[Ppnews] Tim DeChristopher Sentenced ­ What’s Next for the Environmental Movement?

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 28 10:19:14 EDT 2011

Tim DeChristopher Sentenced ­ What’s Next for the Environmental Movement?

by Will Potter on July 27, 2011

in Activism & Activists' 
Court Cases

Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher was sentenced 
to two years in prison for using non-violent 
civil disobedience to disrupt a sham oil and gas 
auction. He had been found guilty on two felony 
counts for making fake bids in the auction, 
costing corporations hundreds of thousands of 
dollars, and faced up to ten years.

He increased the bids on 22,000 acres of land in 
Utah national parks. A federal judge later ruled the auction was illegal.

DeChristopher’s case has attracted international 
attention, and he has become a spokesperson for 
the environmental movement. This case is much 
bigger than DeChristopher, though (as he has 
often said himself). We all need to be thinking: 
what’s next? How do we move forward?

Even if you do not consider yourself an 
environmentalist, or don’t agree with 
DeChristopher’s tactics, this case should raise 
serious questions about the misplaced priorities 
of our government and our entire culture. 
DeChristopher’s two-year sentence is comparable 
to what members of underground groups have 
received for property destruction. The court has 
sent the message that public, aboveground 
activists, who use non-violent civil 
disobedience, will be treated on par with 
underground activists who use economic sabotage.

More importantly, though, the government has sent 
the message that the people who step forward to 
stop ecological destruction will be met with 
harsh punishments, while those who responsible 
for this destruction, such as the oil and gas 
corporations bidding for public lands, will go about business as usual.

the judge said during sentencing: “Civil 
disobedience can’t be the order of the day,” or it will lead to “chaos.”

But chaos for who? For the people? For the planet? Or for corporations?

This case, and the larger 
on the environmental movement, makes strikingly 
clear that the government is more concerned about 
the latter. As 
attorney Ron Yengich said: “We never impose the 
rule of law on people who steal from poor people, 
destroy the banking systems or destroy the earth.”

Moving forward, we need to remember one thing 
above all else: this is happening because DeChristopher was effective.

DeChristopher’s actions exposed what goes on 
inside sham corporate auctions, it cost 
corporations hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it galvanized the movement.

At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson 
said that DeChristopher’s leadership in the 
environmental movement, his “continuing trail of 
statements” for civil disobedience, and his 
speech outside the courthouse were the reasons he faced prison time.

The judge went so far as to take the unusual step 
of having DeChristopher taken into custody of the 
U.S. Marshalls until his prison sentence begins. 
In many other cases I have covered, including 
those of convicted arsonists, the prisoners were 
allowed to self-surrender. People are generally 
only taken directly into custody if they are a 
violent threat or a flight risk. Why was this different?

Because DeChristopher is inspirational, and he 
<http://www.peacefuluprising.org/>would clearly 
use his time before prison to organize.

“You have authority over my life, but not my 
principles. Those are mine,” 
said to the judge. “I’ll continue to confront the 
system that threatens our future.”

Others have vowed to do the same. Thousands will 
be in Washington, D.C. in August to protest the 
Keystone XL pipeline to the Tar Sands. They are 
<http://www.tarsandsaction.org/>planning mass non-violent civil disobedience.

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