I’m writing today to make sure you’ve heard the news about a necessity defense climate trial in Cortlandt, New York where six defendants have been granted a necessity defense by Judge Kimberly Ragazzo. Although the Westchester District Attorney’s office reduced charges to a level that denies these pipeline fighters a jury trial, their case is moving forward in a bench trial (in which the judge makes the ruling on guilt or innocence).
I spent spent the last two and a half days in preparation and in court with the defendants and their supporters, and this necessity defense trial is unfolding in some fascinating and promising ways.Read more
We are excited to welcome Hannah Chodosh as our 2018 Summer Intern! Hannah is originally from New Jersey and is a rising senior at the University of Vermont. At UVM she is majoring in English and minoring in Environmental Studies. In Spring of 2017 Hannah interned with 350 Vermont, and comes to CDC with a keen interest in writing about climate change, and understanding how the law (and the necessity defense) can work with grassroots campaigns to build power.
With so many channels for action on climate change exhausted, the movement of people taking direct action to refuse the fossil fuel industry and the future it tries to choose for us is, to me, a deeply exciting avenue of change. People taking those kinds of actions show me that it’s possible to live in recognition of the climate crisis and to act at an appropriate scale. They are examples, and, I think, important ones, of how to create ways of having an impact when it seems like there are none available. I am very much looking forward to working with the CDC this summer and seeing their work up close, and I’m excited to learn about and help document how different campaigns, like the one in West Roxbury, formed and acted creatively and at the scale of the problem.
Last week Jay and Marla participated in a webcast that covered an overview of the climate necessity defense, a discussion of its uses for movement organizing, and an update on current cases. Kelsey Skaggs from the Climate Defense Project and Valve Turner Ben Joldersma also participated in the discussion. Thanks to Stand.Earth for hosting this important conversation.
We are delighted to announce that Moona Cancino is the latest CDC Fellow!
Moona is engaging in the efforts to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which both run through the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a cancer survivor and a mother, Moona found herself needing to develop practices that heal her mind, body and spirit. It is these practices which translate into powerful activism without burning us out on the grief and anger that can come with finding a movement that sometimes holds more sadness than joy. She realized that her spirituality only was meaningful if it was taken out into the world. In 2016 Moona trained with the Satyagraha Institute and spent a month at Standing Rock. In addition to her local work in Virginia, she is working with others across the country to build a decentralized network of heart-centered nonviolence practitioners working at the intersection of climate justice and racial healing. Moona lives with her son at The Woodfolk Community, an intentional community in Charlottesville.
There are a bunch of exciting things happening in the climate disobedience world that we want to hi-lite at the start of April.
Judge Approves #NoDAPL Activist Chase Iron Eyes’ Demand For Withheld Evidence
From the Lakota People's Law Project Facebook page: "Yesterday [April 4th], the Judge in Chase Iron Eyes' case upheld earlier rulings that law enforcement and private security contractors must comply with our discovery demands."
You can watch the legal update with Daniel Sheehan, hear from Chase Iron Eyes, and find a donate link to support the work here.
Cherri Foytlin Arrested Livestreaming Blockade of Bayou Bridge Pipeline
A long term resistance camp is thriving in Louisiana in the path of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. L'eau Est La Vie Camp has been helping and instigating actions to thwart this 162 mile long crude oil pipeline. On April 5th, two teachers blockaded construction for over four hours.
In a surprise, however, police also arrested mother and organizer Cherri Foytlin, who is on the Indigenous Women's Council for the L’eau Est La Vie Camp. Cherri was livestreaming the blockade and the arrest had no obvious rationale. Organizers suspect that Cherri was deliberately targeted in an attempt to stall the work that she has been doing with L'eau Est La Vie
You can support L'eau Est La Vie Camp here: http://nobbp.org/
Judge in West Virginia Lends Support to Pipeline Construction Blockade
There are currently two high-flying actions happening in the woods of West Virginia in path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a major new fracked gas pipeline crossing from West Virginia to Virginia. Activists have been preventing the one time completion of a phase of tree-cutting along the pipeline corridor that was supposed to wrap up on March 31st when tree cutting must stop due to migratory bird nesting.
Tree sitters have been blockading tree cutting along the pipeline route near the Appalachian Trail for five weeks, and a second blockade was begun last week in the path of a construction access road. In a legal twist, the pipeline company asked Monroe County Circuit Court to issue an injunction against the tree sit and we rebuffed by judge Robert Irons who wrote in his opinion that the tree sitters “generally represent the interest of the public and the environment, such as the interest in protecting the waters underlying Peters Mountain, its flora and fauna, its view shed, the Appalachian Trail, and similar interests that will or may be destroyed."
This pipeline will be linked to the even larger Atlantic Coast Pipeline destined for North Carolina and points south. You can support the blockaders directly here: bit.ly/supportmvpresistance
Last Two Valve Turners Await Climate Necessity Trial in Minnesota
In 2016 five individuals closed emergency shut off valves on the pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands in to the US, shutting down 15% of the US daily oil supply. Three have already stood trial, and one, Michael Foster, is currently serving one year in prison in North Dakota for his shut down of the Keystone Pipeline.
Valve turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein are awaiting trial in Minnesota for shutting down two of Enbridge corporation's pipelines there. Their judge has OK'd the use of a necessity defense in their case, and are prepared to launch the climate trial we had hoped to have in West Roxbury, with witnesses including Dr. James Hansen and Bill McKibben.
Their trial date still hangs in limbo, as the prosecution appealed the granting of the necessity defense. The appeals court heard oral arguments on necessity in mid-February, but the judge has not yet issued a ruling. This could well be the #ClimateTrial of the century that we have been waiting for if the necessity defense is allowed to proceed. This would be the first necessity defense allowed to the valve turners, and the first in over two years since the Delta 5 trial in Washington state.
You can find out more at shutitdown.today.
Coal Train Blockader Set to Stand Trial in Spokane
Rev. George Taylor and others blockaded the tracks of the BNSF railroad that carries coal and oil west, part of the building movement in Spokane to combat the fossil-fuel-by-rail corridor that runs through the center of their city. A grassroots effort has been rising in Spokane, which resulted in the city passing new bylaws which affirmed local self-determination over their environment, and as part of that effort to halt this fossil fuel corridor, a campaign of climate disobedience was begun.
The judge in Taylor's case, supported by our partners at the Climate Defense Project, has granted the use of the necessity defense. The case was set for trial for April April 23rd. Now the state prosecutor has appealed the judge's necessity decision, and Taylor's day in court is uncertain. We at the Climate Disobedience Center are lending trial organizing support to this effort.
Judge Rules Defendants' Actions "Necessary" to Prevent Greater Harm in West Roxbury #ClimateTrial
On March 27th, 13 defendants went into Boston’s West Roxbury District courthouse to answer charges related to their arrests as part of a sustained campaign to block construction on the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline that included 198 arrests from October 2015 through September 2016. Although the prosecutor moved to reduce the charges from misdemeanor criminal offenses to civil infractions — the equivalent of a parking ticket, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll allowed each defendant testify briefly on the necessity of their actions.
The defendants collectively presented a powerful and comprehensive argument for why it was necessary to engage in civil disobedience to stop the imminent local and global harms of this fracked gas pipeline. Following their testimony, the judge ruled that the defendants’ actions were necessary in order prevent a greater harm.
While defendants were still denied a jury trial and the possibility of a full necessity defense, this was the first time that defendants were acquitted by a judge based on climate necessity.
Listen to the official court audio here (includes defendant testimony and Judge Driscoll's ruling). Watch and share video statements from supporters, defendants and National Lawyers Guild attorney, Josh Raisler-Cohn via Facebook or Twitter.
The Climate Disobedience Center's Marla Marcum was a lead organizer with Resist the Pipeline in West Roxbury for the duration of this campaign. CDC's Tim DeChristopher was one of the 13 defendants, and CDC provided organizing and other support to prepare for trial. Shout out to our partners at the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild represented all 198 defendants from October 2015 through March 2018. Climate Defense Project provided invaluable support related to preparations for a necessity defense, and our friends from 198 Methods joined us during the trial to manage media coordination.
For the last two years, I have worked to lead a sustained resistance campaign to a fracked gas pipeline in West Roxbury, Massachusetts through more than a dozen civil disobedience actions and an extended legal process. Now those activists are finally going to trial on March 27th.
The judge has been supportive of the activists intent to use the necessity defense, so we are confident we will be able to make a full argument about why civil disobedience is necessary to avert the catastrophic harms of continued fossil fuel expansion. This case is a near-perfect opportunity for the strategy the Climate Disobedience Center has been pursuing for years. Every elected official representing West Roxbury opposed this pipeline, and the city of Boston even sued to try to stop it, so our argument that civil disobedience is necessary when our government is so rigged in favor of exploitative corporations is more compelling than any other #ClimateTrial necessity case yet.
Also, with fifteen activists from five different days of protests combined in one trial, we have the unique opportunity to argue the effectiveness of a campaign of sustained resistance. Civil disobedience doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but prosecutors sometimes try to act that way in order to make it seem like we couldn’t reasonably expect our actions to make a difference. In this trial, for the first time, we get to make the case for why a growing, escalating campaign can be so powerful at standing up to the most powerful industry in the world.
To make the most of this opportunity, we need the resources to bring in expert witnesses, pay court expenses, and dedicate our own staff time to this effort. We need to raise $5000 to make this happen. Please donate today, and join us in Boston on March 27th-30th for this groundbreaking case.
The title of Gandhi's autobiography is "The Story of My Experiments with Truth." While the book is more focused on his own personal habits and spiritual disciplines rather than his political and strategic thoughts on satyagraha, the idea is one that motivated a group to gather in Virginia and North Carolina over the last three weeks.
Three of us from the Climate Disobedience Center joined around two dozen activists from across the US to see if we might experiment with a new expression of the truth in the climate fight. At the invitation of local activists, we visited with communities fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and listened to those who were on the frontlines of this fight talk about this massive new project to export fracked gas from West Virginia. And at their invitation on Friday February 2nd, we occupied the North Carolina Governor's office.Read more
Tim DeChristopher and Bryan Cahall were the keynote speakers at the Rhode Island Interfaith Power and Light annual conference in 2017. Tim discussed some of the thinking behind our focus on building Praxis Groups in 2018. Their part of the video starts at 16:30.
As we close out 2017, we’re reflecting on the time and energy that so many climate dissidents and supporters have spent preparing for and going to trial this year. And we are looking forward to supporting four more climate trials in the first half of 2018.
We launched the Climate Disobedience Center after our own experiences taking high legal risk climate disobedience actions through to trial. Using a trial as an organizing and power-building opportunity is neither easy, nor straightforward. In fact, we learned much of what we know now the hard way, and we are determined to help others avoid those same mistakes and blind spots.Read more
In 2017, it seemed like suddenly everyone was talking about disobedience. Even military leaders talked openly about disobeying some of Trump’s most despotic and destructive orders. Droves of new activists realized that they could no longer just go with flow but had to resist and disobey. In an article in the New York Times earlier this month, Roger Cohen argued that, “Disobedience may stand between humanity and Armageddon.” Well here at the Climate Disobedience Center, disobedience is our middle name. Literally.
Since our government has been failing to address the climate crisis for far longer than the past year, we’ve been engaging in acts of civil disobedience for years. We also go to great lengths to support others who engage in disobedience, making sure they have the training, connections, and resources to achieve the biggest impact for their sacrifice.
Part of the Climate Disobedience Center’s original mission also called us to build a culture of dissent and disobedience. This year, Jay, Marla and I decided to focus on that culture building as the central part of our work. That’s why we’re building small community groups that we call Praxis Groups to help activists support each other in their personal development and their actions of disobedience and dissent.
We’re developing tools and curriculum to catalyze transformative conversations, and when participants in our Praxis Groups are called to action, we intend to provide them with all the resources and support needed to bring that call into reality as a powerful action. For that we need your help and financial support. Please make a year end donation of $50 today to help us spread disobedience in 2018.
Thanks for your support!