Craig Rosebraugh: Radical Mouthpiece
BY PHILIP DAWDY <email@example.com>
January __ 2001
Three years ago, even as the most visible protestor in Portland, Craig
Rosebraugh had trouble getting much attention for his anti-capitalist and
animal-rights causes (see "Saving the World One Cat at a Time," WW,
Dec. 3, 1997). Even people sympathetic to his impulses found this noisome
punk too abrasive to deal with and too much an individualist in a movement
of group cohesion.
Soon after, though, he emerged as the spokesman for the Earth Liberation
Front, an anonymous alliance of burn-by-night saboteurs (or, depending on
your socio-political lens, righteous monkey-wrenchers).
Rosebraugh's affiliation with the radical environmental group has brought
unprecedented attention. Between 1996 and 1999, his name popped up in only
four Oregonian articles. In the past 12 months, though, he's been mentioned
in a dozen of the daily paper's stories, including its series on
"eco-terrorists." And as a result of at least 10 recent ELF actions on Long
Island, N.Y., the national press has discovered the shaved-headed
spokesman. In the past three weeks, everyone from National Public Radio and
the New York Times to 60 Minutes (with 20/20 in the near future) has
featured Rosebraugh as the face of new-jack discontent in America.
It's not just the press that's noticed. Rosebraugh has been a consistent
target of federal law-enforcement agencies. His every move and
communication has been monitored. The U.S. Attorney's Office has
repeatedly hauled him before grand juries investigating ELF-claimed actions
in the western states, which have been directed principally at timber
companies and, most prominently, at a lodge at the Vail, Colo., ski area in
October 1998. Despite an FBI raid on his apartment last February seeking
ELF-related evidence, no indictment has been returned against Rosebraugh.
Fame, however, has not brought fortune. Rosebraugh makes a living running
his own vegan baking company, Calendula, and making sandwiches and muffins
sold at Nature's Northwest and People's Food Co-op, among other stores.
In the wake of the East Coast actions, WW staff writer Philip Dawdy
recently sat down with Rosebraugh.
WW: You said things are busy. What are you busy with right now?
Craig Rosebraugh: Mainly doing the media work for Earth Liberation Front
actions that have gone on in the last few months in Long Island, here in
Oregon and in Colorado. We've probably been in 75 colleges and media
outlets around the world in the past week.
Colorado? What was going on in Colorado?
In mid to late November, a luxury home being built was burned to the ground
in a suburb of Boulder, and [credit] was claimed by the ELF.
What's wrong with luxury homes?
What's wrong with luxury homes!?
Yeah. What's wrong with luxury homes? Why burn them down?
There are many answers to that question, many of which I've been speaking
to for the last week. I may sound like a tape recorder.
Then give me your pat, standard answer.
Well, number 1, there is no reason in my mind that it is all right for
someone to have a few-hundred-thousand-dollar up until a
multimillion-dollar home when there are people living in their same city
who can't afford proper shelter, who can't afford proper nourishment or
proper health care. I think that is a major screw-up in society.
Number 2, all of these new homes that have been targeted by the ELF have
been threatening some natural or threatened land in those areas. The
Colorado home was being built on very fragile natural environment that was
previously undeveloped. In Long Island, they have had an overdevelopment
problem for a long time.
What specific environmental degradation is going on in Long Island?
The last wild areas of the whole island are being destroyed. They are
talking about putting in over 150 to 200 new luxury homes. Critics, both
from the conservative environmental community and in the radical
environmental community, feel that if that goes through, the last natural
species, plant or animal, on Long Island are going to be completely gone.
Your frustration with this construction creates a simmering sense of
outrage over how social orders should be: In essence, it's wrong that rich
people build such goddamn big houses. Who makes you guys the agent of
Who makes the ELF the agents of judgment on that? What gives them the right?
My own personal belief is that the right is given by natural law. To me,
natural laws are the different qualities that exist and allow life to exist
on the planet, be it human, animal and/or plant.
Clean air, clean water, clean soil. If those in any way are being
threatened, then [it affects] everyone on the planet. Not just white
people, not just black people, not just animals, not just plants, but the
entire ecosystem and all of life as a whole.
This sounds like a leftist interpretation of Christian thought.
I don't consider it leftist at all.
What do you consider it?
I consider it a proper belief.
Fair enough. But you haven't answered the question: Why burn it down? Why
not just stage gigantic protests that will shame people into taking a hike?
People are becoming more and more outraged at watching the same old tired,
exhausted, unsuccessful state-sanctioned means of protest that gets
nowhere, not only with the environmental movement but the animal-rights
movement and any other social-justice movement occurring in modern-day times.
What people? Who are they?
The Earth Liberation Front number one, the Animal Liberation Front number
two. People engaged in property destruction and different sorts of direct
action at protests like WTO and IMF. Take a clear evaluation of the popular
environmental movement-the modern one has been going on for say 30 years in
this country. What has it really accomplished? Are we better off now than
we were then? Where are we as far as our clean air, our clean water, our
clean soil? From my own personal beliefs, we are not winning the battle.
We are losing.
Why is that?
I think it is because we have given in and coerced ourselves to believe in
left-wing politics that say there are certain things you must do in order
to have proper social change, you must follow certain guidelines with a
right and a wrong...
Give me an example.
Following state-sanctioned means of protest...
Stay on the sidewalk?
Stay on the sidewalk. When you have a march, get a parade permit.
It almost sounds like from your language that the environment is almost
becoming like the Vietnam War for the generation of the late-'60s and '70s.
In what way?
You are seeing radicals in opposition to the mainstream beliefs attached to
that issue. There are those who would compare the actions of the ELF to
the Weathermen, the SLA. Do you see any connection?
Indeed I do. As I stated before, the ELF is not absolutely an environmental
organization. The main idea is not just environmentalism, but looking at
what is causing environmental destruction on this planet and what is also
causing exploitation and murder on what would have to be a natural sort of
I have noticed over the years an increased emphasis in the ELF press
releases on the dollar value of the economic damage. Why is that?
The whole reason these actions are going on is because people realize that
certain entities are profiting off their greed. They are not going to
listen to morals or ethics. If they did, they wouldn't be in that business
anyway. They would realize, as I do, that we need certain qualities on this
planet to survive, and you wouldn't do anything to threaten them. So if
they aren't going to listen to morals and ethics, they will listen to the
possibility of losing money, because they value wealth. It's pure economic
I want to come back to the point of the new generation of radicals. Can you
point to any particular, single event that pushed people over the edge?
I don't think it's that simple. In just the last few years, you had a very
large action against the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. A few
years later, you had WTO and then the IMF, and then the protest over Prague.
Are you trying to save the Earth or human beings?
Both. We are trying to save all life and the planet, which provides all life.
What evidence do you have that this is working, that anybody gives a rat's
There are what I consider three major goals of an ELF action. The first is
to cause immediate economic damage to the entity at hand. Second is to
reveal and educate the public as much as possible about the atrocities
committed against the environment. The third is to take all necessary
precautions against harming any human or animal.
Let me stop at that one. My understanding is some firefighters suffered
That is the claim by mainstream media. I have yet to hear an independent
confirmation of that.
Let's assume for a minute that someone did actually get hurt and suffer
smoke inhalation; is that an acceptable action?
Well, I personally don't like to see anyone get hurt for any reason. But I
think the idea here is to keep in mind the murder, the destruction, the
exploitation that goes on on a daily basis, committed by people who are out
percolating greed and pure lust as far as wealth goes....
But the firefighter wasn't out for greed lust, or anything like that-let's
face it, he was just doing his job. He is a cog in the wheel.
That is correct. But it depends on what you are doing with your work. I
definitely have respect for firefighters, and I don't want to see people
get injured. But I believe that a lot of times when buildings are empty,
firefighters are told not to save the building if it is going to risk their
Does the ELF or anybody pay you for the work you do?
I have never been paid for the work I have done; it's subjective justice
issues, so to speak.
Subjective justice issues.
What does that mean?
I consider it the work of promoting justice on a planetary basis.
The New York Times called you a publicist.
I am that too.
What do you think of the reporting of the Long Island fire? Did the media
get the message out on what the ELF is all about?
It did. And there is the second guideline of the ELF: to try and reveal and
educate the atrocities committed against the environment.
So, even though the media equated the ELF with terrorists, it was a success?
The majority of the news stories, if not all the news stories, are going to
be somewhat negative against the ELF. I know that. I don't think the
mainstream media can represent them in a non-biased fashion. They have to
use that term "terrorism" because there are different societal enforcements
in place. But if there is any sort of information that comes out about the
incident or the issue that the ELF was targeting, I consider that a success.
Are you a member of the ELF?
But how can you speak for the ELF and not be a member, when you are clearly
a fellow traveler?
The ELF is again anonymous, not only to me, but also to themselves and
different selves. I am not anonymous; I am a spokesperson who has been
chosen by whoever these anonymous people are, claiming responsibility for
actions that have already occurred. I release that information to the
public and then I go on to talk about the ideology of the organization as I
have interpreted it from communications that have come down for the last
three to four years.
Why should anybody believe that you don't have connection with these
people? How is that provably true?
Prove that it is not true. I am supposed to be presumed innocent until
proven guilty, am I not?
But the presumption is that because you have been the subject of FBI, ATF
and Forest Service investigations, there is something up with Craig
The only thing up is that different law-enforcement agencies have no other
suspects, no other leads to go on as far as catching those individuals
involved in ELF activity. So they go after the only public face or faces
they can identify.
How did you receive your most recent communication? Email? Fax?
I never disclose the type of communications or how I receive them. And I
don't plan to.
Do you have a new fax machine since the feds took your stuff?
I had some really old equipment donated to me from an anonymous source on
the East Coast.
Do you even use the Internet anymore?
I have personal email; I do research on it.
You know you are being watched.
Indeed I do.
Do you enjoy your celebrity at all?
I don't hate it. If it really bothered me and if it came to a point that it
was destroying me, then I might choose to step back and help find other
folks to help with the media work. But I wouldn't say I enjoy it. It is the
hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I can't imagine doing something
that would be more difficult.
What is so hard about it? You get information from the ether and you do
press releases. Reporters call you and you say, 'Here is the ideology,
here is the action, here is the dollar damage. Thank you. Good bye.'
There is a lot behind the scenes on a psychological basis that is very
difficult. You are talking about years of FBI, ATF, government harassment
that has been growing to the point that I wake up early in the morning
thinking the door of my home has been broken down. So I put on my clothes
early in the morning so I will be ready when the door gets broken down. The
psychological games they play put that extra pressure on you. I have been
repeatedly targeted recently by the FBI and...
Well, after a week of trying to find me through different means, they gave
me a subpoena to testify against another individual in a criminal contempt
trial. For a week straight, they were outside my house knocking on the
door, at all hours of the day, sitting in my driveway for hours at a time.
I would leave my house and be followed in my vehicle. And beyond that, I
get threatened all the time from people all over the country, via email and
Have you turned these threats over to the authorities?
Who would I turn it over to? I don't trust the police, why would I trust
Why do I see you at so few protests? You are only at the animal ones now,
and rarely even at those.
For a variety of reasons. My health is not what it should be due to stress
and anxiety. That is part of it. Another is that I'm becoming more and more
of a disbeliever in the same state-sanctioned means of protest that I
talked about earlier and trying to prioritize my time in a way that I feel
is most effective. The work I have been doing revolves around the press
office and publicizing the work of underground groups who do direct action.
There are people in the radical community who don't like you.
A lot of people don't like me.
What do you make of that?
I think they should evaluate why they don't like me. If it is for a
personal reason, that's fine. I have no problem with that. If it is for an
ideological reason or strategic reason or they don't like the tactics I
advocate, then I think perhaps they should rethink why they don't like it
and do some more self-education on past historical social movements and the
role that direct action played in those.
Are you an anarchist?
I don't label myself in any way. Usually that is left up to the mainstream
media to do.
OK. Here's your chance. What are you?
I am Craig.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Jan 26 2001 - 18:53:54 EST