Not Guilty by necessity in West Roxbury

Earlier today (March 27) 13 defendants went into the west Roxbury District courthouse to answer charges related to their arrests protesting the West Roxbury (Mass) Lateral Pipeline.

We expected to have charges against them reduced to civil infractions — the equivalent of a parking ticket. While finding no grounds to deny that motion from the prosecution, the judge chose to let each defendant testify on the necessity of their actions. The defendants collectively presented a powerful and comprehensive argument for why they had a necessity to engage in civil disobedience to stop the imminent local and global harms of this fracked gas pipeline. Following their testimony, the judge acquitted ALL the defendants by reason of necessity.

While defendants were still denied a jury trial and the possibility of a full necessity defense, this was the first time (that we know of to date) that defendants were acquitted based on climate necessity. Since then the defendants have had a celebratory lunch together, and met to talk about next steps and future struggles.

We’ll have audio from the courtroom as soon as it’s available (in a few days), but in the meantime Climate Disobedience Center would love your help sharing this news:

  1. Join us tomorrow at 7pm for a live online discussion! Invite your friends and family to join us and learn more.
  2. Share this Facebook live video of all the defendants and their legal team on the steps of the courthouse just after the verdict.
  3. Or share this Twitter video about the same.

You can also read more about this campaign, the defendants and the necessity defense at the Climate Disobedience site here – they’re awesome.

photo by @Peter_Bowden

Sign now: Climate on trial in West Roxbury

In the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, Spectra Energy was building a fracked-gas pipeline off of their existing AIM pipeline. Beginning in October of 2015, Resist The Pipeline began a campaign of climate disobedience, getting in the way of active pipeline construction.

The campaign grew, and eventually 198 people (Serendipity much?) were arrested over the course of a year. Starting March 27, 12 of those defendants, including our friend and Climate Disobedience Center co-founder Tim DeChristopher and Director of the Center for Earth Ethics of at Union Theological Seminary Karenna Gore (daughter of Al) are going to trial.

The activists are committed to mounting a climate necessity defense, arguing that they had no reasonable alternative to putting themselves in the path of the pipeline’s construction. If the jury is allowed to decide whether the defendants’ actions were necessary in order to prevent a greater harm, we’ll have a legal precedent that communities across the country can use in their own resistance to pipelines and other infrastructure.

But mounting a necessity defense isn’t easy, and these activists need our help. I’ll be traveling to Boston later this month to support them at trial, and YOU can help support by signing on at this page. If you do, Climate Disobedience will send you updates and information about the trial.

Activists like Tim and Karenna stood up in front of construction equipment and laid themselves down in the path of destruction. Now, they will stand up for us all in court.

They will tell the jury why their actions were not only justified, but also necessary: the community and their elected leaders fought this pipeline through the regulatory process for years – striking out in appeals with agencies we know well like FERC. But when the system is broken, it takes a sustained campaign of resistance like this to stop destruction. These activists hoped not only to protect their community in West Roxbury, but to spark our collective moral imagination and empower communities to build resistance against pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure everywhere.

This will be the first climate necessity case in the United States in two years, and climate champions and experts, including Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen, are planning to testify to make the case that we are in an emergency, and emergency measures – even if they break existing law – are justified in order to prevent a greater harm.

We expect the trial to last up to four days, and we hope you will join us in the courtroom for one or more of those days. Click here to sign on in support of the West Roxbury Climate trial

PS. – To support the trial with expert witnesses, social media and more, Climate Disobedience needs to raise $7,500. We’re almost there, but could use a few more donations before March 27 when the trial starts. You can chip in and support them here (and tell them 198 methods sent ya!)

PPS. – The West Roxbury 12 are Tim DeChristopher, Callista Womick, Dave Publow, Karenna Gore, Nora Collins, Diane Martin, Nathan Phillips, Brown Pulliam, Mike Bucci, Warren Senders, Patricia Martin, and Cathy Hoffman. If you’re able to attend the trial in West Roxbury for a day RSVP here, and share about the trial on Facebook.