Home > Uncategorized > Hope is Now A Federal Crime – Bidder 70 Gets 2 Years in Prison

Hope is Now A Federal Crime – Bidder 70 Gets 2 Years in Prison

” … our moral order has been turned upside down”

[Update #4 – LA Times: Activist who faked Utah energy lease bids sentenced to 2 years

Update #3 – big thanks to Sandy Bauers, who writes the “Green Space” blog at the Philadelphia Inquirer: Activist DeChristopher Gets 2 Years

The case hasn’t received much attention around here, but New Jersey environmentalist Bill Wolfe has been following the action and blogged about it, saying, “My heart weeps“ I am speechless and sickened with rage at this injustice,” adding, “Tim is a hero. He was acting in the spirit of a long and noble tradition of American dissidents and heroes.” Wolfe titled his post, “Hope is now a federal crime.”

Update #2- Tim DeChristopher’s extraordinary statement to the Court (h/t Scott Olson). Please read the whole thing – some highlights:

In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people. …

This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law. …

Mr. Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development. A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.  …

I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me. …

At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

I’m with you, Tim. – end update #2]

Update #1: 7/27/11 – An important message from Rising Tide – “We Won’t Be Intimidated“:

Next month in St. Louis, Rising Tide plans to bring this climate fight to Peabody Energy and Arch Coal’s front door.

Along with allies from throughout the Mid-West, we’ve organized the Midwest Rising Convergence on Aug. 12-15. Our movement is not only strong, it is growing..

We invite you to join us. Register here. – end update]

Defense attorney Ron Yengich said during trial that DeChristopher sought to give people hope in the face of environmental degradation, though the judge did not allow him to argue that his actions were necessary to save the planet. Before jury deliberations that some described as emotional, Yengich told jurors they would have to decide “whether a spur-of-the-moment desire for hope is a federal crime.” DeChristopher sentenced to prison, protesters jam commute

Tim DeChristopher just got sentenced to 2 years in federal prison for disrupting an illegal federal coal lease [correction: gas and oil auction by BLM].

In case you never heard of Tim, please watch and listen to Tim’s story.

My heart weeps – I am speechless and sickened with rage at this injustice.

For details of the case and followup activism, please see the “Peaceful Uprising” site.

Tim is a hero. He was acting in the spirit of a long and noble tradition of American dissidents and heroes, like:

Mario Savio -“Speech in Sproul Plaza” (Berkeley, December 2, 1964)  (watch it)

“And that, that brings me to the second mode of civil disobedience. There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

Henry David Thoreau (“Civil Disobedience” (1849))

All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. …

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her — the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person.

Martin Luther King, Jr. ( “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963)

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Frederick Douglas (“No Struggle, No Progress” (1857)

The whole history of progress of human liberty

shows that all concessions

Yet made to her august claims

Have been born of earnest struggle

If there is no struggle

There is no progress.

As Chris Hedges recently wrote about Tim in “This Hero Didn’t Stand A Chance”:

His prosecution is evidence that our moral order has been turned upside down. The bankers and swindlers who trashed the global economy and wiped out some $40 trillion in wealth amass obscene amounts of money, much of it provided by taxpayers. They do not go to jail. Regulatory agencies, compliant to the demands of corporations, refuse to impede the destruction unleashed by the coal, oil and natural gas companies as they turn the planet into a hothouse of pollutants, poisoned water, fouled air and contaminated soil in the frenzied quest for greater and greater profits. Those who manage and make fortunes from pre-emptive wars, embrace torture, carry out extrajudicial assassinations, deny habeas corpus and run up the largest deficits in human history are feted as patriots. But when a courageous citizen such as DeChristopher peacefully derails the corporate and governmental destruction of the ecosystem, he is sent to jail.

The rules are written by those who profit from the status quo, DeChristopher said when I reached him by phone this weekend in Minneapolis. “If we want to change that status quo we have to step outside of those rules. We have to put pressure on those within the political system to choose one side or another.”

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