Historic Climate Trials Begin Today in Skagit County
Activists who “shook the North American energy industry”, not cowed In new political era
Supporters and fellow valve-turners will provide updates via facebook live at Noon and 5:00 from https://www.facebook.com/climatedirectaction/, other updates will be provided via facebook live as they become available.
Jury selection began this morning for the trial of Ken Ward, who is standing trial for shutting off a tar sands pipeline from Canada to Washington on October 11th, 2016. Ward’s action, coordinated with others around the country, has been called “the biggest coordinated move on U.S. energy infrastructure ever undertaken by environmental protesters.” This trial comes at a critical moment for the effort to avert the effects of catastrophic climate change; with little progress in eliminating fossil fuel use in line with climate science, and a new fossil fuel industry regime in the White House.
“Knowing we are hurtling towards climate cataclysm and our government stands ready to add more fuel to the fire, now is not the time to back down. Citizens taking direct action represents a necessary tactic for people of conscience to do something effective.” Ward said, surrounded by supporters entering Skagit Superior Court in Mount Vernon.
Ward broadcast his act of cutting two chains to enter a TransMountain block valve site and close the valve live. He and the other valve-turners welcome their day in court and are willing to face jail time if that’s what it takes to avert climate cataclysm. On Tuesday, Ward was denied from using a so-called “necessity defense” by presiding judge Rickart. He still intends to take the stand and talk about his motivations for taking action. The trial is expected to extend into Wednesday or Thursday.
“As soon as I met Ken, I knew he was the kind of principled climate fighter that I wanted to know. His love for this world, and for his family and friends, shines through in all that he does,” said Emily Johnson. Emily, along with fellow Seattle resident Annette Klapstein, closed down two tar sands pipelines in Minnesota on October 11.
This is the first of several pending trials for the valve turners and their supporters, in Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. The trials could have far-reaching implications for the widening pipeline resistance movement and the intensifying crackdown against it. Ken Ward will stand up with dignity to accept the consequences of his actions, but remains unbowed even as states across the country move to criminalize peaceful resistance.
Before entering the courthouse, fellow valve-turner Michael Foster of Seattle, who closed a valve on TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline in North Dakota said, “Resource wars in Syria and too many African nations, more refugees flooding across borders than any time in history, people fighting for water, much less food - and we’re just getting warmed up. Right now the famines, the fires, the floods are already affecting millions. It is happening now to the poor as native land disappears in Louisiana and people of color in our own country disproportionately die from pollution everyday. And this century it will overwhelm what we call civilization in the lifetime of our children unless we take immediate physical action.”
Before turning off the Trans-Mountain pipeline, Ward participated in actions stopping fossil fuels in May 2016 in Anacortes, WA and in 2013 at a coal power plant in Massachusetts. Thirty-nine people, including Ward, will go to trial in Skagit county for blocking crude oil “bomb” trains in Anacortes. The first of these trials starts later this week, as Ward’s current trial is wrapping up.
“I did these things because I believe that it is the obligation of every thinking person to find a way to stave off climate cataclysm, and there is no effective, legal alternative to personal direct action.” Ward said. Ward and the others took action in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, who are experiencing the trampling of native treaty rights, demonstrating, yet again, the failure of legal alternatives for protection of the planet and critical resources.
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