Below you'll find some of the support the Climate Disobedience Center has offered climate dissidents since our founding.
The Delta 5
On September 2, 2014, five activists (working with Rising Tide Seattle) in Everett, Washington, put themselves in the path of a mile-long train "bomb train" used to carry volatile fracked crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to refineries in Anacortes.
A year later when they were planning to go to trial, the Delta 5 asked if we could help them plan their defense. Inspired in part by the Lobster Boat Blockade and Trial, the five were interested in mounting a climate necessity defense in Snohomish County Court, and contacted us to help develop a public trial strategy.
In January of 2016, with a raft of pro-bono legal help, the Delta 5 were able to present, for the first time to a US jury, a necessity defense featuring a climate scientist and an oil train safety expert. Judge Anthony E. Howard allowed the defendants to argue that their actions were justified by the threat of climate change. This was the first time a U.S. court has heard a ‘necessity defense’ in a case relating to climate action.
While the judge allowed the defense to be presented, he did not instruct the jury to make a decision based on the necessity defense, and told the jury to ignore all of the information they had heard. But when the verdict was returned as a split decision, and jurors left the court room in tears hugging the activists and thanking them for what they had done. The verdict was guilty of trespass and not guilty of a train related charge. Some jurors told the defense lawyers they would have acquitted on all charges were necessity instructions given.
The Climate Disobedience Center was in the courtroom for the trial, helping the Delta 5 with organizing, legal strategy, personal and spiritual encouragement, and media outreach. The five defendants are appealing their case, hoping to set a new precedent in Washington that would allow more climate dissidents to squarely ask juries of their peers if their nonviolent direct actions are justified in the face of climate collapse.
Chiara and Matt
In the midst of the #ShellNo campaign in the pacific northwest against Royal Dutch Shell's arctic drilling expedition, two brave individuals took action that directly prevented one of the ships from being able to leave from it's Bellingham, WA berth.
Chiara D'Angelo and Matt Fuller suspended themselves from an anchor chain on the Arctic Challenger. Chiara hung in place for nearly three days before being removed by the Coast Guard. For much of that time, Matt says, “We sang to the crew and the Coast Guard through a porthole.” Chiara says they sang “Sublime, Beyonce and John Denver” and chanted, “People gonna rise like the water. We're gonna calm this crisis down. I hear the voice of my great granddaughter. She's saying shut this drilling fleet down.”
The Coast Guard charged Chiara with a civil penalty of $20,000 and Matt with $10,000, and appealed the Coast Guard's decision. In an extra-judicial hearing, Chiara and Matt argued the necessity of their actions. In the hearing Matt said, "I ask that the Coast Guard stand on the right side of history." When asked if he would recant, or give assurances "Would I do it again?... First, I would try ever legal means available, but if that was the last resort, I would have to choose to violate another safety zone (for Arctic drilling)," concluding, "climate change is the single greatest threat to national security, and I know the Coast Guard knows this."
Following their appeal, both Matt and Chiara were greatly reduced. The Climate Disobedience Center helped Chiara and Matt secure pro-bono representation from the Civil Liberties Defense Center and raised funds to defray their remaining fines.
Break Free Northeast
In May of 2016, tens of thousands gathered across the globe at flash points of climate crimes to put themselves directly in the way of the harm that is being done. The Climate Disobedience Center helped pull together the mass civil disobedience action in Albany, New York which blockaded crude oil carrying "bomb train" tracks leading to the Port of Albany and shut down traffic on the street bisecting the adjacent Ezra Prentice low-income housing development.
Working with a coalition of groups and individuals centered in Albany's south end, we helped bring well over a thousand people together to hi-light the climate injustice and environmental racism and propel the fight already going on over the oil and tar sands terminals into the spotlight.
Lobster Boat Trial
They planned to call climate scientist Dr. James Hanson, writer Bill McKibben and other prominent climate scientists to the stand to mount a climate necessity case, which would have been the first in the US presented to a jury. The judge agreed that their defense could go forward as planned. However in a stunning turn of events on the first day of the trial, the prosecutor, District Attorney Sam Sutter, dropped the criminal charges and made a bold statement in support of the activists and bold climate action. He pledged to join them at the Peoples' Climate March in New York City two weeks later.