Mercy Junction ministry hosting award-winning journalist to speak about expected ‘ag gag’ bill and criminalization of dissent

Award-winning author, journalist and activist Will Potter will be speaking at the Chattanooga Public Library on Thursday, Jan. 16, addressing the expected introduction of “ag gag” legislation in the upcoming Tennessee General Assembly, associated First Amendment and free speech issues, and the broader trend of criminalizing dissent and how that impacts social justice activism

Potter’s presentation begins at 6 p.m. and will be on the Fourth Floor at the library. The event is free and open to the public.

Mercy Junction ministry is sponsoring the event in conjunction with Occupy Chattanooga, Animals Vote Tennessee, Move to Amend Chattanooga, Chattanoogans Against Monsanto and Dixie Day Spay.

Potter, based in Washington, D.C., is author of “Green Is The New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege.”

During his talk next week, Potter will follow the history of how animal rights and environmental activists come to be targeted as “eco-terrorists” and labeled as the top domestic terrorist threat by the FBI. He will make the connection between the criminalization of animal rights/environmental activism and the potential threat to corporate profits, and talk about the consequences for those working in the animal rights/environmental movements, and the risks for social justice activists in general.

More specifically, Potter will address “ag gag” legislation, which will likely be re-introduced into the Tennessee General Assembly in 2014.

“Ag gag” legislation was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2013, but Gov. Haslam vetoed the bill after the state attorney general warned that the bill was “constitutionally suspect.” The bill’s sponsors, Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, pledged to re-write the bill and re-introduce it in 2014.

“Ag gag” laws attempt to “censor whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms and slaughterhouses,” Potter writes on his blog. “Investigations by groups like the Humane Society, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing have exposed shocking animal cruelty and consumer health dangers in the food industry. They have led to the largest meat recall in US history, criminal charges, and international media exposure. Rather than put a stop to these abuses, corporations are trying to criminalize the whistleblowers who expose them.”

Potter blogs at www.greenisthenewred.com. His work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones and the Vermont Law Review. He has also testified before Congress.

Potter is also one of the 2014 TED Fellows.

This event will be an important overview and discussion for anyone working on issues surrounding animal rights, the environment, food labeling, and social justice in general, as well as anyone concerned about corporate power, free speech restrictions and First Amendment issues.

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