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Monkey-breaking vandals reinvent climate activism

It is quite easy to paralyze the American oil infrastructure. All Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein needed was a set of three-meter, green-and-red bolt cutters. And the willingness to go to jail for years.

On 11 October 2016, when they advanced to an oil pipeline facility on the farm fields outside of Leonard, Minnesota, the two were determined to take direct action against climate change. They had thought the US government had not done anything about it. "That's the only way we get their attention," said Klapstein in the video before she got out of the car. "All other ways are exhausted."

Under "her" she meant policymakers and oil companies (and so you and me). Johnston, now 52, ​​is a poet and co-founder of the Seattle Chapter of Environmental Protection Group 350.org. She had spent years doing what law-abiding climate change activists did: petitioning, lawmaking, receiving spokespersons, writing letters, blocking refineries, and trying to prevent Shell from relocating its rigs to the Arctic. 66-year-old Klapstein is a retired lawyer from Bainbridge Island, Washington, whose job it was to protect the fishing rights of the Puyallup tribe. With their group, the Raging Granny, they blocked oil trains while chained to a rocking chair. They are both white and middle-aged. Law-abiding people. Except when they are crazy.

It was a cold morning, Aspens shook their dull gold under heavy skies. One activist, Ben Joldersma, watched Facebook live as the two women severed the chains around fenced enclosures with large shut-off valves for two oil pipelines owned by Canadian multinational Enbridge. The pipes transport crude oil from deposits of tar sands (also known as oil sands) in Alberta and transport it to the Upper Lake. Since producing more petroleum products ̵

1; called bitumen – releases more greenhouse gases than most other oil wells, activists would do anything to keep them in the ground.

About the Author

Dean Kuipers writes about the environment, politics and the arts and is the author of a forthcoming memoir, The Deer Camp.

Enbridge knew they were there: About 15 minutes before they cut themselves in, an activist named Jay O & Hara from the Climate Disobedience Center in Seattle had phoned the Enbridge staff and warned them that the Protesters would close the line 67 and line 4 valves, each of which boils with 33,000 gallons of crude per hour.

What only a handful of people knew was that Johnston and Klapstein were part of a nationwide action called #ShutItDown, which would also stall the pipelines at three other locations in North Dakota, Montana and Washington that day on State, from the East to the west. They referred to themselves as the Valve Turners, and Reuters described their efforts as "the largest coordinated measure of US energy infrastructure ever undertaken by environmental protesters." That day were five main activists – Michael Foster, 54, Ken Ward, 61, and Leonard Der Higgins, 66, in addition to Johnston and Klapstein, cut 70 percent of tar sands oil from Canada to the United States.

After the chains were cut, Joldersma, 40, called Enbridge again and gave her name and position. He then added, "In the interest of climate justice and to secure a future for human civilization, we must immediately halt the extraction and incineration of Canadian tar sands. For safety, I'll call you to let you know that when I hang up the phone, I close the valves.

When Johnston and Klapstein entered the enclosures, they could see and hear that Enbridge had already closed one of the two valves from a distance: a high piston or screwing device fell as a gate into the underground pipe. On the other valve, they separated the lock on a large steel wheel that enabled manual shutdown, and cranked it for "I do not know, seven or eight minutes," Johnston later said, until it was closed as well. [19659002] It took nearly an hour for the Clearwater County Sheriff Halverson Sheriff to appear to some MPs. According to Johnston, he said, "They do not look too dangerous for me," and arrested everyone, including the present videographer Steve Liptay, whose charges were later dropped. Nobody was even tied up.

The arrest was part of the plan. Throughout the country, the Valve Turners and their support teams had closed the valves, hoping to present a "need defense" before a jury, pointing out that their crime was an act of civil disobedience that would serve more harm – in this case death by climate catastrophe. If the plan works, they will create a legal precedent that will give the war-fighters a powerful new tool.

The necessity may be the mother of invention, but she is also the child of despair. The valve turner knew that the pipelines would be turned on again in a few hours. They had to go to the courts, convince a jury and prove to policymakers that people wanted real change. It was about to transform necessary actions into a necessary policy .

How would that happen? Johnston likes to quote a book by Mark and Paul Engler titled This Is a Uprising in which they describe how years of slow and patient work suddenly converge and unleash the "moment of hurricane". She hoped to start. It turns.

Clearwater County, Minnesota, however, is not a place you would choose if you were to carry out a climate change process. According to Yale's Climate Opinion Maps, only 62 percent of the people in Clearwater County believe that global warming is occurring (the national average is 70 percent), and most people do not tie it directly to oil. A lot of people are working there in the pipelines, or they hope they are busy building the new Enbridge 3 line, which will also carry oil from tar sands. The yards throughout the county have blue signs saying "Minnesotans for Line 3".

Here are the pipelines and the activists had decided to take a stand. "I had lost a lot of sleep in the run-up because I feared that there would be no damage," said Johnston. "So when we saw them shut down the first pipeline, there was definitely a little sense of triumph or joy. It was very important to have even a brief sense of this type of effect and effectiveness. "Klapstein said she felt" very calm, "" this was what I had to do at this time, before that scale emergency. That I did everything in my power to give my children a future. That's the most important thing I can do as an elderly person. "

Joldersma was less calm. A tall, slender CTO of a Seattle-based technology company called Maven, who previously worked at Microsoft and Google, was a relatively new freshman in direct action. He also had three small children. "I was very afraid to fight against the power complex for fossil fuels," he says.

Johnston was charged with assaulting "critical public facilities," plus other charges that might jail them for decades, and Klapstein and Joldersma were eventually charged with helpfulness. Enbridge made a statement to WIRED in which he described the company as "reckless and dangerous". It said: "The people involved in these activities claimed to protect the environment, but they did the opposite and endangered the environment and the safety of the people – including themselves, first responders and neighboring communities and landlords."

And yet shocked Clearwater County district attorney Robert Tiffany almost all in October 2017 when he issued a brief memorandum granting the Minnesota Valve Turners a necessary defense, which had been used by defenders of anti-nuclear weapons and anti-abortion, but It was the first time that such a defense was presented in a climate case to a jury. "The need for defense is something I've been working for for nearly 20 years and other lawyers," says Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, Oregon, senior lawyer in the process of Minnesota Valve Turner w ar. "People compared this study with the Scopes Monkey study. In the Scopes study, evolution was under scrutiny and people were trying to prove whether evolution was real or not, and in this case, especially in our current political moment, it is essentially the climate science that is on trial ,

In addition, Regan and her co-counselels, Kelsey Skaggs of the Climate Defense Project and Minneapolis lawyer Tim Phillips, spent months creating a dream team of experts. These included James Hansen, former director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, whose statement was first alerted to climate change before the 1988 congress, stating that 350 parts per million of the safe amount of CO 2 could have been in the atmosphere (level as I write this: 405). Also invited was Bill McKibben, whose 1989 book The End of Nature was a climate wake-up call and co-founded 350.org; Anthony Ingraffea, an oil transportation expert, who wrote pipeline safety protocols currently used by the American Petroleum Institute; and eight others talk about the health effects of global warming and the effectiveness of civil disobedience.

Your job was to convince a jury that our government has done so little to reduce the use of fossil fuels – even under Barack Obama. Citizens have no choice but to intervene.

Tar sand oil has been in the howling center of the climate protests for years. The controversial pipeline project Keystone XL, for example, would also transport tar sand. "This is really the dirtiest oil in the world, in terms of carbon," says McKibben over the phone from Vermont. It is a mixture of bitumen and sand, much like peanut butter. "In many cases, you have to burn natural gas to heat the ground so that the material can actually flow, even before you burn it in a car and produce more carbon. If you set out to build a machine to ruin the climate, it would look like the tar sands of Alberta. "

Crude oil that is separated for the collection of sand. Tailings ponds are used to separate the heavy oil bitumen from the sticky sand that is mined in the environment. Near Fort McMurray, Alberta.

/ Getty Images

Such a testimony could change opinion, especially when terrible storm events such as Florence and Michael are the new normal. However, the necessary defense is almost never granted because the burden of proof is so difficult to fulfill. As defined in the jury's proposed instructions, the defense would have to prove:

  • First, the damage that would have resulted from complying with the law would have clearly exceeded the damage actually caused by a violation of the law. Second, no legal alternative to breaking the law.
  • Third, the accused threatened imminent bodily harm.
  • Fourth, there was a direct causal relationship between breaking the law and preventing the damage.

Because the activists were linked to state crimes, each of the four states where the 2016 Valve Turner actions took place acted differently. Regan led the defense in all four areas, planning to put in place the necessary defense in all. When the trials took place in 2017 and 2018, only Minnesota allowed the use of self-defense. In North Dakota, Montana and Washington, the judges rejected him and determined what motivation an activist may have and how much a jury may know.

The Washington judge said Ken Ward, a transplant on the East Coast of the US Oregon and former Greenpeace USA Deputy Director and COO had not exhausted his legal capacity to slow down climate change. For example, he could support political candidates. Nonetheless, Ward presented a bit of climate-science to explain his "state of mind" during the action, and he was sufficiently convinced that he was given a hanging jury for burglary and sabotage. He was again convicted of the two charges and again received a hunger jury for sabotage, but was convicted of burglary. He was sentenced to two days' imprisonment and 30 days of civilian service, which he has already done, although he appeals that he may not provide self-defense.

Similarly, Seattle-based family therapist and environmental activist Michael Foster was convicted of crimes, conspiracies and crimes and sentenced to one year in prison and three years probation serving in North Dakota. Leonard Higgins, a retired US government IT manager from Eugene, Oregon, was convicted of crimes and felony and sentenced to $ 3.755 in restitution and three years in prison, which is postponed, which means he will be released from his List can be deleted Oregon is done.

The US government Obama has not filed any charges. However, on October 23, 2017, 84 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter disappointing "recent attempts to interfere with oil and gas transmission" and calling for prosecution prosecutor Jeff Sessions. It was the sabotage attempt of the Valve Turners cited. No action yet.

The Minnesota case, however, has given the necessary defense some legal backing. The Minnesota district attorney appealed against Judge Tiffany's defense verdict, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in April 2-1. The Minnesota Supreme Court denied further appeal, so that the use of defense of necessity in court now has precedent, at least in the state of Minnesota.

"I've been waiting ten years for a mitigation," says Tim DeChristopher, sitting with me in the old VFW Hall Bar in Bagley, Minnesota, the tiny castle that houses the Clearwater County courthouse. In 2008, DeChristopher fraudulently acquired oil and gas lease packages for the land management office in Red Rocks, Utah, for $ 1.7 million without paying. He believed that climate change was already so advanced that civilization was threatened, but his own emergency defense was rejected and he spent 21 months in prison. "I could not talk about climate change, I could not talk about my own motivations," he says.

Since then, however, more and more judges seem to be open to the defense. Ken Ward and Jay O'Hara were involved in a now famous action in May 2013 when they used a 32-foot lobster boat to block a freighter carrying a load of coal to the Brayton Point power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. On the day of her trial, prosecutor Sam Sutter announced that he had reversed the lawsuit. He said, "Climate change is one of the worst crises our planet has ever experienced." Sutter ran for the mayor of Fall River and won the benefit of closing the plant at Brayton Point.

In 2016, the jury allowed the trial of activists known as the Delta 5, who had blocked train tracks used in Everett, Washington, by oil traction. In 2016, the judge allowed them to present witnesses to the need for argument in court but then not to consider this defense. Despite being convicted of abuse, the judge told the bank that the activists were "part of the solution" to climate change.

Only this year, DeChristopher and a group of other activists actually gained a needed case was not through legal proceedings. In this case, 14 people, including DeChristopher and Karenna Gore, daughter of Al Gore and director of the Earth Theory Center of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, were charged with violating the construction of a high-pressure civil engineering pipeline under construction in the Boston suburb of West Roxbury. At the hearing in early 2018, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll found that they were "not responsible" on grounds of necessity.

Nevertheless, according to DeChristopher, the need for defense is not fully legitimized until a jury decides: That's real . "If a jury of twelve randomly chosen people unanimously said that climate change is so serious and the response of our government to it is so inadequate that it is required by regular people to take this kind of action – [19459012)groundbreaking"hesays

Regan notes that in all three previous Valve Turner trials, very rural, conservative, legal juries were transformed:" They said things like, "Do not come back here Do it, but Thank you for what you tried, and thank you for taking care of our children. "These people really had a long-term impact on the communities where the cases took place."

The day The trial began in Bagley on 8 October 2018. The Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a sobering report in which z The IPCC, long regarded as the voice of the global scientific consensus, said rigorous CO2 emission reductions would have to be achieved by 2030 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the low end of a scale in which a massive global habitat loss occurs plants and animals – and then we – begin. The report clarified that the climate catastrophe is not far off. Now it happens.

When Regan questioned the assembled jury pool in Bagley, it also became clear that the US is still a long way from a climate policy. "I do not think there is global warming," said a middle-aged woman. As Regan urged her to see changes in the gale force on the news, she added, "Changes? Yes, it is getting colder. "

" I think it's a joke, "said another.

Another woman barked at Regan," Is this really relevant to this process or are you just wasting our time ?! "

A majority of the people in Clearwater County may find climate change real, as the Yale Climate Opinion Maps have noted, but many of them were reluctant to say so out of the 55 people in the jury pool and some of which had a hilarious percentage of Swedish surnames, some admitted that global warming was happening, but they quickly added that they did not think oil pipelines were the problem, and one man was summoned without any other potential jury Explained in very moving words that he taught at a local school and risked harming his professional reputation when he voiced his opinion, almost everyone knew someone in the room, including husbands and wives, and many had family members whose jobs were taken by the One man summed it up by saying he believed the climate would "But I'm not willing to attribute anything to fossil fuels."

David Hanson, the former district attorney in Clearwater and now the district attorney in neighboring Beltrami, warned in comments to Minnesota Public Radio that a favorable decision in this case would endanger public safety. "They have the right to have the right to change the assembly and they will postpone it beyond the right to install," he said. "They will commit more crimes."

After careful questioning by Regan, however, some jurors were identified who were very concerned about climate change. A gentle, white-haired farmer named John Gunvalson, who runs six pipelines through his property in Gonvick, said he was trained in soil science and knew that climate change was a scientific fact. "It's ironic that people get the best possible medical care when they get sick, but due to global warming they are not getting the best science available," he said in court.

Gunvalson was expelled from the jury by District Attorney Al Rogalla. Gunvalson then said to me, "It's as if the world has stopped here for 40 years. Nobody seems to focus on new knowledge.

You see how valuable it is when a Clearwater County jury declares that it is necessary to stop climate change. But it never got the chance. As soon as I write this sentence, the judge himself acquitted the Valve Turners on all counts. His courtroom would not be the beginning of the hurricane.

Judge Tiffany had surprised everyone shortly before the trial started by severely restricting the expert opinion on defense and reducing the list of defense witnesses from eleven to four. It was planned that Hansen, McKibben, Ingraffea and the twin cities neurologist, Bruce Snyder, would appear, and it would be a damn show. In the course of normal court hearings designed to simplify the process, the list of charges was reduced to two – Damage to Critical Infrastructure (Johnston) and Aid and Assistance (Klapstein and Joldersma) – and as Rogalla his evidence to the court's jury, the only one physical damage he cited was the cut chain. At first glance, this was not the legal "damage" to the pipeline, Judge Tiffany decided. He prepared the remarks and read them out aloud and hit him with the hammer. The defendants were free to go.

The state lost and still had the better result. There was no backstory with the defense, as Regan and her defendants liked to explain their case. For prosecutor or prosecutor Rogalla, the risk of continuing the process seemed small, with so many jurors openly saying they were pipeline supporters and chances were slim that they would have acquitted on grounds of necessity. However, Regan and her co-counsel had put in a considerable amount of scientific firepower, which could have shown that Clearwater County was negatively affected by global warming, and the juries in the other Valve Turner trials were very keen on this kind of process Impressed locally targeted information

Rogalla seemed to be in a good mood just because he had lost his case. He hugged Klapstein as she came to him and shook his hand. Asked if there was any kind of deal between him and the judge, he said: "The state provided all available evidence to prove the case. The judge ruled that cutting a chain was not enough. This district attorney respects the decision of Judge Tiffany. "

Not all bought. "It seems they do not want to talk about climate change," Leonard Higgins told me.

Bagley's decision, however, left the door open for the trial of the need jury they wanted. Maybe in another county. She notes that the ruling by the Minnesota Appeals Court means that the need for defense can now be applied to other jury cases, at least in that state. She also points out that the acquittal of Judge Tiffany has further limited the meaning of "damage" under the Statute. Years of trained activists, what to do if they are arrested, and despite their warnings that self-defense is difficult to use she receives a call "about once or twice a month" from climate activists who are considering this.

Meanwhile, activists across the country are intervening in the oil and coal infrastructure, blocking the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota and temporarily closing the construction of a section of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana for the coal ports in Portland, Oregon and others Cities that lock themselves in front of the doors of the banks to separate them from fossil fuel projects. Although about 30 states have introduced bills to tighten their anti-protest laws, activists are swarming. If one of them makes a case in a city like New York or San Francisco, where science has more influence and the jury is more liberal, national policies could possibly be changed by a process. Perhaps this is why Sessions did not pursue the activists of climate change, although the congressional letter from the DOJ was asked if the persecution of environmental protesters should be called into question.

The Brayton power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, was closed as a result of protests.

Frank Grace / Getty Images

On the steps of the courthouse in Bagley, Johnston said, "I am very relieved that the state of Minnesota has admitted that we did no harm. I also admit that I am disappointed that we did not do the hoped-for trial. We absolutely wanted our jurors to hear from our experts that we have taken this action because the problem of climate change is so urgent that we must start closing the tar sands pipelines . "19659002] Later, in a hall of the VFW, which used the legal team for its preparation, James Hansen considered it important to press to court. His granddaughter Sophie Kivlehan is one of the 21 plaintiffs who participated in the milestone case of Juliana. USA were involved. He is suing the federal government for not protecting it from future climate change. After years of application, the case is now closed as the Trump government received a last-minute hearing from the state's 9th appeals court while it petitioned to dismiss the case. Hansen writes a book entitled Sophie's Planet . "I think we have to commit the crime. That means we have to bring the government to justice, "says Hansen. "We should not bring these older ladies to justice for shutting down a pipeline. We should bring the real criminals to justice. And that's the government that did not do its job. "

As a CTO of a technology company, Joldersma believes his industry could be a significant lobbying force. "What we need is what the hacking world calls" social engineering. " In other words, influence. "Amazon and Facebook as well as Microsoft and Google have so much power. If these companies decide to commit themselves to Congress and exert the same influence on Congress as the oil companies, they could have a huge impact on the good.

Johnston and Klapstein plan to act directly. "Nothing has improved since we closed the valves two years ago," says Klapstein. "The political system has been closed even further. What does the ordinary citizen leave? It does not stop trying to try legal remedies, but it means getting up and putting your body on the line.

The night the process closed, the Valve Turners and many of their supporters took part in a conversation nearby Bemidji by James Hansen and tribal attorney Tara Houska of Honor the Earth. Als ich mit Regan sprach, wurde sie von einem Anwalt angesprochen, der drei Aktivisten vertrat, die sich am Tor einer Wells-Fargo-Bankfiliale in Duluth einsperrten, um gegen die finanzielle Unterstützung von Enbridge durch diese Bank zu protestieren. (Während Wells Fargo eine finanzielle Beziehung zu Enbridge unterhält, gibt die Bank an, dass sie das Pipeline-Projekt von Enbridge nicht finanziert.) Die dort eingesetzte "Schiedsrichterin", die anstelle eines Richters dient, hörte die Argumente ihrer Kunden für die Notwendigkeit des Klimas an 19. Oktober. In einem anderen Fall, in Cortlandt, New York, haben drei Aktivisten Ende Oktober vor einem Richter argumentiert, dass sie aufgrund des Klimawesens den Bau einer neuen Spectra / Enbridge-Pipeline blockieren. Entscheidungen sind in beiden Fällen einige Monate aus. Bis dahin wird es sicherlich mehr Fälle geben. Der Fall der Notwendigkeit wird nur stärker.

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