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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Environmental Group Claims Credit For Vandalized SUVs

Aired August 22, 2003 - 19:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people have said that sport utility vehicles have got to go. But a radical environmental group has gone much farther than that, claiming responsibility for vandalizing SUVs at dealerships across Southern California. Federal agents have now joined that investigation.
And our Miguel Marquez has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fire at a Los Angeles Hummer dealership, several of the status-driven SUVs destroyed, some spray-painted, at three more suburban dealerships, dozens of sport utility vehicles spray-painted with an environmental sneer.

RANDY PARSONS, FBI: We do have a timeline. We're not ready to release that now, because, obviously, we're still looking into, were these, in fact, connected or not.

MARQUEZ: The connection may be obvious, with messages like, "I Love Pollution" and "SUVs Suck" left behind. The environment group Earth Liberation Front takes credit in an e-mail sent to CNN and other groups, the e-mail titled "ELF Strikes Three Times in One Night Against SUVs."

PARSONS: The only point that we'd make to whoever is responsible for these acts are the grave nature of an arson like this and the fact that there are substantial criminal penalties involved at both the state and the federal level.

MARQUEZ (on camera): The Earth Liberation Front as an organization is difficult to classify. As far as we know, they have no offices, no official membership, just a group of people loosely connected by a single ideology.

(voice-over): The ideology, what they call economic sabotage to protect the environment.

On this day, sport utility vehicles were their target. But SUVs are not their only target. Earlier this month, a five-story apartment complex in San Diego was torched, again, an ELF banner claiming, "If you build it, we will burn it." ELF also takes responsibility for the torching of this Vail, Colorado, ski resort expansion in 1998 and the torching of several homes on New York's Long Island two years later. In Los Angeles, though, the FBI investigating because they say the crimes may be domestic terrorism. The FBI also says they have leads and hope to make arrests.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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