Arrested more than a year ago in Canada, Tre Arrow currently makes his home in a cell at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in a suburb of Vancouver, B.C.
Starting June 27, the activist labeled by Rolling Stone in 2002 as an "environmental rock star" will face an extradition hearing in which he will fight against his return to Oregon.
Arrow was arrested in Victoria on March 13, 2004, on charges of shoplifting a set of bolt cutters. And the FBI wants him back to stand trial in connection with a pair of arsons four years ago in Oregon that caused $260,000 in damage to logging and cement trucks.
Arrow, born Michael Scarpitti, gained Oregon's attention in 2000 when he climbed the U.S. Forest Service building in Portland and perched on a 9-inch ledge for 11 days to protest logging at Eagle Creek. He also ran for Congress that year, getting 15,000 votes as a Pacific Green Party candidate. Arrow's arrest in 2004-and his hunger strike to receive a raw-food diet in jail (he's now back up to his pre-jail weight of 145 pounds after plunging below 100 pounds in August)-also thrust him into the media spotlight. But a number of questions have remained unanswered. Sitting behind a thick glass window and speaking through a metal grate, Arrow begins to provide some of those answers.
WW: Why bolt cutters?
Tre Arrow: Um, yeah. Why bolt cutters? A lot of people don't really agree with this.... The only thing I was going to use the bolt cutters for was to "liberate," as we call it, dumpsters [and share the recovered waste]. That [waste] to me is a crime. That to me is complete negligence.
Why is it important to offer an explanation?
It's definitely a sore subject. It doesn't do anything to help my reputation and credibility. It leaves a huge wide-open space for people to speculate and imagine what I might possibly do with them. ... A stronger intuitive sense in me tells me everything happens for a reason. ... I wanted it to be over. I wanted the hiding to be over. The complete severing from everyone I knew, I wanted that to be over.
How did you get across the border?
From the U.S. to Canada, not always do they ask for identification.
What did you tell the Canadian anti-terrorist forces who interviewed you?
I just went on a rant. They said they wanted to keep Canadians safe. I told them, "How about holding the government and the corporations accountable for what they're doing to the planet?''
On the outside, you liked to sleep outdoors and go barefoot. How do you stay in touch with the natural world in here?
In jail, it's definitely tough.... In a 24-hour period, I'm locked up in my cell about three-quarters of that time. ... I do pray and meditate a lot and try to conjure up the energy that's always flowing from Mother Earth and Father Sky.
How is being on a raw-food diet in prison?
I feel OK. I don't feel super-unhealthy, and I don't feel super-great. I feel average. Better than average, all considered. I'm doing as well as I can
Why not stop fighting the extradition order and just go back to the United States and stand trial?
I don't feel-and my lawyers don't feel-I can get a fair trial in the U.S. ... The media has already convicted me not just of the crimes, but of eco-terrorism.... They don't bother to use the word "alleged" or "accused," just flat-out "terrorist" with my name attached.
The FBI also calls you a terrorist. Are you?
I'm not a terrorist. I don't even like to use that word. The true terrorists are the politicians [and the corporations].... These people are literally wiping away the very foundation of life on this planet, and they never spend a day in jail. They're never held accountable.
Are you involved in the Earth Liberation Front?
I emphatically express that I am not involved in the ELF and never have been. And at the same time, I don't condemn the activists that are involved in the ELF for the actions they engage in. ... [People who know me] know I don't burn anything. The ELF, it has its place. I recognize it does have an impact. It's very telling that the FBI regards the ELF as a bigger threat than the white supremacist groups.
Do you feel abandoned by the environmental groups that supported you a few years ago?
I don't take anything personal, man. I recognize there's a lot of destruction in our culture. People do the best they can under the limits they're working under.... I don't feel abandoned. I would say I'm very grateful for the support I do have.... I would also say I would love to have more support, especially from big mainstream groups that speak to a range of the mainstream. I would definitely like to have more support from more of the groups that speak to the mainstream.
What's wrong with how governments and corporations run the world?
They put power and profit before the sacredness of people, the plants and all planetary elements. That is to me an atrocity, and that is not the way we have to live our lives. ... We need love, we need some shelter, we need some warmth, and we need some nutrition from pure water and healthy food. There's nothing else we really need. ... I can envision a utopia where all beings live in harmony.