[Ppnews] Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher Found Guilty of Sabotaging Oil and Gas Auction
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Mar 4 12:47:01 EST 2011
Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher Found Guilty
of Sabotaging Oil and Gas Auction; Faces up to 10 Years in Jail
<http://www.democracynow.org/>March 04, 2011
A federal jury in Salt Lake City has convicted
environmental activist Tim DeChristopher of two
felony counts for disrupting the auction of more
than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and
gas drilling. DeChristopher was charged in
December 2008 with infiltrating a public auction
and disrupting the Bush administrations
last-minute move to auction off oil and gas
exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal
land. A student at the time, DeChristopher posed
as a bidder and bought 22,000 acres of land with
no intent to pay in an attempt to save the
property from drilling. He faces up to ten years
in prison. DeChristopher joins us today to talk about the verdict.
JUAN GONZALEZ: A federal jury in Salt Lake City
has convicted environmental activist Tim
DeChristopher of two felony counts for disrupting
the auction of over 100,000 acres of federal land
for oil and gas drilling. DeChristopher was
charged in December 2008 with infiltrating a
public auction and disrupting the Bush
administrations last-minute move to auction off
oil and gas exploration rights on vast swaths of
federal land. A student at the time,
DeChristopher posed as a bidder and bought 22,000
acres of land with no intention to pay in an
attempt to save the property from drilling. He faces up to ten years in prison.
AMY GOODMAN: The jury deliberated for nearly five
hours yesterday before reaching its decision.
After the verdict, DeChristopher emerged from the
courthouse and addressed his supporters.
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Everything that went on inside
that building tried to convince me that I was
alone and I was weak. They tried to convince me
that I was like a little finger out there on my
own that can easily be broken. And all of you out
here were the reminder for all of us that I
wasnt just a finger all alone in there, but that
I was connected to a hand with many fingers that
could unite as one fist and that that fist could
not be broken by the power that they have in there.
That fist is not a symbol of violence. That fist
is a symbol that we will not be misled into
thinking we are alone. We will not be lied to and
told we are weak. We will not be divided, and we
will not back down. That fist is a symbol that we
are connected and that we are powerful. Its a
symbol that we hold true to our vision of a
healthy and just world, and we are building the
self-empowering movement to make it happen. All
those authorities in there wanted me to think
like a thinker. But our children are calling to us to think like a fist.
And we know that now Ill have to go to prison.
We know that now thats the reality. But thats
just a job that I have to do. Thats the role
that I face. And many before me have gone to jail
for justice. And if were going to achieve our
vision, many after me will have to join me, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Tim DeChristopher speaking outside
the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City
yesterday. He now joins us live from Salt Lake City.
Tim, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain first
exactly what you did and when you did it. Talk
about leaving your classroom after you took a
graduate test in December. What year was it?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: It was December 19th, 2008.
And as you said, I finished up my final exam that
morning and went to the BLM oil and gas auction
that was being held in downtown Salt Lake, with
the intent to draw enough attention to what was
going on there that the government could actually
stop and rethink their actions, which at that
point the Obama administration had already
indicated that they knew it was illegitimate and
that if they had any opportunity, they would like
to stop what was happening, but it was unclear
that they would actually have that power if the auction was completed.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And how did you actually
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: So I went there and was just
looking for any opportunity to do that. And when
I walked in, I was asked if I wanted to be a
bidder. And so, I said yes. And once I got inside
then, I saw the opportunity to really stand in
the way of what was going on and just couldnt
pass up that opportunity, so I started bidding
and eventually started winning parcels and
winning every parcel until they stopped the auction and took me out.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, how did theyso, all they did
was ask you if you wanted to be a bidder? You
didnt have to prequalify or deposit a check or
in some way show some bonding just to be able to bid on the land?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: No, I just had to show a
drivers license and fill out a short form with
my name and address and that sort of thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you expect you would be able to do this?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: No. No, I didnt expect that
at all. You know, I expected to go in there and
make a speech or something like that. And other
folks that were in the protest outside told me
that I would just get dragged out by security at
the door. And I said, "Well, then lets get
dragged out by security at the door." And no one
would go in with me, so I went in, and rather
than drag me out, they asked me if I wanted to be a bidder.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, then talk about what you proceeded to do, Tim.
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, seeing the opportunity
inside to really stand in the way of what was
going on, I couldnt turn my back on that
opportunity, and so first started bidding to
drive up the prices, and did that for quite
awhile. Most of the parcels were going for $10 or
$12 an acre, and so I was driving those prices
up, and then, finally, decided that I had to
actually win those parcels and started doing that
and won about 14 parcels before they stopped the
auction and then took me into custody.
JUAN GONZALEZ: So, in other words, at some point
they recognized that you were not a genuine bidder? How did that happen?
AMY GOODMAN: How did they recognize that you were not an oil or gas company?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, there was actually a lot
of testimony from the BLM law enforcement agents
that were there at the auction. During the trial,
he testified quite a bit to the fact that they
knew from the moment that I walked in that I
wasnt a normal oil and gas bidder. They didnt
recognize me from these auctions that were held
on a regular basis. And they noticed that I was
younger, that I was dressed different, that I
didnt act like the others. And so, they
indicated that they were suspicious the whole
time, and they just needed to wait until it was
absolutely clear, that there was no doubt in
their mind, that I was not an oil and gas company representative.
AMY GOODMAN: So, once you did this and you bought
this land, picking up paddle number 70, did you plan to pay for it?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, I didnt know what the
options were at the time. That was still somewhat
unclear. I talked to some folks right afterwards
that afternoon who offered to help with
fundraising. And it wasnt until the next day
that former director of the BLM, Patrick Shea,
who directed the agency under the Clinton
administration, contacted me and offered to
represent me. And then he informed me that there
were a lot of different ways that these things
could play out and a lot of different options and
that raising the money was still a legitimate
possibility. And so, we raised the money very
quickly, actually, surprisingly quickly, and
offered the initial payment to the BLM for the
parcels that I had won. But they rejected that
payment and said that I wasnt bidding under
normal circumstances, so they couldnt accept
that payment anyway. But thats all stuff that
the jury was not allowed to know. We werent
allowed to tell the jury that I offered the
payment to the BLM. All we were allowed to talk
about in the trial was what happened on December 19th and nothing else.
AMY GOODMAN: And this ultimately invalidated the
auctionis that right?your participation. So
explain what happened, from the Bush
administration into the Obama administration.
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, it wasnt actually my
participation that invalidated the auction. It
was my participation that drew a lot of attention
to what was going on in the auction. But there
were other complaints against the auction and
lawsuits against the auction, which once the new
administration came in, they invalidated almost
the entire thing and admitted that they werent
following their own rules in the first place. And
it wasnt because of my participation, but
because of the way that they had operated and
locked the public out of the decision-making
process for public land, that the auction was
invalidated. But again, thats something that the
jury was not allowed to know. The verdict in this
case was a pretty much foregone conclusion,
because we werent allowed to tell the jury any of that stuff.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And on what basis did the judge
exclude this other important information, like,
for instance, the fact that you were raising the
money to actually pay for what you had bid for?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: The judge said that it was
irrelevant and that it would confuse the jury, so
they shouldnt be allowed to know it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what was the picture that the jury
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: That was a frequent refrain that we heard during this trial.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Tim DeChristopher, what was the
picture that the jury got? What did they
understand with what was limited, what they werent able to know?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I was able to explain to them
some of my views. I was able to talk about what
my intent was there at the auction. I was limited
to pretty brief comments about that, but I was
able to explain to them why I was there, what I
was thinking. But I wasnt able to introduce any
evidence that supported what I was thinking. I
wasnt able to introduce anything that happened
before December 19th, about the corruption within
the Department of the Interior in the Bush
administration, or anything that happened after
December 19th, either me raising the money or the
auction being canceled. So, I was only able to
throw my views out there as unsubstantiated claims of what I was thinking.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the reason you did what you did, Tim?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Well, I saw this auction as,
first off, a fraud against the American people,
that the government wasnt following their own
rules and was locking the public out of the
decision-making process for public property. I
also saw it as a real threat to my future,
because of the impact on climate change that this
kind of "drill now, think later" mentality was
having, and an attack on our public lands, on our
natural heritage, in pretty pristine and irreplaceable areas in southern Utah.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And is it your intention to appeal the verdict in any way?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: And so, it my intent was to stand in the way of that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Is it your intention to appeal the verdict in any way?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I have no idea. We havent
really talked about that with my legal team.
Thats something that will happen after sentencing.
AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to read a part of a
letter that was signed by Naomi Klein, Bill
McKibben and Terry Tempest Williams, and it says,
"When Tim disrupted the auction, he did so in the
fine tradition of non-violent civil disobedience
that changed so many unjust laws in [this]
countrys past. Tims [upcoming] trial is an
occasion to raise the alarm once more about the
peril our planet faces. The situation is still
fluid"and it goes on, because this was written
before the trial date. But it was under the Bush
administration that you did this. Under the Obama
administration, then-Interior Secretary, the
former senator from Colorado, Ken Salazar, said
these landswhat statement did he make? He said these lands would not be sold?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Initially they just stopped
the auction and said that they were going to take
a second look at everything that was going on.
And once they did, they divided the parcels into
three categories: those that should never be sold
or never be drilled for oil; those that are
appropriate for drilling at a future date, that
couldthat are eligible for being re-auctioned
because theyre surrounded by existing oilfields;
and those that need more study, just because
nobody had ever really looked at where they were
or what kind of qualities those lands really had.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And how big is the amount of land
that they initially agreed to put up for sale?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: I believe the initial
agreement was somewhere around 300,000 acres, but
a lot of that was taken off because of the
initial wave of protests from the National Park Service and others.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, under the Obama
administration, it was then that you were
charged, is that right, Tim DeChristopher?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: Right. It was almost two
months after the auction had been invalidated
that the Obama Justice Department pressed those charges against me.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, in that same letter by
Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben and Terry Tempest
Williams, they say, "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." Tim DeChristopher, do you have any regrets?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: No, I have no regrets at all,
I mean, especially seeing the show of support
outside of the courthouse this week. There were
people were out there all day long, all week, and
they were singing. You know, they were showing
their joy and resolve in the face of
intimidation. And I think thats the really
important thing that came out of this, is that
people showed that regardless of what happens to
me, theyre not going to be intimidated into
being obedient to an unjust status quo.
AMY GOODMAN: Tim DeChristopher, we thank you very
much for being with us. When is the sentencing?
TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: The sentencing is June 23rd.
AMY GOODMAN: Thanks for joining us. Tim
DeChristopher, activist, founder of the
environmental group Peaceful Uprising, he was
convicted yesterday on two felony counts for
disrupting an auction of public land in December
2008. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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