Calling for resistance by our judiciary, on behalf of ‘climate necessity’ & civil liberties

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On November 9, 2015, nine thoughtful environmental activists, having exhausted all other means to halt the construction of the Spectra pipeline, (a 42-inch, fracked-gas pipeline now installed 105 feet from critical infrastructure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant), peacefully blocked access to a ware yard in Montrose, NY, in an effort to bring public attention to the highly dangerous project. They were arrested and charged with ‘disorderly conduct.’ Each of the nine defendants pleaded “not guilty,” citing the “Necessity Defense.” They argued that their action was justified because it was done to stop a danger more harmful than the violation of the law, and only after all other legal and regulatory options to halt the project had been exhausted.

On December 2, 2016, Judge Daniel McCarthy, Town Justice of the Cortlandt Town Court, declared the ‘Montrose 9’ guilty of disorderly conduct. On January 6, 2017, he sentenced them to a 12-month conditional discharge, community service requirements, and fines/fees of $350.00. Spectra Director of Stakeholder Outreach Marylee Hanley reacted to the verdict and sentencing, apparently without irony: “We respect the right of individuals to protest except when those actions violate the law and create potentially unsafe conditions.”

Below, please read a letter sent on June 25, 2017, by Mike Bucci, one of the Montrose 9, to Judge McCarthy, explaining his refusal to comply with provisions of McCarthy’s sentence. Mike makes compelling and critically important arguments for an independent judiciary that resists tyranny, and for continued civil resistance to fossil fuel projects and all other industrial projects that harm the planet. (Mike Bucci is second from the left in the above photo taken of the Montrose 9 on 11/9/15).

BCJN stands with the Montrose 9, and with Mike. We’ll continue to participate in Resist Spectra’s campaign to shut down the Spectra pipeline.

To all BCJN members and others reading Mike Bucci’s letter: if you have not yet joined the Resist Spectra effort, please do so by signing the ‘Pledge of Resistance’ or by learning about other actions you can take in support of the campaign.

********

June 25, 2017

 An Open Letter to Honorable Daniel F. McCarthy, Town Justice

Town of Cortlandt Justice Court, One Heady Street, Cortlandt Manor, New York 10567

Re: Order to Appear at Violation of Conditional Discharge Hearing – June 29, 2017, Docket # 15110186

Dear Judge McCarthy,

Thank you for the opportunity to present our necessity defense during our trial and to explain why we were, on that chilly morning in November, 2015, blockading the construction of Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market Project pipeline that runs 400 feet from elementary schools and homes, and 105 feet from critical safety infrastructure at the failed Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River in Westchester County, NY.

I accept full responsibility for my action. We were all prepared for jail-time. I do realize that the sentence you imposed on us is an attempt to keep us out of jail. And I appreciate that.

I cannot, however, comply with certain provisions of your sentence which includes a 12-month conditional discharge, community service requirements, and fines/fees of $350.00. I cannot comply because the sentence imposed on us Montrose 9 resisters, who oppose the construction of this 42 inch, high-pressure, fracked methane-gas pipeline in our community, is actually a form of punishment meant to keep activists like us fearful, quiet and acquiescent. The sentence seems very harsh to me, especially as an alternative to incarceration, and for just a violation: a non-criminal infraction virtually equivalent to a traffic ticket! The sentence imposed is an attempt to break our will and bully us into submission.

In all honesty, I cannot abide by your conditional discharge requirement not to be arrested over the next year fighting this pipeline. This is a form of judicial repression meant to keep us from freely exercising our first amendment, constitutional rights to protest and resist, in this case, the much greater harm that fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses are wreaking on communities. Our necessity defense at trial, in a very real way, coupled with the dire environmental crises we face and injustices worldwide, require us to continue our resistance efforts in an even more concerted way — disrupting the fossil fuel industry, and perhaps breaking the law whenever necessary, to prevent or diminish the much greater harms of global heating, climate catastrophe and eventual systemic environmental collapse.

I cannot agree to not fighting for justice, alongside my friends, for fear of being arrested when so many injustices must be made right, especially these days, when we need to act powerfully and intelligently to dismantle entrenched systems of oppression. We will even need to directly break some unjust laws, like the unconstitutional and mean Muslim ban, for example. Given the enormous environmental harm being done to our living planet, and the efforts to divide us from one another, we will need to be smarter and even more militant, not less so, in keeping the powerful from harming humans and the living planet, while we build diverse and strong communities of love, support and resistance, like we are doing.

Moreover, we did no harm to the community. In fact, we alerted the community to impending crises.  Requiring us to perform community service for fighting on behalf of our neighbors, for trying to protect our community, the water and the land base, from devastation and degradation, I consider wrong-headed and almost insulting, given the way I have tried to live my life in service to the betterment of our communities. (Please see details of my work and “community service” activities, attached.) *

You know that I also disagree with your verdict of guilty both on the merits of the case and with respect to our necessity defense.  Regarding who was responsible for the traffic blockage on Route 9A, I do not think that the prosecution actually proved their case, that we were the cause of the traffic jam. There was sufficient doubt given the obvious failure of the State Police to control traffic, which would have taken minimal effort on their part. I also believe we proved the elements of our necessity defense. The harm of burning fossil fuels, especially methane, 80 times more harmful than CO2, is overwhelming and imminent, locally and globally. Threatening our community and destroying the environment for profit with impunity is what is wrong. I doubt that a jury would have found us guilty.

Admittedly, the Montrose 9 was not successful in our efforts to stop this segment of Spectra’s pipeline. We now need to stop the next segment, Atlantic Bridge Project, and all pipelines, and end the entire fossil fuel industry (and ultimately industrial capitalism, male domination and institutionalized racism) from destroying lives. I realize that from now on we will need to organize better and become more effective in our resistance to the extraction, storage and burning of fossil fuels, the massive infrastructure build out, as well as climate injustice against the poor, people of color and frontline indigenous peoples around the world.

As you know from our individual testimonies, we tried just about every avenue to stop the pipeline construction. In fact, many of our elected officials even agreed with us, but they were virtually powerless and/or chose not to effectively help us. Moreover, regulators continually ignored the calls of citizens and elected officials for independent health and safety assessments of this massive pipeline expansion project.  Clearly, government and laws are on the side of the corporations, the rich and powerful, all of whom prioritize profits over the well-being of citizens. The law and the courts should be protecting communities from the abuses of corporations and government. The completed segment of pipeline we unsuccessfully resisted is a symptom of the failed political & economic system, a failed democracy & collapsing institutions that do not represent the interests of people or life on our planet. Indeed, we all must go way beyond our comfort zones and do everything necessary to make our world safer, to the degree that each of us can.

These days, we need the help of an independent judiciary, and judicial heroes like Constance Baker Motley and Thurgood Marshall, jurists remembered for their understanding of how citizens and communities need special legal protections from longstanding oppressive institutions, and how important it is to safeguard the civil rights of groups who are systematically targeted by oppression, especially when existing law and precedent are not on their side. They took bold, extraordinary steps, and were successful on behalf of the civil and human rights of communities of color, and all communities, against enormous odds.

I am hopeful that we both love this beautiful community on the Hudson River and want to see it thrive, and be a safe and healthy place to live. Yes, we were hoping that you would side with us against Spectra (now Enbridge) Energy and agree that their harm to this community, and destruction of the living environment for profit, would be what is considered unlawful and should be stopped. I am still hopeful that on a deeply human level, we both want the very best for our community.

Therefore, Judge McCarthy, I am asking you for your help in our efforts to stop this pipeline. If I may be so audacious, we really could use your help in this long, hard fight on behalf of our communities.We need your help and assistance from the judicial branch of government for relief, protection and support, especially since some laws may need to be challenged for the greater good to prevent greater harm. Yes, I invite you to consider joining our efforts. Together, we could definitely keep our community safer.

If you cannot yet support us and our efforts, I ask you simply to consider, at least – to think about – what we and the science and the experts have been saying about the dangers of this pipeline, methane gas leakage in our already vulnerable community, the harm of greenhouse gas emissions, and our responsibility to protect our homes and the earth. Please consider this an invitation and anopportunity to continue our year-and-a-half-long conversation about community health and safety and protection from the harms of the fossil fuel industry. While we continue our efforts to stop the construction of this pipeline with our neighbors, and fight to make our community safer, I hope we will continue this important conversation.

I appreciate your respecting my constitutional right to defend myself, & speak on my own behalf, pro se.

Sincerely,

Michael G. Bucci

* Community Service Activities

Catholic Interracial Council, Pittsburgh, PA 1964-66 – volunteer member.

Little Sisters of the Poor (homes for the elderly), Balt., MD & Wash., D.C. 1966-68 – volunteer.

Co-Founder, Storefront Soup Kitchen/Peace Center, Bronx, NY 1970-73, – volunteer.

Resistance activities/organizing to stop the Vietnam war 1969-74.

So Others Might Eat – SOME Soup Kitchen, Wash., DC 1974-75, – volunteer.

American Red Cross in Greater New York Disaster Relief Services 1975-1977.

Clinton Housing Development Company – community organizer 1978-1981.

Co-Founded Union of City Tenants 1979-83, – volunteer.

Volunteer – New York Women Against Pornography 1984-85.

Co-founder, Men Against Pornography 1985? – volunteer.

Co-founder, New York Men Against Sexism 1989 – volunteer.

Resistance to South African apartheid 1989-1994.

Co-founder, Whites Against Racism Network (WARN) 1990-1993 – volunteer

Bowery Residents Committee – Director of Housing and Development 1981-1997.

ANHD – Affordable Housing Training to 95 under-resourced NYC community groups 2010-17.

American Red Cross in Greater New York Disaster Relief Services 9/11 volunteer.

We Are Seneca Lake – Fossil Fuel Storage Resistance – volunteer 2014-17.

Compressor Free Franklin – volunteer 2014-Present.

Deep Green Resistance – volunteer 2014-Present.

Resist Spectra – volunteer 2015-Present.

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About JenniferS.

A founding member of Bronx Climate Justice North.
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One Response to Calling for resistance by our judiciary, on behalf of ‘climate necessity’ & civil liberties

  1. Pingback: The Banner, Vol. 3, No. 28 – Degrees of Separation - We Are Seneca Lake

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