[Pnews] Victory for Valve Turners in Minnesota!
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 10 10:40:11 EDT 2018
Victory for Valve Turners in Minnesota!
Erin Grady - October 9, 2018
We are pleased to announce a victory in our Minnesota Valve Turner case!
This trial was a rollercoaster with many twists and turns, but *all
three defendants were acquitted of their charges this morning in court.*
They were acquitted, not on the necessity defense, but because the
prosecution could not meet the burden of proof that they had committed a
crime. Read below to find out more information, and follow along on our
social media for updates as this story unfolds on a national scale!
District Court Judge Robert Tiffany acquitted defendants of all charges
today in the Clearwater County case of two “Valve Turners,” Annette
Klapstein and Emily Johnston, and support person Ben Joldersma. Judge
Tiffany ruled that the prosecution failed to demonstrate any evidence of
damage to two Enbridge pipelines. Klapstein and Johnston faced state
felony charges for their part in the “Shut It Down” climate direct
action two years ago, in which climate activists successfully disrupted
all five pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands crude oil into the United
The acquittal came a week after the climate activists were preparing to
present a “climate necessity defense,” with expert testimony in areas
including pipeline safety, climate science, climate policy and the
efficacy of civil disobedience. The expert witnesses would have
corroborated the defendants’ testimony that their actions were justified
by the need to avert imminent climate catastrophe. However, in a
stunning about-face last week, the court forbade all expert testimony
related to climate change and civil disobedience, while still allowing
safety testimony, and possibly testimony to direct, non-climate impacts
of tar sands extraction and pipelines.
“The Judge found what I was about to tell the jury: that these
defendants caused no damage to the two pipelines they closed. Indeed,
they acted out of concern for communities that are harmed by fossil fuel
pipelines, and the climate emergency,” *said Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an
expert who authored the American Pipeline Institute pipeline safety
“While I’m very glad that the court acknowledged that we did not damage
the pipelines, I’m heartbroken that the jury didn’t get to hear our
expert witnesses and their profoundly important warnings about the
climate crisis,” *said defendant Emily Johnston, 52, a Seattle resident
and poet.* “We are fast losing our window of opportunity to save
ourselves and much of the beauty of this world. We turned those valves
to disrupt the business-as-usual that we know is leading to catastrophe,
and to send a strong message that might focus attention to the problem.
We will continue to do that in every peaceful way we can; the stakes are
far too high for us not to,” Johnston added.
With the acquittal, the case establishes two important legal precedents.
“First, the climate necessity defense was upheld by the highest court in
the State, which affirmed that these climate activists had the right to
assert the climate necessity defense to a jury,” *said Lauren Regan,
Executive Director of the Eugene Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense
“Further, the defendants were acquitted of felony criminal damage to
critical energy infrastructure and pipelines. In an attack on our
democracy, this law, like others of its kind in 31 states, was pushed
through the state legislature at the behest of the fossil fuel industry,
which sought to increase the penalties against activists who dared to
challenge the profiteering motives of some of the biggest corporations,”
Dr. James Hansen was another of the expert witnesses scheduled to give
testimony. “It’s great that the defendants were found not guilty, but we
missed an opportunity to inform the public about the injustice of
climate change. Now we need to go on offense against the real criminals,
the government,” *said Former NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Hansen.* “The
government, especially the Trump Administration, is guilty of not
protecting the constitutional rights of young people. They should have a
plan to phase down fossil fuel emissions, but instead they aid and abet
the expansion of fossil fuel mining, which, if not stopped, will
guarantee devastating consequences for young people.”
“As older white people, we acknowledge that our white privilege may have
resulted in better treatment in the legal system than activists of color
often receive. That is why it is important for people of privilege to
take bolder risk on behalf of the planet” *said **defendant Annette
Klapstein*. “There are lives in the balance, thousands of people are
already dying from the effects of climate change and if we don’t put a
stop to it, it will be millions within a few short years. It is morally
unacceptable to me to stand idly by while even one life is sacrificed to
the greedy oil company executives and their already rich shareholders
and the banks who fund them can continue to make their even more obscene
profits at the expense of all life on earth,” Klapstein added.
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