In another shocking turn of events, the Judge acquitted Emily, Annette, and Ben of all charges. The acquittal came before renowned scientists and experts could take the stand and testify about the facts of climate change and the efficacy of civil disobedience to the people of Clearwater County--and the court of public opinion.
We are glad that the court acknowledged that our friends did not damage Enbridge’s Line 4 and Line 67 pipelines. They even went so far as to reunite the defendants with their bolt-cutters. However, while we are heartened by the court’s recognition that our friends acted safely and did no damage to the pipelines, we are disappointed that the court prevented the presentation of the science of climate change - and the urgent need to act.
The expert testimony that the jury will never hear included, Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an expert who authored the American Pipeline Institute pipeline safety guidelines, who told us: “I was to testify concerning two essential elements of the case. The first was whether Emily and Annette damaged the pipelines. They did not, as the judge ruled, damage the pipelines. The flipside of that is the question: Do pipelines and the petrochemical products they deliver damage, increase risk or harm anybody? The answer to those questions is an emphatic yes.”
The defense was also set to include former NASA Chief Scientist, Dr. James Hansen, who told us that it wasn’t “Emily, Annette and Ben that are the criminals, but, the government, especially the Trump Administration, who is guilty of not protecting the constitutional rights of young people. The US 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.”
Though we were prevented from arguing the necessity defense, the case establishes two important legal precedents. "First, the climate necessity defense was upheld by the highest court in the State, which ruled 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 Center.
“Further, like others of its kind in 31 states, the defendants were charged with felony criminal damage to critical energy infrastructure and pipelines. pushed through the state legislature at the behest of the fossil fuel industry sought to increase the penalties against activists who dared to challenge the profiteering motives of some of the biggest corporations in the world, at the expense of frontline communities in Minnesotans and around the world,” Regan said.
“This allows MN climate defenders to harness the power of jury trials that allow the time to explain the complexities of why people risk their liberty because of the devastating threats posed by climate change."
We are fast losing our window of opportunity to save ourselves and much of the beauty of this world. Annette and Emily turned those valves to #ShutItDown. We are bringing the bolt-cutters home with us because we know that the need to disrupt the oil-soaked business-as-usual has absolutely never been greater.
In love and solidarity,
Nicky Bradford and Alec Connon