Yesterday, the prosecutor informed our legal team that the charges against the 13 remaining West Roxbury Resisters will be reduced to civil infractions — basically the equivalent of a parking ticket.
These defendants have been denied a jury trial, although the judge had signaled an inclination to allow a necessity defense — an argument that actions blocking construction on the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline were justified in order to avoid the greater harms of climate change and threats to public safety posed by this pipeline. In fact, the charges were probably reduced in order to avoid the trial for which the defendants, their legal team, nine expert witnesses, and many supporters had prepared.
The attempt to take these cases to trial was a long shot. We knew that the District Attorney was unlikely to let us have our day in court. Remember, nearly 200 other people were also arrested during the Resist the Pipeline campaign in West Roxbury, and none of them stood trial. But we took a gamble based on the idea that by offering a necessity defense, we could turn the tables on a system that rubber stamps pipelines and drilling applications while it criminalizes protest and dissent. Not so, this round.
While we are disappointed, we are not disheartened. As climate activists in 2018, we know that long shots and moral imagination are some of the most promising tools for culture-shifting transformation.
If you’re in the Boston area or were planning to join us for the trial, we invite you to meet us at the West Roxbury District courthouse on Tuesday morning. The defendants will be there, as required, and they may have a chance to make brief statements before the court. For those who RSVP, we will send information about travel to the courthouse and other logistics.
We also invite you to join us Wednesday Night for the Jamaica Plain Forum. You can meet up with our team in Boston, or tune in online from wherever you are. We'll celebrate this campaign of climate disobedience, hear some of what the defendants had hoped to present in court, and share our thoughts on action and legal strategies in this moment.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts may be unwilling to hear the evidence about climate change and community risk, but we will not be silent. I hope you’ll join us.
We may not get the #ClimateTrial we wanted — or the one our communities and planet need — in Boston next week. But the fight will continue in this community and in many more.