Jim Hansen rallies for monkey-wrench activist Tim DeChristopher at his arraignment today in Utah

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NASA climate scientist James Hansen is in Utah today to speak at a rally in support of University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher as he faces arraignment at 11:45 am MDT (1:45 pm EDT) in Salt Lake City.  DeChristopher was charged with two felony counts, each carrying up to five years in prison and a possible $750,000 fine, after he intervened in an oil lease auction held by the Bureau of Land Management in December 2008 by bidding on parcels he knew he could not afford (see our April 15 post).  The sales were later canceled by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who questioned BLM’s handling of the sale in the last days of the Bush administration.  Hansen will argue that this creative act of nonviolent civil disobedience was a legitimate act of moral protest, justified by the urgent need to rapidly curtail CO2 emissions primarily from coal and oil combustion.  The outcome of the arraignment will be posted later today on DeChristopher’s website.

    Update:  DeChristopher plead “not guilty” to two felonies at his April 28 arraignment; the trial date is set for July 6, 2009.

post by Anne Polansky

Billed as a “NASA legend” on DeChristopher’s website, http://www.bidder70.org, Hansen will speak at a rally scheduled for 11 am this morning
(1 pm EDT) at the Salt Lake City Library Plaza and then march with DeChristopher’s supporters to the Frank E. Moss Courthouse for the arraignment where the charges will be read and DeChristopher will be expected to plead guilty or not guilty; today’s actions will determine whether or not the case goes to trial. 


Update:  DeChristopher plead “not guilty” to two felonies at his April 28 arraignment; the trial date is set for July 6, 2009.

TV COVERAGE:

Rally Held in Support of Alleged Oil and Gas Auction Saboteur • April 28, 2009 12:30 PM MDT •  Fox13Now – KSTU TV   (includes 2 minute video clip)

Environmental activist pleads not guilty to charges against him  • April 28th, 2009 @ 12:31pm • KSL.com – TV

… about 200 people rallied in downtown Salt Lake City (see 3-minute video clip of KSL news coverage) …  DeChristopher’s reaction:  “I made the decision there at the auction that I was willing to deal with the consequences of my actions, and that means this. It means going to court. It means possible prison time. I made that decision then, and I still believe in it now; that it was worth it, and it’s still something that I’m ready to deal with.”

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PRESS COVERAGE:

NASA scientist warns of climate change  •
Deseret News •  April 29, 2009 12:56 AM MDT
“The Earth belongs to future generations,” said Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, “and we have the obligation of returning it to them in equal or better condition.”—quote from Hansen’s April 27 lecture at the Univ. of Utah

DeChristopher joined by supporters in walk to arraignment  •  Desert News •  April 28, 2009 11:38 a.m. MDT

Supporters rally around monkey wrencher  •  Salt Lake Tribune •  04/28/2009 11:25:16 AM MDT

  Scientist: Dramatic climate action needed—now  •  Salt Lake Tribune •  04/28/2009 06:37:29 AM MDT
…Jim Hansen called DeChristopher “courageous” in a speech Monday evening the 27th, and outlined a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that includes government leadership, public protest and legal action.

 

DeChristopher’s lead attorney, Pat Shea (who headed the BLM under President Clinton), is looking forward to a trial:  he and those sympathetic with DeChristopher’s cause are looking to shine a bright spotlight on the BLM and its questionable oil and gas lease sale practices.  A trial would also, obviously, call public attention to the need to move away from a fossil fuel-based economy to more benign energy sources such as solar, wind, and other renewable energy technologies. 

The prosecution, led by US Attorney Brett Tolman, has repeatedly tossed around the notion of a possible 10-year jail sentence, seemingly in an effort to get DeChristopher to enter into a plea bargain, but DeChristopher is having none of that.  The student-defendant has stated publicly, more than once, that his convictions are so deep on this issue that he is willing to go to prison.  Before going to Utah, Tolman served as counsel for the US Senate Judiciary Committee under chairs Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and later Arlen Specter (R-PA); according to his wikipedia page, Tolman’s “most noteworthy work in the Senate is his role in the passage of the 2005 Patriot Act reauthorization.”  In addition, Wikipedia notes that “he was instrumental in the revisions to the appointment process of interim U.S. Attorneys and is a major (if not well-known publicly) figure in the dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy.”  Tolman was appointed by President Bush and is expected to be replaced within the next few months with an Obama-appointed attorney.

Hansen has leveraged his trip to Utah by scheduling several interviews and appearances:

Monday, 6 p.m.:      Hansen talks with Radioactive, KRCLs public affairs program.

Monday, 7:30 p.m.:    Hansen will speak at Univ. of Utah’s Social and Behavioral Science auditorium

Tuesday, 11 a.m.:    Rally begins with speakers and music at the SLC Library Plaza.

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.:  March (route) to Frank E. Moss Courthouse for DeChristopher’s arraignment.

Tuesday, about noon: Hansen will speak at rally for DeChristopher at the SLC Library Plaza.

Tuesday, 6 p.m.:      Hansen will speak at Utah Valley University in the library auditorium (map).

In a 1999 book, The Art of Moral Protest, sociology professor James Jasper asks [drawn from the book review on Amazon.com]:

“Why do our thoughts about the world lead us so often to want to change it?  What moral visions inspire outrage about often-distant practices and institutions?”  Drawing on research and personal observation, he discusses the dynamics underlying a number of different social movements.  Concluding that protest is a “necessity,” James argues that the “gift of protesters is that they create controversy, [which]… leads to the weighting and testing of perspectives and values.”

We say, let the weighting and testing begin.

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A 10-minute YouTube clip documenting the events around DeChristopher’s action and providing editorial commentary, indy-media style, can be viewed here:

 

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