Friday, September 2, 2016

Arrested Developments: Stopped construction. Was arrested. Going to trial.

 In the trench, stopping Spectra.

Arrested Developments: Stopped construction. Was arrested. Going to trial.

On Wednesday, August 31st we halted construction of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. For over an hour we enjoyed our small victory. This project jeopardizes the health and safety of local residents and of our neighbors across the globe by ramping up greenhouse emissions and fueling climate change. Residents and local politicians have unsuccessfully fought this project using every legal means for three years. All else has failed, and so it made moral and strategic sense to me to stealthily approach, evade a police detail and jump into an open worksite. I will admit that I was challenged (as in, scared witless?) by the thought of the depth of the trench. I do not like heights and I do not bounce like I used to. Also, I am kinda klutzy so I was elated to have accomplished the first part of my mission without getting hurt or hurting anyone. The second part of my mission is to convince you all, Dear Readers, to fight to halt climate change.

Best "trench-mates" you could ask for: Brendan and Catz.
For over an hour I was in the trenches with now 16 year old, Canton High sophomore, Brendan Matulis and my new friend, Catherine LeBlanc. Brendan's birthday was Sept 1 and he was concerned that, despite his youth, people would understand he was taking action following the dictates of his conscience alone. We all were clear in our purpose and honored to be able to do our part to halt climate change and stop a Texas fossil-fuel corporation from bullying our neighbors! All thanks to the movement of who were on the street above us, celebrating Mary Boyle's birthday, singing songs, praying and witnessing in solidarity with representatives of the Standing Sioux Tribe's struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. ( read more about Mary Boyle and the issues at my blog.)

After an hour, Brendan, who as a minor, was handled differently under the law, climbed up a ladder out of the ten foot trench while Catz and I waited to be removed by by Boston firefighters after being "checked" by EMTs. There were at least four dozen EMTs, police officers and firefighters surrounding us. It was an impressive waste of resources and/or a silly display of power. They cajoled, joked, reasoned and fumed at us to leave of our own accord. We declined. Finally, we were extracted by "basket" and whisked away in BPD Transport Wagon. We were charged with Trespass and Disturbing the Peace and spent the day in West Roxbury District 5 jail. With a $40 fee we were released on our own recognizance a little after 4pm. Physically, the worst part was the zip tie handcuffs as I was waiting to be" processed" which included a mug shot, removing my wedding ring for the first time in a decade and being finger-printed on a new-fangled computer system. For over an hour and still restrained, I was all alone and my wrists hurt so I distracted myself singing.  Revels songs and South African freedom songs from my days with Mystic Choral and NoonDayFarm singers came back to me. Dunno how anybody else felt about it, but I enjoyed the echoing acoustics of the cell. Maybe my singing can explain the additional "Disorderly Person" charge?
Six officers ( and there were more) to arrest one old lady. Do I look that dangerous?
The next day we were to be arraigned first thing in the morning. I thought I'd do a little chalking in front of the West Roxbury District Court. I've done it there before and had provided my Memo proving its legality from the Law Office of the City of Boston to a Court Officer just a few weeks ago. (Chalk art is a whole other issue you can read more here.)

Yesterday, as I was chalking -@stop spectra- on the sidewalk, a court officer approached us and asked "If there was a problem." and I said no, I was exercising my 1st Amendment rights and using chalk. She seemed cool with it so I finished up, put my chalks back in the car and we headed to check in with probation.

At the Probation window, in the kind of coincidence you just can't make up, my elder brother's probation officer was the man who checked me in. He was equally surprised to see me. My brother, who is severely mentally ill, was charged with Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault while in his group home a few years back and successfully completed his probation in Lemuel Shattuck Hospital this May. Mr. Frank Omogrobe had been very helpful.  But that is also another story - read more here)

When our case was finally called and we stepped up to the bar and were addressed by Honorable Kathleen E. Coffey, First Justice, West Roxbury Division, who has always struck me as a compassionate and honest woman. It was she who created the Mental Health Court that has helped our brother and many others to stay in the hospital, where they belong and NOT in a jail.  

After, the clerk read our charges, adding Disorderly Conduct to our rap sheet our lawyer approached the bench ( or the bar?) and Judge Coffey led off the proceedings by saying,
Post-arraignment photo behind pre-arraignment chalking at courthouse. 

" It has come to my attention that your clients were drawing on the sidewalk outside this courthouse and I just hope that is was chalk and not paint, etc. etc."  - Judge Coffey

I wanted to reassure the judge right away, exonerate my co-defendant and explain about it being temporary sidewalk chalk. When I tried to speak, our lawyer, quite rightly, shushed me and said that he could not speak to that issue as he knew nothing about it and it was not part of the case before us. 

Attorney Mark McMahon was blindsided. We hadn't told him anything about chalking. McMahon told Judge Coffey that he would not make any statements about any alleged incidents. Her question was a crazy, unexpected curveball. If I had used paint? It was serious. Less then 10 minutes before, in a case before ours, two young men had just been led out of that same courtroom in shackles for tagging with spray paint.

Judge Coffey was insistent and even issued a veiled threat "You could un-complicate this easily and just tell me or?...We could launch a police investigation ?...(pregnant pause) Do you really want to complicate this? Just to find something out that you can easily tell me." But our lawyer, Mark McMahon, stood fast and said neither he nor his clients would make any statements about anything unrelated to the arraignment before  the court, so the judge allowed us to confer and come back in a few.

Wow. That was a shock - just 10 days before, I had gone through the whole song and dance about chalking in Boston with a court officer right in front of W.Roxbury Courthouse  The officer even made a copy of the memo I carry with me.  Atty. McMahon pointed out to me that graffiti is vandalism, when permanent materials or damage is present and if the "destruction of property " is over $250? It is a felony. Jump back!  

We returned to court and told Judge Coffey what she wanted to know. She had toned down a bit and said, " I am not trying to abrogate anyone's 1st amendment rights here, I am just looking for information." Atty. McMahon told her that only one client was involved and that she (I) had assured him it was chalk. Then the Assistant District Attorney offered us a deal.  We could have six months of probation if we accepted a "stay-away" order of keeping 500 yards ( that is 1/4 mile!) away from any Spectra worksite. Atty. McMahon argued strongly against the stay-away. The Judge herself offered a compromise of 100 yards from the specific 10 Grove Street in West Roxbury site - a nexus of protest and work completion. But the DA refused. 

At this point it is really hard to agree to be 500 yards  away from any Spectra worksites which are so are common in the Boston area. And in West Roxbury, it is a 5.1 mile pipeline and they could be working anywhere. 

It just seemed an egregiously wrong condition.  Why should a citizen limit her freedom of motion based on the ubiquitous actions of a Texas based corporation? That is just more bullying as far as I can see.  In the end, neither Catz nor I could take the deal and that means we will be going to trial. Sometime in October. More information as things develop. And,  next week, Karenna Gore, Tim DeChristopher and 4 other West Roxbury Pipeline resisters will be in the same court for their pretrial hearing on Sept. 6.

I would be deeply grateful if you would help spread the word, participate, educate and/or donate at  Civil disobedience is, among other things, a kind of low-budget PR. We put ourselves forward to get the word out, not for personal attention. I tell this story to engage and inspire you; to motivate more people to be active. As George Monbiot says, the climate crisis is real and it is already here. We all need to do our part.

Here is a link to a great 2 minute video below made when over 100 of us came to Stop Spectra's work in June 2016. Our dear friend Marie-Laure is featured.

"Since August 2015, a residential neighborhood of West Roxbury, MA has become an epicenter of fossil fuel resistance and the fight for a livable climate. Spectra Energy is building a dangerous, high pressure (750 psi) natural gas pipeline across the street from a rock quarry from which seismic waves emanate due to weekly dynamite blasting.   This project jeopardizes the health and safety of local residents and of people across the globe whose lives are already being ravaged by climate change. Residents and local politicians have unsuccessfully fought this project using every legal means for three years. All else has failed, and now we’re shutting this project down in the streets. 

With 175 arrests, this is one of the largest campaigns of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience in the country. We’re building a culture of resistance to the fossil fuel industry that will spread across the region. We’re sending a message to all those involved in the current build-out of new fossil fuel infrastructure: We don’t want it. We don’t need it. Earth can’t take it. Shut it down."

And here again is a video segment on the climate change disaster of leaking methane throughout Boston and the Commonwealth.