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The only options left meant a lot of dead deer. In Missouri, Jackson County has allowed bow hunting in Fleming Park for years, and many cities in Johnson County — from Lenexa to Olathe — permit hunts on private land. "But this is the first time on public property in Johnson County that we're dealing with what is an issue throughout the Midwest: an overabundance of white-tailed deer," Knight says.
Gary Montague, the chairman of the Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners, says the issue has been the most controversial of his tenure, bringing hundreds of residents to two heated public hearings. In June, the vote to approve what has become known as the deer harvest — with sharpshooters in October and, if necessary, bow hunters in December — wasn't easy. "The board wasn't necessarily pleased with what we have to do," Montague says. "But something had to be done."
Needham isn't satisfied. "I'm just totally at a loss for words that these men would go to such violent means to solve what they perceive as an issue," she says. "Myself, I don't see it as an issue. Let the poor things eat every damn thing in that park."
She isn't the only one. Hundreds of residents across the region have signed a petition opposing the hunt. For months, however, they lacked a leader to bring them all together.
Enter Jason Miller.
On the surface, Miller is a model suburbanite.
Every morning, he climbs into his gray Saturn. He drives from his tidy two-story home in a middle-class neighborhood to his call-center cubicle, where he works as a customer service supervisor.
At night, though, he inhabits a different persona at his basement computer.
On the floor, a booklet titled "Excelling as a First-Time Manager or Supervisor" rests a few inches from the latest issue of the anarchist zine Fire to the Prisons. Beside a Mrs. Potato Head doll and a shiny pink alien on his desk, Miller has stacked two business cards from the FBI agents who questioned him this summer. Under framed pictures of his three teenage sons, he publishes subversive essays and corresponds with the most militant members of the animal-rights movement. Though he calls hunting "wanton cruelty," he owns several handguns — for security, he explains.
Miller grew up in Grandview, where he was an Eagle Scout and the valedictorian of his high school class in 1985. At 19, though, he started to rebel against what he now calls the capitalist "indoctrination" of his youth. He dropped out of the University of Missouri-Kansas City after three years and worked a series of low-paying industrial jobs. He experimented with drugs and became addicted to alcohol. In 1990, a machine-shop accident severely burned 30 percent of his body. Five years after that, his first marriage ended in divorce.
"I've been through some rough times that helped to instill a sense of empathy that I lacked before," he says.
His political awakening was gradual. He didn't attend his first protest until 2003, marching with hundreds of thousands against the impending war in Iraq. The re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 sparked his first writing: polemics against what he said were the administration's corrupt and violent practices. In 2006, Patrice Greanville, an animal-rights activist and editor-in-chief of Cyrano's Journal, invited Miller to blog for Cyrano's. Miller not only accepted the blog slot but also adopted Greanville's vegetarianism. "He got me looking at animal oppression and the context that it's the ultimate root of all oppression," Miller says. Marking Thanksgiving that year, the new herbivore penned a 12-page article, Institutionalised Glorification of Greed & Gluttony, excoriating the factory farms and the U.S. quest for global hegemony. He listed Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, as one of the 12 things for which he was thankful.