Spokane Train Blockaders’ Necessity Defense, Expert Testimony & Presentation, & Sandpoint Talk

Pre-Trial Motion Hearing: Necessity Defense & Expert Testimony

In late August and September 2016, Raging Grannies Margie Heller, Nancy Nelson, and Deena Romoff and Veterans for Peace Maeve Aeolus, Rusty Nelson (husband of Nancy), and George Taylor protested oil and coal trains moving through Spokane and the contribution of those pipelines-on-wheels to global climate change [1-6]. Police handcuffed and booked into jail these Spokane Climate Protectors assisted by Direct Action Spokane, and cited them with the misdemeanor charges of second degree trespassing and obstructing or delaying a train on Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail lines.

At their pre-trial motion hearing on Monday, June 26, at 1:30 pm in Room 5 of the Public Safety Building, at 1100 West Mallon Avenue in Spokane, Washington, their attorney Eric Christianson will argue, before Spokane County District Court Judge Debra Hayes, that the six activists have exhausted all other legally viable options, and that their direct actions were thus necessary to halt climate change [7, 8]. Judge Hayes will decide whether she will allow their “necessity defense.”  Recent, Northwest climate activist, court cases of the Delta 5 oil train blockaders in Everett, Washington, and the first of five multi-state, tar sands pipeline valve turner trials in Skagit County, Washington, have rejected this motion.  After a previous postponement and if Judge Hayes assents, three nationally recognized experts on climate change plan to testify in court about the dangers and impacts of transporting volatile oil by rail through Spokane.

On January 31, 2017, activists of Direct Action Spokane, along with physician Gunnar Holmquist and the six arrested Spokane Climate Protectors, filed a lawsuit against the federal government for violating Spokane citizens’ fundamental, constitutional rights to a stable, livable climate and local self-government, by allowing oil and coal trains to pass through the city [9]. They claim that the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 unconstitutionally prevents local governments from urgently enacting regulations to stop climate change, such as ballot measures banning crude fossil fuel transportation through Spokane.  In a similar, Oregon, federal case, 21 youths from across the country assert that government actions cause climate change, defying the “obligation to hold certain natural resources in trust for the people and for future generations,” and thus violate younger generations’ rights to “life, liberty and property.” [8]

Public Presentation: Witnesses for the Climate

Canceled since May 19, when the Spokane County court postponed, without explanation, the motion hearing to consider the necessity defense of the Spokane Climate Protectors, the Witnesses for the Climate public presentation has rescheduled to 7 pm on Monday evening, June 26 [10-12]. At the Community Building, 35 West Main Street in Spokane, three experts will speak about the necessity to defend rights to a healthy climate, through non-violent, direct actions stopping coal and oil train traffic.  They may testify at the hearing earlier in the day, on behalf of the necessity defense of the fossil fuel train-blockading Spokane Climate Protectors. Continue reading