Activists accused of blocking a rail line were acquitted last week of obstruction. Jurors apparently felt their actions were justifiable because they were trying to save the climate. How far will this be allowed to go?
Though the activists, known as the Delta 5, were absolved of obstructing a train, they were found guilty of lesser misdemeanor trespassing charges. They considered it a victory. One member of the group, Abby Brockway, told jurors that “this was probably the best verdict that could have been returned to us.”
The Guilty 5 blocked an oil train for eight hours in September in an Everett, Wash., rail yard. Their aim was to call attention to the environmental and health threats that they believe are posed by oil- and coal-carrying trains. These folks, all reasonable people, we’re sure, built a tripod across the tracks. Brockway put herself on the top, about 20 feet off the ground, while the other four chained themselves to the tripod’s legs.
Across the country in Cortlandt, N.Y., another gang, this one called the Montrose 9, is scheduled to go to trial on charges of blocking the entrance to Spectra Energy’s construction site. The say their actions were justified because expanded fracking pipelines are a threat to health and the climate.
Just as the Delta 5 group did, the Montrose 9 plans to use the “necessity defense.” This is a part of common law in which a defendant claims he or she had no choice but to break the law due to an emergency situation, because failing to do so would lead to a more harmful outcome. Global warming alarmists are taking this legal concept further with the “climate necessity defense,” which the Climate Disobedience Center — yes, there is such a thing — says is “an argument made by a criminal defendant to justify action taken on behalf of the planet.”
Advocates of this defense say their cause is on the same the level as the actions of the pre-Civil War Americans who protected fugitive slaves, the Boston Tea Party patriots and members of the civil rights movement who practiced public disobedience. What they are, though, is the embodiment of a strain of Americans and Westerners desperate to demonstrate their moral relevance and superiority.
Of course the practitioners will say theirs is a nonviolent method. But that’s little comfort when eco-terrorists have a record of committing serious — and sometimes deadly — crimes. If the Delta 5s and Montrose 9s are allowed to get away with lawlessness, then “climate necessity” misdemeanors will merely be gateway crimes to far more serious felonies.