SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 23, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- This Monday after two years and six delays by the prosecution, Tim DeChristopher's trial is finally happening, and he is hard at work—but not on his defense. He's working with Peaceful Uprising, the climate justice action group he helped develop during the years between his indictment and his trial. The organization views DeChristopher's trial as sheer intimidation and is preparing to respond. "The federal government admitted that the auction [DeChristopher] disrupted was illegal," states Dillon Hase, a board member of Peaceful Uprising. "As soon as Obama took office, Salazar dismissed nearly all the leases, and now they're putting Tim on trial to scare off other people who are fed up enough with government inaction on the climate crisis to try civil disobedience."
Citing DeChristopher's court-ordered ban from explaining his motivations— to prevent contributions to climate change and safeguard Utah's public lands from being leased and developed by energy giants—to his jury, Peaceful Uprising believes that DeChristopher's trial is backward, unfair, and lacking the complete story. Although two years have passed since his indictment, the group is motivated to ensure the trial's complicated narrative is available to the public.
His defense team originally planned to use the "necessity defense," claiming DeChristopher's crime is the lesser of two evils when weighed against the illegitimate auction and development of public lands into fossil fuel sites. However, Judge Dee Benson, stating he refused to have his courtroom "opened to a lengthy hearing on global warming and environmental concerns," not only negated the proposed defense, but also barred DeChristopher from describing his rationale to the jury. "The injustice in this case isn't that I am facing a trial," said DeChristopher. "It's that the jury is being denied the information to decide if my actions were justified." He rejected plea bargains, saying he would rather let a jury determine whether or not his actions constituted a crime.
Peaceful Uprising's response to what they perceive as an obvious case of governmental intimidation is to use the trial to demonstrate their undeterred commitment to their cause of "defending a livable future and creating a just and healthy world," and inspire others to do the same. During the weekend leading up to the trial, the group will lead an "Empowerment Summit" to teach attendees unconventional ways to act on their personal beliefs. Salt Lake's Westminster College will host three days of workshops, speakers, and trainings designed to develop skills that enable people to challenge established norms and power structures.
Supporters from around the country are traveling to Salt Lake City to demonstrate their support of Peaceful Uprising and DeChristopher. These include Peter Yarrow (of Peter Paul and Mary) who will host a midnight vigil Sunday night before the trial, and actress and activist Daryl Hannah, who applauded Tim's actions, saying that, "Tim DeChristopher did us all a favor, putting himself on the line like he did. He's a hero, not a criminal." A permitted march to the Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse is scheduled for Monday morning. Yarrow will lead supporters in song throughout the day, and a street theater "mock" trial will showcase the facts of DeChristopher's case—his motivation, and the controversial nature of the auction he shut down—that have been banned from the courtroom.
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