Obedience To What? Abby Brockway and Others Head to Trial in Washington


Five courageous climate dissidents are preparing to go to trial in Everett, Washington on January 11. In September 2014 Abby Brockway, Mike Lapointe, Patrick Mazza, Jackie Minchew, and Liz Spoerri blockaded a train used to transport bakken shale oil at the Delta rail yard in Everett. They are preparing to use a necessity defense, arguing in court that their actions were necessary in the face of impending climate catastrophe. We at the Climate Disobedience Center are honored to be working with them and will be lifting up their voices as the trial nears. Abby Brockway, who perched at the top of a tripod blocking the train, wrote the following statement about her motivations to act. We'll be posting the other defendants stories over the next week. You can find more of their story on their website. -Jay

Obedience to What?


Late summer 2014, Lummi leader and Master carver Praying Wolf Jewell James stopped at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, on a journey from Montana to Alberta.  In the packed cathedral, church leaders presented him and the Lumni Nation an ecumentical letter of apology.  The letter read:

"... Tribal leaders have asked us to keep our past promises, and to stand with them in defense of their sacred lands and fishing rights. And so we call upon...all people of goodwill to uphold the treaty rights of Native communities of the Northwest. ...As religious leaders we call for the protection of the life we have been given and the Earth we all call home. Our greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30--‐31). Putting this ethic into action, we stand in solidarity with our Native neighbors to safeguard the traditional lands, waters, and sacred sites of their peoples from destruction.”

James Jewell asked the gathered crowd to stand with the Lummi Tribe and to protect front line areas facing extreme extraction and exploitation. He explained that salmon swimming in the waters of the Salish Sea have tumors and peeling skin, and the starfish suffer from a wasting disease that causes their bodies to dissolve.  The waters have become so acidic that baby oysters cannot survive. The growing acidification of our waters and the energy imbalance heating the planet’s climate have a common cause: our burning of fossil fuels.

YET WE ARE NOT SLOWING DOWN OUR EXPLOITATIONS OF FOSSIL FUELS: Over a dozen trains a week come through Seattle loaded with dangerous and volatile Bakken Crude from North Dakota.  With industry plans for massive expansion of fossil fuel transport by rail, Washington State is poised to become a fossil fuel corridor as our nation becomes one of the largest fossil fuel producers in the world.  

As a mother, a  Presbyterian and a lover of democracy, I  know that I am ready and the time is now to take personal risks to defend our sacred land. I attended public hearings and submitted comments to prevent Washington State from becoming a fossil fuel corridor.  I was heartened by large turnouts and public outcry, but I was informed that my state’s Department of Ecology would eventually grant these permits no matter the harm caused.  I had tried to make change, but our window to stabilize our climate is slamming shut and I felt a deep call to act. 

On Tuesday September 2nd, I joined four others from Rising Tide Seattle in an eight hour blockade of an oil train parked in the Everett Delta train yard. We demanded that Governor Inslee enact an immediate moratorium on all fossil fuel trains and that he deny permits for all coal and oil shipping facilities proposed in Washington. I had read the daily prayer from the The Book of common prayer, a book for ordinary radicals, I took the prayer with me as I climbed atop the tripod grounded by the day's prayer, "Let your justice roll down like waters, Lord but float us on your grace..." I understood that climbing the tripod was my way of participating in the Book of Acts.

I know I must continue to act. We must protect what we love with all our hearts, with our whole mind and our entire being. Now is the time to invest in and to spend our moral currency to pressure those in power to make the changes necessary to ensure a livable planet for the next generations. Our currency is our passion, love, vulnerability, will and our hope.

I am prepared to face the legal consequences of my actions. The cost is worth paying.  As far as obedience is concerned, I choose obedience to the future generations. I invite you to join me in the fight for the health and the sustainability of our region and the world.

Fierce Love,

Abby Brockway


Showing 4 reactions

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  • commented 2015-12-19 22:31:59 -0500
    You do the crime you do the time perhaps climate change is such that the defense will work
  • commented 2015-12-16 14:08:46 -0500
    Thank you Abby, you are an inspiration.
  • published this page in blog 2015-12-11 09:25:35 -0500
  • commented 2015-12-10 22:33:40 -0500
    I so admire this woman! Yes, demand our government (all levels) keep promises for healthy air, water, land, and ecosystems that support life, ways of life, and economies. Honor Treaties! Clean up industrial pollution in Fidalgo Bay so the Swinomish—the Salmon People—can reclaim their food security and culture.