“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of their leaders. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and environmental destruction and are obedient while the jails fill with petty thieves, while the real thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.” - Howard Zinn
Archive for the ‘Direct Action’ Category
If you don’t know Tim DeChristopher, or Bidder #70, this Friday is your chance to learn more about him and why he is facing many years in federal prison. His trial has been delayed eight times now, perhaps in an attempt to keep the public eye off contentious issues: the hawking of pristine public lands to gas and oil developers and the connection between burning dirty fuels and climate disruption.
What did Tim DeChristopher do?
In December of 2008, in the waning days of the out-going Bush Administration, DeChristopher registered as a bidder at a fire-sale auction of gas and oil leases at the Bureau of Land Management offices in Utah. Hundreds of thousands of acres of public land–many of them adjacent to national parks–were being auctioned off parcel by parcel to the highest bidder for oil and gas drilling.
As Bidder #70, DeChristopher won several leases worth a total of $1.8 million dollars. The problem was he didn’t have the intent nor the ability to pay the money, which threw the whole auction into disarray. However, it did accomplish his real intent–to stop what he considered the far higher crime of despoiling public land and furthering climate change with oil and gas development. It also exposed the corrupt leasing process, which was later nullified by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar under the Obama Administration.
Tired of the delays, DeChristopher and his supporters are going ahead with a trial of their own this Friday across from the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City. They are calling it the Climate Trial that should be taking place and will be performing interactive street theater that is sure to humorous with serious themes. According to the website, “This trial is not just about Tim; it’s about holding the real criminals accountable. Join us—you’ll be the jury—deciding where the responsibility lies for passing on a healthy world to our children.”
Once his court date finally arrives (now set for Feb. 28, 2011), DeChristopher potentially faces many years in prison and hundred of thousands in fines for the two felonies with which he is being charged.
Thousands across the country have rallied in support of DeChristopher and are preparing to come to Salt Lake City or hold solidarity actions elsewhere during his trial. Some big names have also expressed their support, including Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Robert Redford, Naomi Klein, and Terry Tempest Williams, who all signed a public letter of support and urging mobilization during the trial.
Here is one statement from the letter, concerning DeChristopher’s felony charges:
“The government calls that “violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act” and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future.”
Here is DeChristopher speaking at the Salt Lake City Global Day of Action on 10/10/10 last month:
1. Why take action from October 12th?
In 2009, Indigenous peoples throughout the world called for a global mobilisation ‘in defence of mother earth’ on October 12, reclaiming the day that used to be imposed as ‘Columbus Day’. Responding to this call, and the demand for a day of action for ‘system change, not climate change’ issued by the global movements gathered in Copenhagen last year, Climate Justice Action is proposing a week of direct action for climate justice from October 12 – 16, 2010.
We invite all those who fight for social and ecological justice to organise direct actions targeting climate criminals and false solutions, or creating real alternatives. Continue reading »
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Appalachia Rising, a national response against mountaintop removal coal mining.
Thousands of Appalachians from impacted communities along with allies and supporters of clean energy across the nation will gather together in D.C. for a movement summit demanding the abolition of the practice and promoting a diverse and sustainable Appalachian economy.
The mobilization begins with a 2-day Voices from the Mountains conference of strategizing, workshops, and education and culminates on Monday with a Day of Action when attendees will participate in various means of non-violent actions.
According to organizer and West Virginia resident Bo Webb, “Voices from the Mountains will be the largest gathering against mountaintop removal to-date. The time has come to finally bring all these communities to the table around this issue because it is directly-impacted citizens that are going to end this destructive practice and Appalachians who are leading the way towards creating a more diverse regional economy and sustainable future for our region.”
Webb, like thousands of other Appalachians, has witnessed the destruction of the mountains, pollution of waterways, and the manipulation and violations of powerful corporations like Massey Energy.
For more recent coverage:
Image Credit: NRDC_media
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On August 30, a couple hundred people snaked through downtown San Francisco to confront Big Oil and demand accountability for the damage they have done to impacted communities worldwide. It marked the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It was also the largest non-violent direct action since the BP oil disaster.
After a die-in on a mock oil spill in front of Chevron’s offices with Rev. Davis from the Richmond community (site of Chevron’s refinery) reminding us that “liars, crooks, and killers also come in three-piece suits,” we visited the EPA to demand the comprehensive enforcement of the Clean Air Act, which gives the agency authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The crowd then marched to BP’s offices at Mission St. and New Montgomery, where citizens presented an open letter to the CEOs of all the major oil companies. Activists from a coalition organized by Mobilization for Climate Justice West blockaded the doors while others claimed the intersection with a giant parachute. Engaged citizens rallied on each of the four corners to lend their support.
I was among 15 people ultimately arrested and taken to a holding cell for little over an hour, cited, and released. I explained why I was willing to engage in a non-violent direct action in a previous post on Ecolocalizer. For many it was the first time being arrested in a non-violent direct action. As Lauren Thorpe, an activist with Greenpeace, explained,
“Monday’s action is particularly significant for me because I have come to the point in my life where I am willing to risk arrest for my beliefs. I believe the time has come for action beyond words to really show my commitment to stopping the status quo of our unsustainable, unhealthy and unfair fossil fuel-based economy. I won’t be alone on Monday either — I’ll be standing side by side with fellow activists, some whom have been risking arrest for decades and some of who are new to it just like me. As I start to mentally prepare for Monday, I remember the rich history of non-violent direct action and civil disobedience that has significantly changed both politics and public opinion on some of the most pressing issues of our times.”
In addition to learning some great new chants and making new friends, Monday’s action was a strong signal that the climate justice and clean energy movement is alive and well. After a year of Senate non-action on a climate and energy bill, record temperatures, and environmental disasters ranging from Michigan, West Virginia, and the Gulf in the United States to Pakistan and Russia, it is clear that the environmental movement is transforming itself and awareness and action is growing stronger by the day.
We can gain additional wind in our sails this week from the strongly intoned voices of a handful of kick-ass environmental leaders. Bill McKibben of 350, Philip Radford of Greenpeace, and Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network sounded the clarion call for stepping up our actions, saying, “Time is not on our side, so we’ve concluded that going forward mass direct action must play a bigger role in this movement, as it eventually did in the suffrage movement, the civil-rights movement, and the fight against corporate globalization.”
And environmental activist Tim DeChristopher issued his own stirring call for mass mobilizations. Known as Peaceful Bidder #70, DeChristopher is famous for disrupting an auction in 2008 by bidding for oil and gas leases on parcels of federal land despite having no money to pay for them.
“The more I advocate for stronger and bolder action from climate activists, the more I see the need for real human connections. No amount of social media can match the empowerment of being in the streets with thousands of other people who share our passion. That’s why mass mobilizations that engage in bold action are so important for our movement…The strategy of appeasement and compromise has thoroughly failed, and the discouragement of the climate movement is undeniable. For years we have been told to kneel and beg, and it has left us empty-handed. Now it’s time to stand up and fight for our right to a healthy and just world. Obedience to injustice is the ruin of the soul, and our movement desperately needs some rejuvenating disobedience.”
After several postponements, DeChristopher’s trial (dubbed the “Climate trial”) has been set for December 13. A mass convergence is planned in Salt Lake City to support DeChristopher and to elevate awareness and action on climate and energy policies.
Indeed, more mobilizations are on the horizon. In a couple weeks, Appalachia Rising is organizing an national response against mountain top removal coal mining. October 10 (10/10/10) is an International Day of Action, organized by 350.org and thousands of communities around the world to demonstrate local solutions to climate change. And the Climate Summit in Cancun (COP16) kicks-off on November 29, with mass mobilizations planned. Indigenous delegates will also bring the message of the People’s Declaration from the Bolivia’s climate summit.
Back to the intersection of Mission and New Montgomery: one of the most moving moments for me was sitting in the intersection, being present with so many other concerned and engaged citizens. From one side I heard the police give their final warning to disperse and from the other side I heard the powerful testimony of people from impacted communities and poems about mother earth.
One side had a bullhorn, money, and the force of law; the other side had the truth and the moral voice of people defending a livable future through empowering nonviolent action.
One spoke more clearly and with more authority than the other. And it will only continue to get louder.
More photos of the day’s events can be found Rainforest Action Network’s Flickr page.
(Published on Ecolocalizer)
It will not be business-as-usual at the the offices of BP, Chevron, and the Environmental Protection Agency Monday morning in San Francico’s financial district. A rally, march, and acts of non-violent direct actions are planned by a coalition of a local organizations.
I’m participating and one of many willing to be arrested.
Sometimes I wonder what acts of non-violent direct action for a clean energy future or civil disobedience to protest a permanent war economy must look like from a different angle. For example, what does it look like to all those aunts and grandmothers in the Midwest? What does it look like through the eyes of the millions of regular families just trying to make a living, raise healthy children, and get the kids to school after a summer of BBQs and pool-splashing?
I’d venture to guess that to many Americans it looks quite bizarre, something quite out of the normal range of acceptable political action. For some it might look not just strange, but dangerous, even immoral. But I also venture that millions of Americans also realize that our current way of doing things is unsustainable, unfair, and unhealthy–but it’s not always clear what can be done about it. They might not know about the situation in Ecuador or Nigeria or Richmond, CA as the result of the policy of Big Oil. And probably not 1 in 100,000 are aware of the True Cost of Chevron as documented in the Alternative Shareholder report from the perspective of impacted communities. They might not be much moved by the abstract prospect of forced re-locations because of rising sea-levels or the impacts on growing food because of climate change the world over.
But everybody knows about the BP oil spill–they see a devastated fishing economy, the pumes of oil, the impacted beaches, the sick animals, and the sly PR campaign. They realize that Big Oil has inordinate power. And they also sense that when you pump oil into the environment and its by-products into the air and water and food, there are serious implications for our health, our environment, and communities. Continue reading »