The CCR (Council of Constitutional Rights) has filed an opening brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Johnson, an appeal from the criminal prosecution of two animal rights activists for liberating thousands of mink and foxes from fur farms.

Kevin Johnson and Tyler Lang pleaded guilty under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) after having already served jail sentences on State charges for the liberations. However, the defendants reserved their right to challenge the constitutionality of the AETA.

The AETA punishes causing damage or loss to a business or other institution that sells animals or animal products, but makes no distinction between loss caused by criminal acts and loss caused by boycotts and other constitutionally-protected activity.

And, in any event, CCR argues in Johnson, punishing non-violent activity as ‘terrorism’ is an unconstitutional denial of due process. CCR has been challenging the AETA and its predecessor statute since 2009. Early on we recognized this attack on an unpopular group of activists for what it is—an effort to silence advocates of an emerging issue of justice, to single out, vilify, and criminalize as terrorists those who engage in robust speech or civil disobedience in their efforts to stop violence against animals.

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