from the people organizing the petition:
Jan 31, 2015 — Due to a shortage of judges in Manhattan next week, the trial has been postponed. It’s now tentatively scheduled for March 2nd, which means we have a month longer to collect signatures on this petition! Additionally, one of the defendants had to drop out and take a plea bargain, so the Flood 12 are now the Flood 11. Please take this time to share the petition as widely as you can!
Remember that crazy nutty People’s Climate March last September? Sunday September 21, hundreds of thousands gathered in NY to be visible for the UN’s Climate Conference–to remind the visiting dignitaries from 140 countries that saving the earth’s climate has lots of supporters. Lots of pictures, lots of warm fuzzy about how we really, really, need to change our ways if we want a livable climate.
But the next day, September 22, was the day of the Flood Wall Street protest. Thousands of activists converged on the NY financial district, where the deals are made to trade irreplaceable resources like forests and drinking water for a few month’s worth of oil and natural gas. For Wall Street, destroying the rain forests is just another financial deal that nets a bunch of zeroes on a balance sheet. Hence the demonstration–if sea levels go up as anticipated, there won’t be a Wall Street for much longer. There’s an argument to be made that the culprit is not just the carbon in the atmosphere–the blame lies with capitalism and the way it counts on unlimited and infinite growth on a very finite planet. In the meantime, the last time the world’s C02 levels were above 400 ppm, sea levels were between 5 and 30 METERs higher than they are now. The Wall Street neighborhood (indeed, much of Manhattan) is only a few feet above current sea level. Hence the protest named ‘Flood Wall Street‘.
Over one hundred were arrested for blocking traffic during a sit-in. Most of those have taken a plea. But these twelve have refused to plead guilty. And these 12 people arrested for civil disobedience that day are now going to court. And they have decided to employ a Necessity Defense–that their actions were in prevention of disaster. ‘Necessity Defense’ is what you employ if you break into a neighbor’s house to save them from a fire, for example. Staving off Near Term Human Extinction is arguably as good a cause for necessity defense as any.
I have great affection for the Necessity Defense–it has been used in Plowshares cases in the US and Europe, where defendants argued that the danger of imminent nuclear war was so overwhelming (and the political process so tainted) that the demonstrators had a frame of mind that their only option was civil disobedience. The defense has worked in some European cases, but it doesn’t do so well in US Courts. Prosecutors here usually get a motion in limine that restricts the defendants’ ability to present such evidence. When a motion in limine is approved, the defense is not allowed to talk about the reasons for their transgression, and the jury is not aware of the motivations behind the ‘crime’. It’s one of the issues for the Fully Informed Jury Association.
Nonetheless, this is the path these folks are taking. I salute them for it, and I hope that they are the ones who turn the tide on use of the Necessity defense for actions to protect Mother Earth. In the meantime, if you are moved as I am, you might sign the petition of support for the Flood 12 on Change.org. It asks the judge in the case to recognize that protection of the planet is a necessity.