UPDATE: Noted climate-activist-turned-environmental-folk-hero Tim DeChristopher will face two years in prison and a $10,000 fine for disrupting federal oil and gas auctions on Bureau of Land Management land. A federal judge handed down the sentence as supporters gathered around the court house to rally in support of his efforts to thwart drilling leases near Arches National Park that would contribute to climate change. He was immediately taken into custody.
[Umbra continues below.]
I am writing to you from Salt Lake City, Utah. Today at 3 p.m. (MDT) marks the long-awaited sentencing of climate activist Tim DeChristopher. Found guilty on two federal felonies, DeChristopher faces up to 10 years in prison for a creative action he took to interfere with a gas and oil auction through the Bureau of Land Management at the end of the Bush administration. Now 30, DeChristopher has waited since December 2008 with a Zen-like calm.
DeChristopher improvised when asked if he was there to bid at the auction. He said “Yes” and was handed bidder paddle number 70, whereupon he bid on parcels of land until he was stopped and the bidding was halted altogether.
According to the website of Peaceful Uprising, the organization Tim cofounded, “By raising his bidder paddle that day, Tim actually shed light on the illegality of a rushed auction, clearly a parting gift from the Bush administration to the fossil-fuel industry. Yet during his trial, Tim was was never allowed to tell the jury about the illegitimacy of the auction or about his attempts to raise the funds to pay for the land he had won. Furthermore, he was strictly forbidden from even mentioning climate change and the moral imperatives motivating his action!”
He’s feeling good about having stood up for what he feels is right, despite the consequences. “It’s made me start to view myself as a powerful activist, as somebody who can be a powerful agent of change. Not somebody who’s a victim of my society,” says DeChristopher of life after his creative act of nonviolent civil disobedience.
I had the opportunity to talk with Tim yesterday about today’s sentencing, the climate justice movement, civil disobedience around the country, and who is really protecting the public.
You can watch parts of our conversation here:
Organizers from Peaceful Uprising are prepared for an emotional day at the federal courthouse, but they are “using outrage as fuel for our courage, generosity, and resolve.” Today’s events begin at noon with engaged street theater performances. Every good folk hero deserves musical accompaniment. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) will be giving a press conference tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. in Salt Lake City. In a move that fits the occasion, Yarrow plans to perform “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?” Listen and memorize the words.
Another musician, Bryan Cahall, will be performing “Arise,” the song he wrote in support of DeChristopher and the organization Peaceful Uprising. No matter where you are today during the sentencing, you can get into the spirit of the day by listening to Grist’s exclusive, just released video of “Arise.”
The sentencing will take place today at 3 p.m. MDT. I’ll keep you posted from here.