking out against the destruction of local forests.

EEF! would like to send a special thank you to members of South Florida Smash HLS—a local anti-vivisection group—and VEDDAS—a Brazilian animal rights group—for joining us for today’s protest. Earth Liberation! Animal Liberation! Total Liberation!

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Activists Blockade Driveway of Kolter Group CEO

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In the early morning hours of Thursday, June 18th, anonymous individuals aided recently evicted Gopher Tortoises from the Briger Forest by blockading the driveway leading to the beach front mansion of Bobby Julien, CEO of Kolter Group.  Kolter Group, who purchased the bid to develop the Briger Forest, began destruction of the forest last fall.  Activists and tortoises wanted to bring the destruction of the tortoises’ home directly to the front door of Kolter Group, showing them a little taste of what the inhabitants of the Briger Forest now face on a daily basis.

“We did this on a work day in the hopes of preventing the further destruction of the Forest  we live in,” said one tortoise.  Another tortoise was heard saying, “We wanted to bring their destruction of our homes to their doorsteps.  We want them to know that if they destroy our homes, we will blockade theirs!”  In a cruel twist of fate Kolter plans to turn the Briger tract, home of at least 13 federally and/or state listed species, into a biotech city which will include an animal testing facility owned by The Scripps Research Institute, office space for biotech corporations, strip malls, and Alton Homes, a wealthy suburban sprawl full of condos, manicured lawns, and hotels; all things that we feel Florida could stand to have much less of.  We would, however, like to see the Briger forest, the largest unprotected and undeveloped forest east of I-95, remain a forest.  Stop the destruction, save the Briger!

For the Wyld, for the Free
-Gopher Tortoises and some anonymous individuals

Kolter is Losing Its F***ing Mind—Stealing Signs and Megaphones, Breaking Things During Office Protests, and More

Angry employees in Kolter’s building stand in the door to the lobby.

Angry employees in Kolter’s building stand in the door to the lobby.

Since November, members of Everglades Earth First! have been holding protests outside of Kolter Group’s offices in downtown West Palm Beach, to let the public know about the company’s destruction of the Briger Forest. And lately, Kolter Group has been showing signs that the pressure is getting to them.

Today, as three members of Everglades Earth First! chanted and banged on a pot outside of Kolter’s offices, an angry employee picked the group’s megaphone up off of the ground, said “Fuck you” to the protesters, shouted insults, and then sprinted off with the megaphone in his hands. The protest continued, with protesters too shocked and confused to chase after him. The employee then returned, without the megaphone, and shoved both protesters as they tried to speak with him about the stolen equipment. As protesters stepped back to give him room, the angry employee kicked a glass jar full of water belonging to one of the protesters, shattering it across the sidewalk. Finally he grabbed a protest sign that said “Stop Destroying the Briger Forest,” and ran off with it into the building.

Having now lost a megaphone, a sign, and a jar of water, protesters approached the lobby of the building to try and at least get the megaphone back. They were told by the same visibly angry employee that they could have their megaphone if they left the building. Clearly dealing with a child having a tantrum, they played along, leaving promptly. The doors were locked quickly behind them, with the megaphone still inside. The employee exited the building shortly after, but instead of returning the stolen items he grabbed a spoon out of a protester’s hand and chucked it towards the street.

Eventually police arrived—Kolter called them—and returned the megaphone to the Earth First!ers, who decided to leave the area before things escalated any further.

This is not an isolated incident, nor was it simply the autonomous act of a violent, pathetic employee. Rather, this is part of an escalating pattern of reactionary outbursts from Kolter, designed to intimidate protesters, dissuade free speech, and silence the voices of anyone who wishes to speak in defense of the forest.

Workers aimed the spray of their power washer towards activists no matter where they moved, so eventually protesters just stood beneath the spray to continue their chanting.

Workers aimed the spray of their power washer towards activists no matter where they moved, so eventually protesters just stood beneath the spray to continue their chanting.

Because of Kolter’s refusal to allow peaceful protests outside of their doors, activists have been forced to only engage in surprise demonstrations. The last time a Kolter protest was announced on the internet was last month, on May 7, and protesters arrived to find an insufferably loud power washer revving away outside the building. The entrance to the building was roped off, the motor was turned on as protesters approached—in an attempt to drown out the chanting and singing, no doubt—and workers did not hesitate to spray demonstrators with pressurized bursts of water as they chanted in defense of the forest.

At that same May 7 demonstration, employees hung a poster on Kolter’s building, depicting the face of Grayson Flory, a member of Everglades Earth First!, along with his name, home address, partial arrest record, and some insulting, childish language. The top of the poster said “Grayson B Flory is a JOKE!” and the activist’s gender was labeled as “Loser Male.”

Poster hung by Kolter employees outside of Kolter’s offices during a protest, depicting an Earth First!er who commonly comes to protests in defense of the Briger Forest.

Poster hung by Kolter employees outside of Kolter’s offices during a protest, depicting an Earth First!er who commonly comes to protests in defense of the Briger Forest.

At the time, the protesters simply laughed off these petty attempts to dissuade peaceful protest and First Amendment protected speech. However, in light of today’s glass breaking, spoon throwing, equipment stealing, insult spewing, volatile employees in Kolter’s building, it isn’t quite as funny.

How is the public supposed to exercise free speech when corporations make it dangerous to do so? How are concerned citizens supposed to feel justified in spreading news about local environmental issues to neighbors of the Briger Forest, children, and other members of the public, when doing so could inspire such people to join a protest, and thus expose them to potentially violent, psychologically damaging situations, thanks to Kolter’s erratic responses to free speech?

Corporations and others commonly accuse environmental and animal rights protesters of caring more about plants and animals than people. Well, by continuing to destroy the forest, and by their violent actions towards protesters, Kolter has made it perfectly clear that they don’t care about any of the above.

Despite Kolter’s intimidation, the protests will continue. Ryan Hartman, one of the protesters who was shoved and called an “asshole” today by the disgruntled employee, says he won’t stop standing up for the forest and for his right to gather and speak publicly. “It was really terrifying. I didn’t know what they were going to do, if they were going to stop there or keep getting angrier and really hurt someone. And to be honest, the idea of going back to those offices is scary. But we are within our rights, we are following the law, and I’m not going to be bullied into stopping my activism. The forest is still being cut down by Kolter and KAST. We aren’t going to stop until they do.”

Banner Dropped in West Palm Beach Calls Out Kolter and KAST for Forest Destruction

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This morning, a banner calling KAST and Kolter “Partners in Forest Destruction” was dropped over Okeechobee Blvd in West Palm Beach, Florida, to bring attention to the clearing of the Briger Forest.

Kolter is the company responsible for the Alton Homes project that threatens to destroy a majority of South Florida’s Briger Forest—home to bobcats, sandhill cranes, the threatened Gopher tortoise, the endangered hand fern, and countless other wild species. KAST is the construction company whose bulldozers and excavators are currently ripping up the forest floor, tearing down the slash pines and saw palmettos, and displacing animals with nowhere else to run.

This action took place on June 11—International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason, Eric McDavid, and all Eco-Prisoners—to show solidarity with all those who have risked their freedom fighting to protect Mother Earth.

The banner hung near Kolter’s downtown offices during morning rush hour traffic, reminding Kolter employees on their way to work that they are responsible for the desecration of the Briger Forest, just one piece of the rampant development that threatens the entire Everglades bioregion.

Plans to destroy the Briger Forest do not end with KAST and Kolter, as The Scripps Research Institute has hopes to incorporate Alton Homes into a larger biotech city, complete with animal testing laboratories and a recreation center. Activists in the area have been opposing this project for almost a decade, and will not stop until the forest is protected once and for all.

To follow the campaign, go to scrapscripps.info and evergladesearthfirst.net. For more information on June 11, check out June11.org.

Save the Briger!

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EEF! holds direct action trainings at the 2015 All Power to the Imagination! conference

Last weekend eight Earth First!ers traveled across the Everglades to attend the eighth annual All Power to the Imagination! conference, where we met some anarchists who seemed to share our enthusiasm for exclamation-marked titles.api2015

API! is a conference that New College of Florida students put on every year to “bridge the gap between radical theory and practice.” In other words, after all that book-learnin’, they’re hungry for something real. The workshops ranged from a talk on the Rojava revolution to an interrogation of white supremacy through dance—and of course the tree climbing and direct action training by EEF!. After two days of workshops there was a community-led march for justice in Newtown, a predominantly black area of Sarasota that has seen only disinvestment and apathy from the local government since its beginning.

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photo by Sydney Kruljac of the New College Catalyst

As a New-College-student-turned-EEF!er, I was happy to go back to my old home and share direct action skills with some new faces. And believe me, Sarasota could use some direct action. Don’t be fooled by the nice face the city puts on for the public—from laws that criminalize houseless people to enormous food deserts and police murders, Sarasota is a hotbed of injustice in Florida and in need of some serious TLC (and by TLC, I mean direct action).

API! is taking the first steps in speaking out about these issues, and we hope there is more to come. And if, in some not-too-distant future, someone happens to lock their neck to the door of a City Council meeting while they discuss the next criminalizing measure against houseless people in the city, I’ll be on the next Greyhound bus over there to help with direct support.

Kolter Group Hit with Back-to-Back Home and Office Demonstrations

office demo 2Members of Everglades Earth First! held two protests on Monday calling for the preservation of the Briger Forest and an end to the Alton Homes project that threatens it.

Office demo 1For an hour protesters rallied outside the offices of Kolter Group, the company responsible for destroying hundreds of acres of threatened and endangered species’ habitat to make way for upscale housing and a planned biotech city. Activists screamed chants and yelled through windows and air vents to let Kolter’s employees know that the pressure will not cease until they stop destroying the forest.

photo 2When typical work hours ended, the protesters then paid a visit to the home of Ed Jahn, Senior Vice President of Kolter Urban, LLC. Using loud chants and signs, protesters made it clear to Ed and his neighbors that desecrating bio-diverse wilderness and trashing land that people love is a personal issue.

photo 1During both protests, neighbors and police gathered around the demonstrations. Some neighbors were quite supportive, and were shocked to find out that the company or person they live next to is profiting off of the death of endangered species. Others were not so supportive, and clearly more concerned with maintaining the peace and quiet of their neighborhoods. To them the message was relayed that the only power they have to end these protests is to convince Kolter Group and Ed Jahn to stop destroying the planet, or to move. This is personal, and Everglades Earth First! will not back down until Kolter stops the killing.

As protesters departed, local children asked us if we were coming back tomorrow. "Of course!" yelled the protesters.

As protesters departed, local children asked us if we were coming back tomorrow. “Of course!” yelled the protesters.

“You Mess with Briger You Mess with Me!”—Protesters Return to Kolter Offices

photo-4On Friday, April 10, protesters gathered outside of Kolter Group’s West Palm Beach headquarters to call for the protection of the Briger Forest. The group waved signs, shouted chants, and informed residents about Kolter’s destruction of local wilderness.

Despite public outcry, Kolter Group continues with its plan to level hundreds of acres of South Florida’s Briger Forest, one of the few biodiverse tracts of land in the area, and home to threatened and endangered species.

The fiery protests and public opposition will not stop until Kolter Group cancels their contracts and pulls their bulldozers and excavators out of the forest!