Join the Valve Turners and author Wen Stephenson as they discuss climate direct action in this time of both monumental hope and profound doom. We'll also be following up with the valve turners about recent legal proceedings.
Wen Stephenson, an independent writer and activist, is a frequent contributor to The Nation and the author of What We're Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Climate Justice (Beacon Press, 2015). A former editor at The Atlantic and the Boston Globe, he has written about politics and culture for many publications, including Slate, The New York Times, Grist, and the Boston Phoenix.
Climate activist Ken Ward, the "valve turner" who was arrested and prosecuted for closing the emergency valve on an oil sands pipeline, and who argued in front the jury with considerable success that the urgency of climate change compelled him to act, was sentenced today in Skagit County Superior Court in Washington State. His sentence of two days in jail has already been fulfilled.
After four and a half hours of deliberation, the Skagit County jury returned to the courtroom yesterday with a split verdict: valve turner Ken Ward is guilty of burglary in the 2nd degree, but the jury hung on the question of sabotage. Ken will be sentenced June 23nd. This is not, however, the end of the story.
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After the verdict Ken was unbowed: "I relish the opportunity to return to Mount Vernon and retry the case with a full necessity defense when we win on appeal." It was clear, from talking with jurors following the verdict, that members of the jury were looking for a legal way to find Ken not guilty. There is, of course, an appropriate defense that could allow that: a necessity defense. Ken and his legal team are preparing to appeal Judge Rickert's denial of the necessity defense.
We need your help to make that happen.
This trial, and the valve turners cases together, are a bold attempt to build a robust movement of climate dissidents who put their bodies and everyday lives on the line demanding the change we need to adequately address the climate emergency. These trials, rather than being obscure legal arguments, are an opportunity to open the floodgates of a nonviolent wave of climate disobedience.
Ken remarked from the stand Tuesday how he had seen climate politics change: "What [was] clearly a matter of geophysical reality was becoming a matter of partisan debate." The valve turners action, and their arguments in court, are an attempt to put morality back at the center of this debate.
Across the country, with the US withdrawl from Paris, it is clear that a new strategy is needed on climate: one the lifts up the humanity of the crisis upon us, call citizens to their highest ideals, draws upon the tradition of dissent in this country, and empowers people to reclaim their agency in this time of fossil fuel and corporate dominance of our government and institutions. In short: a strategy that goes beyond politics.
With Leonard Higgins' trial on July 18th and Michael Foster and Sam Jessup's on October 2nd, Let's move that vision forward together. Please donate what you can today.
Thank you so much for your support over the past eight months.
Supporters convened at Skagit County Courthouse at 9am Wednesday morning to wait. A little after eleven the attorneys were alerted that the jurors were deadlocked on the count of Criminal Sabotage but had a decsion on the other charge. From there, things moved quickly. Ken and supporters convened in the courtroom and the jurors were brought out.
“Is there a reasonable chance that you could reach a verdict on sabotage within a reasonable amount of time?”
“I don’t think so.”
So the judge declared mistrial on the charge of Criminal Sabotage and then prompted the court reporter to read the verdict for the charge of Burglary, second degree: “Guilty.” While we hoped that this jury would recognize the extraordinary power that they had to declare mistrial, this conviction was welcomed as a good outcome. Ken expressed relief that this part is, at last, over and now he can move on to appeal.
Today ended much like day two of the last trial, with total surprise and hope. The jury did not come to a verdict today and will continue deliberation in the morning. The courtroom was fabulously packed today. Packed. And while we welcome those that feel called to join us tomorrow in waiting, there is no need to fill the courtroom tomorrow, Wednesday June 6th.
The day began with a single witness from the prosecution, the fellow living in the residence adjacent to the Valve-turning site and then the prosecution rested. Ken Ward then took the stand and testified for an hour and a half about his state of mind, effectively a back-door necessity defense where Ken and his attorneys presented the key climate science that impacted his accelerating urgency to directly act as well as his professional history and contributions that culminated in the realization that direct action is the most effective way to bring climate catastrophe to the public consciousness.Read more
This morning in Skagit County, Washington, a jury was selected to re-try Ken Ward for shutting down Kinder-Morgan's TransMountain pipeline in October 2016: the first of four trials for the valve turners who closed off 15% of the US daily oil supply.
Today the courtroom was lively with big hearted supporters. The jury selection wrapped up by noon and opening statements began fresh after lunch. The prosecutor’s brief opening was followed by a lyrical opening by Lauren Regan, who managed to describe the extraction and transport of tar sands, map the horror of imminent climate catastrophe, lay a framework for the necessity defense, and illuminate intersections with corporate greed, all before an objection.Read more
Yesterday Judge Rickert, presiding over the prosecution of Ken Ward in Skagit County, Washington for shutting down the Trans Mountain Pipeline, denied Ken's appeal to use the necessity defense at his retrial May 22nd. We released the following Press Release this morning. Take a look for more information about the state of legal proceedings in Washington, Minnesota and Montana.