Everything comes down to protecting Mother Earth. We just don’t have anywhere else to live, this is our last chance, we have one planet, one Mother Earth, and she is sacred. In 2016 we heard the war cry “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life) coming from the center of Sacred Stone Camp part of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. In April 2016 Water Protectors gathered together in solidarity at Sacred Stone Camp and native peoples from all over the world joined them. They gathered to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from coming through their land. What they didn’t realize at the time was that there was an infiltrator amongst them.
I first heard about this infiltrator from an article in The Intercept. It’s now known who this infiltrator is and the name of the company that hired them. It’s apparent that the oil industry is not going to go down peacefully. I believe these extractive industries are even behind the push to delist the Gray wolf because they want easy access to wolf habitat. The Endangered Species Act not only protects the endangered species but also protects the habitat they depend on to survive. Extractive industries want this habitat! I think the fight to protect our water from greedy extractive industries encompasses much more; it’s wolves, it’s water & it’s everywhere, and our sacred mother is crying for us to save her life. #OneEarth #OneMother
In 2016 we heard the war cry “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life) coming from the center of Sacred Stone Camp part of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
A former Marine working for the private security firm TigerSwan infiltrated an array of anti-Dakota Access pipeline groups at Standing Rock and beyond.
JESSE HORNE STILLstruggles to talk about the day he was kicked out of the anti-Dakota Access pipeline movement. It had been an intense week. Searching for direction and ideological fulfillment ever since Iowa’s stand against the pipeline wound down, the 20-year-old had reconnected with some of the state’s more radical pipeline opponents, and the group was now taking on drone warfare. After a protest outside a drone base in Des Moines in which Horne and several others were arrested, two of his fellow activists, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, sat him down and told him to stay away.
“They were asking me if I was an infiltrator,” Horne told The Intercept. “My response was absolutely not.”
There was a lot Horne says he didn’t know at the time — for one, that Reznicek and Montoya had recently been involved in a series of acts of pipeline sabotage. Between March and May 2017, above-ground valves along the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa and South Dakota were pierced with welding torches, creating new costs for the pipeline company, Energy Transfer, and sending its security personnel into a frenzy. A few weeks after their conversation with Horne, the two women would claim responsibility for the sabotage.
Another thing Horne says he didn’t know: that someone he considered a “brother in the cause” was indeed an infiltrator. For months, a man calling himself Joel Edwards had posed as a pipeline opponent, attending protests, befriending water protectors, and paying for hotel rooms, supplies, and booze. He told some people he had a job with a hotel that allowed him to travel, others that he was a freelance journalist reporting on the pipeline resistance. But five former contractors for TigerSwan, the secretive security firm hired by Energy Transfer to guard the pipeline, confirmed to The Intercept that Joel was an undercover intelligence operative. His real name was Joel Edward McCollough, and he had been sent to collect information on the protesters, explicitly targeting those who were down on their luck. Horne, who struggled with addiction, appeared to be a perfect target.
McCollough passed along what he learned to his superiors at TigerSwan, who attempted to use the information to thwart protest activity and identify people or plots that represented threats to the pipeline. Traces of his surveillance turned up in TigerSwan’s daily situation reports, which were written for Energy Transfer and at times passed to law enforcement. The former TigerSwan contractors interviewed by The Intercept, who declined to be named because it would threaten their continued work in the industry, had either worked with McCollough directly or knew of him through internal communications.
Like other contractors working for TigerSwan, McCollough had developed the skills he deployed in the Dakota Access pipeline fight during the U.S. war in Iraq, where he served as a Marine Corps interrogator and counterintelligence specialist. TigerSwan was founded by James Reese, a former commander of the elite special operations unit Delta Force, and the company got its start as part of a boom of mercenary security firms in the early years of the war on terror. McCollough was participating in something akin to a massive experiment in U.S. military-trained operatives applying lessons learned fighting insurgencies abroad to thousands of pipeline opponents engaged in protest against a Fortune 500 energy giant at home.
Behind the operation was Energy Transfer, whose pipeline empire has been key to propelling the U.S. oil and gas boom at a moment when the devastating impacts of climate change demand a rapid halt in fossil fuel production. Were the environmental movement able to convince policymakers to take climate science seriously, Energy Transfer would be out of business.
Instead, the business of building oil and gas pipelines is booming. Construction projects approved across at least two dozen states continue to face fierce resistance — including Energy Transfer-owned projects in Louisiana and Pennsylvania — ensuring that the pipeline security business will keep booming too. Although TigerSwan has failed to win many of the new contracts it once aspired to, few clear incentives exist to deter others from reproducing the mercenary firm’s tactics.
Through interviews with more than a dozen water protectors who were approached or befriended by Joel, The Intercept has tracked the TigerSwan operative’s path from Iowa to North Dakota to Illinois as he attempted to infiltrate an array of DAPL-opposed organizations, including Bold Iowa, Mississippi Stand, and Food and Water Watch, between September 2016 and April 2017. McCollough declined to comment for this story. Neither TigerSwan nor Energy Transfer responded to multiple requests for comment. Click here to continue reading the full article from The Intercept.
JULIE HENRY WAS jogging when she got the call from the FBI. She didn’t recognize the number, which had a Washington state area code, but she answered anyway. The FBI agent identified herself as Kera O’Reilly, and said that Henry wasn’t in any trouble. O’Reilly was there to help.
The phone call, which Henry received on February 22, 2018, brought her back to an internal conflict that she thought she’d finished wrestling with two years earlier. O’Reilly wanted to talk to Henry about her online account of sexual assault, which was strange if you consider that the offense is a crime over which federal agents rarely have jurisdiction. But it made perfect sense considering the person she wanted to discuss: Rod Coronado.
To his supporters in the animal rights community, Coronado is a folk hero who has lived his convictions. People have even written songs celebrating him. To the FBI, Coronado is an eco-terrorist, an arsonist, and a criminal. Although the agency has already managed to put him in prison four separate times, including for setting fire to a mink research facility and dismantling a mountain lion trap, law enforcement apparently still isn’t finished with the 52-year-old activist, who publicly denounced sabotage as a tactic more than a decade ago.
Yet for all of his public accolades and detractors, Henry knew a different side of him.
Nearly four years ago, Henry says, in the midst of a campaign to monitor a state-sanctioned wolf hunt with Coronado’s organization Wolf Patrol, in a remote area outside Yellowstone National Park, Coronado sexually assaulted her. Henry says she didn’t even think about calling law enforcement. Activists aren’t supposed to talk to cops, and definitely not to FBI agents. For months, she stayed silent. But then, after agonizing over the decision, she participated in an alternative attempt at accountability — she described Coronado’s assault in an email posted to a closed activist listserv and later published the details publicly in the activist Earth First! Journal.
Henry doesn’t regret her decision, but the process was painful and disappointing. Coronado denied that anything nonconsensual happened. Although many supported her, others — including some she’d considered friends and allies — didn’t believe her. Some went so far as to label her a snitch and a federal operative, smears often directed at someone perceived to have weakened the movement by talking publicly about internal divisions that law enforcement can exploit.
julie-1535583321A self-portrait Julie Henry took after she was assaulted, she says, in November 2014 near the northern border of Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Courtesy of Julie Henry
The FBI call brought all of that flooding back. “I’m a woman working in a man’s world, so I get it,” Henry recalls O’Reilly telling her. “I just want you to know that I believe you, and I’m so sorry that that happened.”
“We’re in the throes of the #MeToo moment,” O’Reilly told Henry, and that had inspired her to reach out. Henry hung up as quickly as possible, sharing nothing. But O’Reilly promised she’d call back.
“My loyalty always has to be with the movement, because the FBI could do so much damage,” Henry told The Intercept. She had no interest in assisting the agency in investigating activists, but she worried that ignoring O’Reilly’s questions about sexual assault could risk endangering other women. “Something was going to happen either way, and I felt, and still feel, completely responsible,” she said. “Whether it’s nothing that happens and he continues to hurt people, I feel responsible for that.”
After O’Reilly left a voice message a few days later, Henry called her back, despite the risks. “I know this is dangerous without having a lawyer. But I have to do this for me,” Henry recalls thinking. “I wanted to ask her why.”
O’Reilly repeated many of the same things she had said before, but one thing stuck in Henry’s head. “‘I understand, it may be hard to talk about the details; we can talk about other things,’” Henry recalls the FBI agent telling her. “And every time she said that I was like, that’s what she really wants.”
After she hung up, Henry Googled O’Reilly. She found a Seattle Times story describing O’Reilly’s years at the bureau, and her previous job as a counselor for sex offenders. But what really caught Henry’s eye was a report in The Stranger, a Seattle newspaper, that described how O’Reilly and two other FBI agents had visited six climate activists in July 2013 and asked “about opposition to tar sands development and brought photographs, hoping the activists would identify the people in them.”
“This has nothing to do with me,” Henry realized. “She wants to get to everyone.”
Henry hired a lawyer, Daniel Ayoade Yoon, to follow up. Ayoade Yoon made a recording of the call, which Henry provided to The Intercept.
“We are in the throes of the #MeToo movement, women are coming forward and being very strong about [how] this is not OK,” O’Reilly repeated in her call with Ayoade Yoon. “Women aren’t going to stand for it, and so I just thought I’d provide this opportunity if she wanted it to report it.” O’Reilly said she realized she had been thinking of her investigation of Coronado “too narrowly” after she stumbled across the Earth First! article providing Henry’s account. She acknowledged that she didn’t know what federal charges might be applicable to Henry’s case. She tossed out hypotheticals — Did Coronado take photos of Henry? Did they cross state lines? — but admitted, “Traditionally, as you know, most of these charges are handled on a local level.”
Their 38-minute conversation quickly shifted to Coronado’s other activities. “Maybe there’s other different criminal charges that don’t have to do with sexual assault she may be aware of — I’m open ears to any of those things.” O’Reilly said. She said that Coronado was “on her radar” as a possible suspect in a 2008 arson of a real estate development called Street of Dreams in a suburb of Seattle. A spray-painted sign nearby included the initials ELF, which stand for Earth Liberation Front, an organization for which Coronado had acted as a spokesperson in the past.
O’Reilly offered to make Henry an informant, technically known as a confidential human source, saying that there was “no pressure” and “if she doesn’t want it to go anywhere … I’ll take it as that.”
She told Ayoade Yoon that in addition to information about Coronado, she was interested in building trust so that the FBI would know about “direct actions that are outside the bell curve of what is normal — acceptable within the code of conduct within activist communities.”
Her final touch: an argument not so different from the one that left Henry so conflicted after the initial outreach. “I just think Rod Coronado is a bad person, and I think he uses his power and control — just a lot of men in different industries are now getting in trouble for — to hurt women,” O’Reilly said. “I would love for the activist community to say, ‘You’re not our guy — you’re not the centerfold of our platform.’”
“Ms. O’Reilly is on a fishing expedition for information regarding Rod Coronado, other dirt, other people who may have dirt on him,” Ayoade Yoon wrote to Henry after talking with O’Reilly. He was not impressed.
The fact that O’Reilly was unable to describe how any charges could be pursued against Coronado for the alleged sexual assault, Ayoade Yoon wrote, “further leads me to believe that she is merely hoping to get an inside look at Rod Coronado, his organization, or the activist community in general. As opposed to actually helping you in prosecuting him on your behalf.”
The FBI had weaponized #MeToo to pressure Henry into becoming an informant. To Henry, O’Reilly’s call was a clear attempt to prey on her desire for accountability and twist it to meet the bureau’s own ends. Henry refused to cooperate.
Rod Coronado poses with his cat, Nau, in his home in Tucson, Ariz. Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007. Coronado thinks of himself as an environmentalist, while others would prefer the term eco-terrorist. Renowned for helping sink whaling ships in the North Atlantic and firebombing a Michigan animal-research facility, he toured the country after prison time telling others how to make do-it-yourself Molotov cocktails. (AP Photo/John Miller)Rod Coronado poses with his cat, Nau, in his home in Tucson, Ariz., on Aug. 23, 2007. Photo: John Miller/AP
The Green Scare
The FBI has a long history of using sex to gather information or encourage illegal behavior in order to further its investigations. Most notoriously, under COINTELPRO, FBI agents attempted to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr. into killing himself by threatening to reveal his extramarital affairs.
More recently, the FBI has repeatedly used women as “honeypots” in terrorism cases, dispatching female agents or informants to entice Muslim men into manufactured plots. Craig Monteilh, a longtime FBI informant, said that his handlers told him to have sex with Muslim women to gather information that could be used against suspects.
In the mid-2000s, during a period of such intense FBI targeting of environmental activists that it became known as the “Green Scare,” the bureau went after Eric McDavid, whose flirtation with a woman named Anna led to a vague plot to take down targets in northern California. Anna, it turned out, was Zoe Elizabeth Voss, a paid FBI informant. McDavid was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison.
O’Reilly’s overture to Henry inverted this long-standing dynamic. Instead of using sexual relations to coax information or action out of unwitting individuals, the FBI positioned itself as a corrective to abuse. Where activists had fallen short, O’Reilly could provide justice — if only Henry would share information.
And even though the dynamic had been reversed, O’Reilly’s approach is common in law enforcement: Find a vulnerability and exploit it. “This is kind of what the FBI does,” says Mike German, a fellow at NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice and a former FBI agent. “If they’re seeking information about a particular target, they look everywhere they can find that information, and they use whatever tools are available lawfully.”
When it came to O’Reilly’s comment that she wanted to undermine Coronado as a movement leader, German acknowledged that it was “inappropriate for the FBI to decide who should be leading any kind of political organization.” But, he added, it wouldn’t be considered unacceptable for an FBI agent to say something like that to a potential cooperator in furtherance of an investigation.
In an emailed statement, FBI Public Affairs Officer Ayn S. Dietrich-Williams said, “The FBI does not police ideology. When an individual takes action based on belief or ideology and breaks the law, the FBI will enforce the rule of law.” The spokesperson said that investigative activity is required to follow the agency’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide.
“All allegations of criminal activity are reviewed using a myriad of investigative techniques and are vetted for jurisdiction. Even if investigators were to determine that an alleged activity does not constitute a violation of federal law, we refer the matter to appropriate agencies, in the interest of victims’ rights and the administration of justice,” she said. “Often, investigative efforts uncover information that suggests possible additional, related criminal activity.”
“In some cases, a potential victim of a crime may be offered opportunities to provide information anonymously and with a degree of federal protection. We do so with the individual’s safety considered, which in turn provides investigators the best opportunity to collect complete information,” said the spokesperson.
But Henry’s story isn’t just about the FBI. The same misogynistic power dynamics present in the culture at large also permeate social movements that publicly pledge liberation and justice. And in movements that have been heavily targeted by law enforcement, holding abusers accountable can be exceedingly difficult — especially when an activist describes abuse by a movement martyr.
Coronado carried out some of the radical animal rights movement’s earliest and most notorious actions. In the late 1980s and early 90s, he released 200 wild horses and freed turkey vultures, beagles, coyotes, and minks. He launched an organization to capture disturbing footage of the mink farm industry’s pelting season. And in a slew of attacks that he called Operation Bite Back, he torched buildings and used hydrochloric acid to destroy the work of research facilities supporting the fur industry or practicing animal testing. He hit state universities in Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Michigan.
Bombed-out remains of a mink research lab at MI State Univ.; the militant ALF, the Animal Liberation Front, which opposes human exploitation of animals, was responsible for the bombing. (Photo by Chris Holmes/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)In 1992, Rod Coronado firebombed a mink research facility at Michigan State University under the banner of the Animal Liberation Front. Photo: Chris Holmes/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
In a movement that is largely white, Coronado, who grew up in the suburbs of San Jose, is of Yaqui heritage, something that has been an important part of his identity. After Coronado went into hiding in the mid-1990s, federal agents found him on the Pascua Yaqui reservation in Arizona. He spent four years in prison for his involvement in torching the Michigan State University research facility. But the government’s pursuit of Coronado never really let up.
In 2003, at a talk Coronado was giving in San Diego, an undercover police officer overheard him tell the audience how to build an incendiary device — instructions that can be found on the internet, as well as in books sold on Amazon. He was arrested two and a half years later under a 1999 anti-terrorism statute that had rarely been applied. He was sentenced to another year in prison.
And in 2010, he was arrested again for violating parole terms that demanded he abstain from communicating with anyone in the activist community. For friending another activist on Facebook, he was sentenced to another four months.
He wasn’t alone. During the Green Scare, more than two dozen activists were indicted between 2004 and 2008 for involvement in actions that the FBI framed as eco-terrorism. Old loyalties were shattered as some exchanged lighter sentences for information about their comrades, and the paranoia and distrust that had long permeated the movement deepened.
In radical activist communities, arenas imagined to be internal, personal, or private have always been potential tools for the FBI, and some activists have used the bureau’s past misdeeds as a shield against allegations of abuse.
Brian Frank, an organizer with Earth First! and Rising Tide during the early 2000s, has seen his share of well-liked activists accused of intimate partner violence or sexual assault. “I think pretty much every time someone has been called out that doesn’t fit in that raging asshole category, there’s someone that’s going to say, ‘That’s not real, maybe that’s an infiltrator or provocateur of some kind,’” he said.
“People can’t fathom that someone could both be a nice person in a meeting and hit their girlfriend or sexually assault someone,” said Frank. “For some people, it’s so unbelievable they think it must be a conspiracy.”
P1030867edit-1535581747Julie Henry, center-right, joined the inaugural Wolf Patrol campaign led by Rod Coronado, standing, in September 2014 in Montana. Photo: Courtesy of Julie Henry
In 2014, Henry was searching for something new. Two long-term relationships were ending — with her romantic partner and with her activist community. She’d spent the last two years organizing in Texas with the Tar Sands Blockade, and her experience with the movement was mixed. She cared deeply about the work, but she says she’d also been sexually assaulted while she was there, an allegation some in the Earth First! community later used in an attempt to discredit her as a serial accuser. She didn’t know much about Coronado, but a Facebook post about his latest project, Wolf Patrol, caught Henry’s eye. She signed up.
Henry’s first tour with Wolf Patrol was in Montana in September 2014. A group of about 10 activists hiked mile after mile each day on land adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, monitoring a brief annual wolf hunting season made possible after the gray wolf lost its protection under the Endangered Species Act. Compared with Coronado’s earlier activism, the campaign was low key. The group did not release wolves caught in traps or sabotage the hunt. Instead, they simply monitored hunters’ activities, attempting to capture footage of illegal tactics.
Henry and Coronado grew close over the three-day campaign. “The way we clicked together, we got a lot of work done,” she told The Intercept. It was clear that Coronado wanted a romantic relationship, she said, and he broached the topic at the end of the trip. Henry underlined that past trauma left her uninterested in a physical relationship. She was there to do the wolf work.
While Coronado disputes her account of what happened, Henry says it was during a second campaign the next month in Wisconsin that things got weird. “When I returned, it was almost like he decided I was his property,” she said. He would make decisions for her — what her task for the day would be, which vehicle she would be in (always his). “If I disagreed with him, or went against — then I wasn’t a valuable person anymore.” Henry said Coronado presented shared sleeping quarters with him as a given.
Mariam Rauf, who works with victims of domestic and sexual abuse at Sakhi, an organization focused on ending violence against women, said Henry’s story was familiar. “Abusers can take on manipulative tactics to pull someone in, ‘groom’ them with their charm, and then the situation escalates,” she said. “Controlling behavior might at first have been flattering because of the attention the person was getting from the abuser. Physical abuse doesn’t always happen immediately; the emotional and psychological abuse usually comes first.”
P1040375edit-1535582961A view of the mountainous landscape in Montana as winter set in, during the November 2014 Wolf Patrol campaign. Photo: Courtesy of Julie Henry
Things only got worse when Henry returned to Montana for her third and final campaign. By then it was November, and temperatures regularly dipped below zero.
At night, Henry said, Coronado tested her boundaries. “I would wake up, and he would be touching me,” she said. She felt that her willingness to accept his advances at night correlated directly with how things would go the following day.
“He’s going to treat me like garbage tomorrow if I make him feel bad tonight,” she remembers thinking.
Brett Jarczyk, an activist who was on the trip, witnessed Coronado’s behavior toward Henry. He said one morning he overheard sounds coming from the tent the two shared, just a short distance away. Henry was telling Coronado to stop doing whatever he was doing and sounded “irritated,” says Jarczyk.
Toward the end of the trip, Henry confronted Coronado about the unwanted advances. “You’re making it hard for me to do my job,” she says she told him, to which his response was, “OK, yeah, sure.”
As a blizzard blew toward the park that November, Coronado prepared to head back to his home in Michigan. The night before he left, the group celebrated a campaign Henry didn’t think had accomplished very much. Later that night, Henry says, Coronado assaulted her in a Super 8 Motel room they were sharing with another member of their group who had already fallen asleep.
As they went in, Henry said, she asked Coronado to turn on an air conditioner so they could talk without waking their roommate. She said Coronado was inebriated and wasn’t interested in talking. “He never asked, he never even attempted to use a condom,” Henry told The Intercept. She said she stayed quiet to avoid waking the other person.
Henry recalls that Coronado was in a good mood the next morning before he and most of the group left. “He looked me in the eye and was like, ‘Hey, are we good?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He kissed me on the forehead and got in the car.”
Henry sat down in the motel lobby, across from another activist, Stephanie. “I told her what happened,” Henry said. “And she was like, ‘Oh hell no, you call him, you make him come back, you need to talk about that.’” Stephanie, who asked that only her first name be used due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, confirmed that Henry told her that morning that Coronado had sexually assaulted her.
Henry called Coronado. “I’m not OK with what happened,” Henry recalls telling him. “He basically was like, ‘I’m not going to talk about this.’”
Matt Almonte, who also stayed behind that morning, remembered Henry was “distraught,” and that she told them about the alleged assault almost immediately. He said they offered to take Henry to a pharmacy to get Plan B, or to a doctor’s office. At one point, Stephanie said, Henry began saying the encounter had in fact been consensual, but she didn’t like that Coronado fell asleep immediately afterward. (Henry denied this characterization.)
That night, Henry says Coronado called and said he was no longer interested in her.
Coronado’s recollections of his relationship with Henry differ significantly. In an interview with The Intercept, he said that when the topic of a romantic relationship between them was broached, he remembers kissing and agreeing that any physical relations would involve a lot of talking. He says he followed through with that and denies that any physical interaction happened without consent. He doesn’t recall any instance of Henry telling him there could be no physical relationship.
“I would preface any intimacy with conscious talking,” Coronado said.
He also denies that he determined where Henry would sleep at night. “I slept in my tent and she chose to sleep with me – there were plenty of tents for everyone, and everyone got to sleep where they wanted to sleep. It was not an issue because we were a couple,” Coronado said.
In Coronado’s version of his last night on the campaign, he asked Henry if she wanted to have sex, and she consented, asking him to turn on the heater to cover any noise. He says they didn’t use protection, but that they had previously talked about the fact that he had had a vasectomy. He remembers Henry approached him in the morning, and she seemed upset. “We need to talk about last night,” she said, according to Coronado. “I think something happened that you don’t remember.”
He says his impression was she was hurt that he didn’t remember having sex. “I started recounting it,” Coronado recalled. “I said, ‘Do you mean when we had sex? Do you mean when I asked you whether it was OK? Do you mean when you asked to turn on the heater to provide white noise?’ She said, ‘OK.’ She started giggling and laughing. I said, ‘I remember everything.’”
When Henry called as he was driving away, Coronado said he does not recall her specifically mentioning the events of the night before, only that she said she needed to talk and that he refused to turn around. And he says he did not call her back the next day to break things off.
The rest of the campaign went poorly for Henry — she didn’t get along well with the other two activists, and Coronado texted her throughout, jokingly calling her “White Noise” – a reference to the air conditioner that was turned on in the hotel room. She appeared to laugh off the nickname, which Coronado sees as evidence their encounter was consensual. “He was trying to keep things sexual,” Henry said when asked about the texts. “There was just no point in trying to fight it.”
Worn down and frustrated with the group dynamic, Henry found herself calling on Coronado to pick her up. Almonte said that when Coronado arrived, he confronted him about Henry’s account. “‘She said you straight-up assaulted her,’” Almonte recalled telling Coronado. “He looked at me very puzzled, said, ‘I have no idea why she would say that.’ I said, ‘I don’t know either, but that’s between you two, and it needs to be addressed.’” (Coronado said he does not recall the conversation.)
She went back with Coronado to his house, where the two shared a bed, and although they did not have intercourse again, she said, his groping resumed. She did not bring up the assault again while they were together. Even after everything that had happened, Henry still hoped to continue on with Wolf Patrol. The group was preparing for another campaign in Wisconsin, and Henry was desperate not to lose another community. But Coronado told her that she would not be invited on the next trip — he blamed the tension between her and the other activists.
Exiled from Wolf Patrol, she left Coronado’s home, planning to tell no one else about the assault. “I was a deep, dark hole,” she recalled.
intercept_spots_final_binoculars-1535583064Illustration: Hokyoung Kim for The Intercept
Unbeknownst to Henry, during the time that she was working with Wolf Patrol, a debate over how to address Coronado’s behavior had already been roiling the radical environmental activist community.
A few months prior to the alleged assault on Henry, Coronado had trashed his ex-wife Chrysta Faye’s home after he saw her with a new boyfriend, emptying garbage, kitty litter, and compost throughout the house.
In February 2015, an activist named Toby Fraser sent out a notice on an email list describing the trashing of Faye’s home and noting that Coronado had violated consent with people he had worked with — a reference to Henry, who was still unsure about sharing her story publicly. “While Rod is more than just these actions, and he has been a huge inspiration for many of us, it is actions like these that people also need to know so they can make an informed choice,” Fraser wrote in his email. “If you have friends in the northern states where Rod is directly working on the wolf hunts please share this with them.”
It was at that point that Henry decided to go public by releasing a statement on an Earth First! email listserv. “My name is Julie Henry,” she wrote, “and I was sexually assaulted by Rod Coronado.”
Henry’s email was forwarded from one activist to another and spread via social media, but it was more than a year before the editors of Earth First! Journal decided to address the issue.
“It is the job of the Journal to post news, analysis, and thought pieces regarding defense of the earth, of other species, and of the wild,” wrote one activist in a thread of emails debating whether to cover Henry’s accusations. “It could make a difficult situation much worse, but bottom line is it is not the Journal’s job.”
Eventually, the journal published an interview with Henry by Kiera Loki Anderson, a writer and longtime environmental activist, who is writing their doctoral dissertation on sexual assault within the environmental movement.
The Earth First! community quickly took sides. The reaction of some movement leaders was shaped by the years of persecution they’d faced from law enforcement. Henry was framed as a potential informant, at worst, and, at best, a security risk who could hurt the movement. Some of the doubters claimed that Henry was unstable or questioned her credibility because she’d accused others of assault in the past.
The official Wolf Patrol Facebook page called Henry a “fraud and a liar.” Coronado wrote on Facebook that he wouldn’t “engage with dysfunctional activists or my lying and cheating ex-wife who use FBI-style smear tactics.” He threatened to sue the Journal, arguing he’d had no opportunity to give his side of the story.
Just over a month after the interview with Henry was published, a site called It’s Going Down published an interview with a lawyer named Lauren Regan by an activist named Lilia who was on Henry’s final Wolf Patrol campaign. The post was titled “Informants and Information,” and was illustrated with large photos of former activists who had taken deals and testified against other activists. “Green Scare Snitches” read a large label on each photo.
“A huge issue though is the extent that activists are making the government and private spy’s jobs so easy by using facecrack or email to put the most dirty laundry of movement participants out into these public domains. They are basically giving them clear road maps of where vulnerable targets for government repression might be located, or who might be more likely to be a snitch or an infiltrator,” Regan said. “For me personally whenever I see some of that stuff happening I am really suspicious of the sources of it.” (Regan said she wasn’t responding to a specific incident.)
But for all those who questioned Henry, there were at least as many who supported her.
“People that have been persecuted by the state are martyrized and lionized in ways that survivors aren’t,” Anderson told The Intercept. “The way the movement takes more seriously state repression versus political violence against women allows people like Rod — not to milk it, but to use it as a shield.”
An editor at the Earth First! Journal who calls himself Rabbit recalled how split the reaction was. “I’d get off the phone with one person who was super pissed that we hadn’t immediately published a thing showing solidarity with Julie like the next day,” he said. “And the phone rings when I’m done with that, and someone’s super pissed we haven’t put out a condemnation of Julie for doing this because Rod would never do this.”
“Rod Coronado went from a hero and an idol and member of the Earth First! community, to a person who is not welcome at all,” Rabbit said. “If Rod showed up to an Earth First! rendezvous or organizers conference, I don’t care who is hosting it, I guarantee you he’d be thrown out immediately.”
Coronado told The Intercept that the last time he’d attempted to attend a radical environmentalist gathering — of forest defenders in Eugene, Oregon — the lug nuts were removed from his tires.
For her part, Faye has struggled with what accountability and justice should mean for Coronado, her ex-husband. “I believe Julie and I support Julie,” she said in an interview. She too had a difficult relationship with the activist.
Faye was married to Coronado throughout the Green Scare, when he was in and out of prison. Their relationship was marked by nearly constant surveillance, which, combined with the intoxicating effects of Coronado’s hero status, resulted in years of dysfunction and finally separation by 2014.
“We had our telephone monitored. We had our computers monitored. We were being surveilled by the FBI. They knew where I was at times that seemed totally irrelevant. It does something to your psyche, it truly does,” Faye said. “I think if we would have just been a normal, going to work, doing the 9-to-5, raising kids, things could have been really different, but the amount trauma that his being an activist brought into our lives had devastating effects.”
Coronado confirmed in an interview that some of the problems in his marriage to Faye had centered around sex and consent. “Me touching her in bed when she was asleep, that was one of the many dysfunctional things I did,” he said. He said that the behavior took place in the context of a relationship in which both parties were behaving in ways that hurt the other deeply. “There was inappropriate things that I did, that she spoke to me about, and I definitely acknowledge that.”
Faye found a way to heal her relationship with Coronado — something she felt was necessary given how intertwined their lives were. She believes deeply in the power of transformative justice, which aims to address conflict and violence outside the criminal justice system. “It’s super complicated, but it has to come from a compassionate view versus a punitive view, and it’s scary — it’s scary because it’s new for all of us. It’s a new system for all of us to be considering not exiling the perpetrator.