Earth First! activist tells story of her arrest and activism

By Nora Whitworth
Lumberjack Staff

Musician and Earth First! activist Peg Millett performed about 50 people at the Kate Buchanan Room Sunday night with a mixture of stories and songs concerning healing and the power of the earth.

Francine and Nymiah a local duo from Arcata, also performed songs with an environmental message.

Millett broke up her set of songs with the story of her arrest by the FBI in Arizona.

Millett said she was part of a small group of activists who were involved with monkey wrenching and vandalism. For a year the FBI followed the groups movements, even planting an FBI agent among the activists, who recorded their conversations Millett said.

"That was sort of my introduction to recording," Millett told the audience.

The group drove out to the electrical tower, where they were going to cut down a high-tension power line connected to a power station that diverted water from the Colorado River to cities in the desert, she said.

Ironically, she said, they used the FBI agent's truck and his gas, since the group was so poor.

When they reached the tower, they were greeted by about 50 FBI agents on foot as well as helicopters, airplanes and in cars.

Millett managed to elude the FBI that night but returned to work the next morning.

"I went to work the next day, I was in denial," she said.

Millett was arrested and spent two years in prison. In an interview before the performance, Millett said she was convicted on one count of aiding and abetting malicious destruction of property.

"I contested by saying that I was never malicious in my destruction of property. But they wanted to keep the wording."

While in prison, Millett said learned about herself, the status quo and the politics of dissent.

"I didn't know I was a dissident, I wasn't interested in politics. I want the trees to stand, I want the water to be clean," she said.

Millet first became involved with Earth First! in 1985, when she attended the Round River Rendezvous in Colorado. There she met people she related to.

"It really amazed me people were concerned about trees, land and animals. I never met people like that. I felt very relieved," Millett said.

She said the philosophy behind her activism is that people must take care of themselves spiritually as well as take care of the earth.

"My message to people is for us to heal ourselves, each other, our home the earth, and to get right with God - whatever that means to you. Get a spiritual life, and everything else will fall into place."

According to Randy Ghent, Political Science senior and Earth First! member, the Earth First! movement evolved out of frustration with mainline environmental groups compromising with politicians.

"It has been said if there is only one tree left the Sierra Club would let them cut down one half," Ghent said.

Earth First! is a movement, not an organization, individuals involved are united by a belief in the deep ecology philosophy and use varying tactics, he said.

"The philosophy of deep ecology is that all species are equal and that there isn't a hierarchy where man is on the top. Earth First! believes in working within the system but when that does not work tactics such as monkeywrenching (vandalism against corporations) have been used," he said.

"We're one of the few groups which takes a stand against the system itself instead of pandering to the system and corporations," Ghent said.