As the Pacific Northwest reels from record-breaking heat and braces itself for another fire season, four climate activists cases were dismissed on Wednesday in Clark County Circuit Court in Vancouver, Washington. The defendants, Kelsey Baker, Mike Hastie, Samantha Krop, and Bruce Watt, faced criminal charges after participating in an action that attempted to halt the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) project, one of the worst climate-polluting pipeline projects on the planet. The activists’ cases, like those of many other criminal defendants across the United States, were significantly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The dismissal came less than two weeks before their trial, but shortly after CLDC lawyers filed motions challenging the constitutionality of the charges.
“The solidarity and commitment these defendants have shown throughout this process is a reflection of the strength of the climate movement as a whole,” said Sarah Alvarez, CLDC Staff Attorney. “They know they are on the right side of history. In agreeing to dismiss the case against our clients, the City of Vancouver finally recognized that it never had a real shot in convicting our clients of the trumped up charges. And while it’s a shame that it took the City nearly two years of wasted resources and time to realize this, it’s still a great day for our clients and the movement to end extractive industries that are hastening the demise of the planet.”
There is significant public opposition to the TMX project — so much so that more than 10 companies have pulled out of financing or insuring the project. Indigenous youth in Vancouver, BC worked with the group Braided Warriors to demonstrate the effectiveness of direct action by blocking entrances of insurance companies to demand they stop insuring the pipeline. The dwindling pool of insurers has ramped up the pressure on the Canadian government, speaking to the increasing evidence that constructing new fossil fuel infrastructure in the age of climate catastrophe is obviously not in public interest.
“It is clear that decisionmakers are not acting fast enough to halt new fossil fuel projects — it’s up to us,” said Baker, one of the activists whose charges were dismissed. “Recent fires and unprecedented heat events that scoured communities across the Pacific Northwest are harbingers of what’s to come if we don’t take material action to halt the climate crisis.”
“The dismissal also occurs against the backdrop of increased State repression and collusion between fossil fuel corporations and police — where corporations pay millions of dollars in bonus money to police to do their dirty work. Over 700 people face criminal charges in the Indigenous-led fight against the Line 3 Pipeline in northern Minnesota, some of whom are facing trumped-up felony theft charges for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. In Iowa, climate activist Jessica Reznicek was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for her involvement in trying to halt the toxic Dakota Access Pipeline. Nevertheless, activists across the country are calling for more action to halt the urgent climate crisis.
“We stand in solidarity with all of the frontline activists putting their freedom at risk for the sake of the planet,” said Krop. We are unafraid in the face of State repression and violence in response to our work. More actions like the November 2019 blockade are necessary to prevent the worst effects of climate change.”
Civil Liberties Defense Center
Sarah Alvarez, Staff Attorney
(541) 687-9180 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Portland Rising Tide