Late at night on the 14th of August 2013, a car driven by two animal rights activists was pulled over on a rural highway in Illinois. While the traffic stop was considered “routine”, what was found inside the car was anything but . Police reports indicate that the two young men in the car were traveling with:
bolt cutters, wire cutters, muriatic acid, ski masks, and cammo (sic) clothing
The driver and passenger of the car were none other than Kevin (Johnson) Oliff and Tyler Lang.
Kevin Olliff is a troubled young man who has long been involved in criminal stalking and harassment of researchers and others in the Los Angeles area. After a prolonged period of intense, violent and threatening home demonstrations (shouting “burn, baby, burn”) at the homes of UCLA researchers, Mr. Olliff was arrested and eventually sentenced for these crimes. He was released from prison in 2010.
Tyler Lang is a member of the Los Angeles animal activist group and has played a key role in the despicable targeted pickets that occur with some regularity at our homes. He was arrested outside a UCLA researcher’s home in 2010 for violations of focused picket laws; in turn, he and his colleagues filed suit against UCLA and its police force for their arrests. After more than a year of legal wrangling, the Lang et al. entered into an agreement with the district attorney to avoid further prosecution and their lawsuit against UCLA was dismissed with prejudice by a federal judge in Southern California.
Mr. Lang describes his views on the value of home demonstrations that target researchers in a Vimeo clip posted here. After extolling the effectiveness of home demos (he notes that Olliff et al.’s criminal protests led one UCLA investigator to “quit his job” [at 11:30]), he repeatedly drives home his view that protests are “legal” and “should be used” [at 12:45]. Their value, in his eyes, are that they bring an uncomfortable, but legal, message and presence to the target. What he doesn’t say is that his arrest in 2010 – and his subsequent reluctance to plead not guilty and face trial – prove otherwise.
What he also doesn’t say in his video is that criminal activities during home protests may not be the limit to how far he was willing to go. We don’t know where Olliff and Lang were headed on the night of Aug 14, and we don’t really know what they planned to do with bolt cutters, ski masks, camoflauge clothing and an acid historically used by animal rights activists when vandalizing cars and homes. But I think it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude that these two young criminals were on their way to engage in illegal behavior, and it’s very possible that someone involved in biomedical research was the target.
This reveals the very weak defense of “above ground” activists who conduct demontrations at homes, universities and companies and who claim that they have no knowledge of nor play any role in the illegal activities of their movement (for example, here). In fact, associations and activities like those Olliff and Lang were engaged in Illinois should be a wake up call to everyone that these activists are more than willing to blur the lines between the above ground and underground movement when it suits their purpose.
As a society, we must do everything possible to stop the criminal actions of extremists like Olliff and Lang whenever we can. When we turn a blind eye to their above ground activities, even when those behaviors violate the rule of law, we tacitly encourage them to escalate their psychopathic tendencies.
For now, Olliff and Lang are being held on substantial bail amounts ($100-200K) and are facing upcoming hearings. Only time will reveal whether this is the end of their slow slide towards violence.