Brian Tokar
Key Player

Co-founder, NorthEast RAGE; primary organizer, “biodevastation” protests; author, Earth For Sale; teaches ISE courses on “movement building”; “biotechnology, agriculture, & racism”; and “science, technology, the state, and globalization”While Brian Tokar spent much of his early adulthood exploring the anarchist and socialist sides of the New Left, he’s spent his middle-age years attempting to lend his fringe politics an air of legitimacy. Much the same can be said about most of the “lifers” involved with the Institute for Social Ecology: their hope is that the “respectability” of an educational “Institute” will rub off on the public perception of their fringe political goals.

Tokar’s name turns up in conjunction with a variety of protest groups, some more lawful than others. Among Tokar’s more benign projects is the Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network, which passes out hundreds of thousands of pre-written “protest letters” every year to supermarket patrons. This activity is carried out in cooperation with activists from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (vPIRG), and from the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York. Both groups share funding sources (such as the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation) with the Institute for Social Ecology.

On the not-so-benign front, however, Brian Tokar has openly declared his allegiance to the violent Earth First!. In addition to founding and running NorthEast RAGE, he has also served as an organizer for a number of that organization’s sister groups (NorthWest RAGE and SouthEast RAGE, for instance). These other regional groups have been responsible for “direct action” of the illegal variety, including the wholesale destruction of biotech tree plantings and food crops.

Since its inception, Tokar has been the principal organizer of the widely publicized “biodevastation” protests. Part street theatre and part armed struggle, these protest events are held in conjunction with the annual conventions of the U.S. biotech industry. The 2001 event in San Diego resulted in more than 20 arrests and over $4.5 million in added security costs to the city’s taxpayers. Previous years’ events in Seattle, Boston, and St. Louis resulted in a host of arsons, physical assaults, and (literally) tens of millions of dollars in property damage.