Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Salt Lake City, Utah
Immediately after being sentenced to two years in federal prison and $10,000 in fines Tim DeChristopher was put in heavy leg chains and escorted out of the Utah Federal Courthouse for a non-violent act of civil disobedience. Tim look dignified and brave just walking to the wagon that will transport him to a temporary facility. A sentence that harsh for a peaceful act of conscience is virtually unprecedented.
Not only his harsh sentence but his immediate detention was unusual and meant to intimidate the climate movement. Several hundred supporters rallied all day in front of the federal courthouse singing songs, waving colorful banners, dancing and chanting. Following the announcement of Tim’s sentence 17 protestors zip-tied themselves together on the steps of the courthouse. The police then went inside and never returned. Determined to call attention to the injustice and brutal punishment for Tim’s brave act, the protestors moved into the street and blocked rush hour traffic.
The Trax train system was also interrupted and there were mixed reactions from commuters who had to walk to the next stop in order to board another train. Many cheered the activists, a few joined the rally and a few yelled at those sitting in the intersection. In all 7 people received citations and 19 were arrested and taken to jail.
The inconvenience of a disrupted trip home hopefully woke some Utah commuters up the the climate movement. Perhaps they thought they were already a part of the climate movement. Americans have been conditioned
The call to action is to those already riding public transportation, already willing to make small changes. It is true small changes add up to large changes. People who are trying to do the right thing for the planet aren’t lazy, they have only been told that those small, personal actions will save the planet and they won’t.
Many of the arrestees heeded a call to action for the first time. They had not been to jail before and faced the prospect of a cell with courage, dignity and happiness. It was beautiful to see. Several reporters remarked to me that those at the rally and those participating did not “look” like climate activists. The climate movement is experiencing a surge of new activists and that was evident among those participating in an act of civil disobedience on July 26 as well as those arrested following Tim’s sentencing.
We had beautiful, young mothers, clean cut young men, grandmothers, grandfathers. Some of those arrested were in their twenties but the majority of those arrested were over 40 and some were old enough to be my grandparents.
It was evident by the crowd that Peaceful Uprising’s unwavering commitment to non-violence has drawn a diverse, supportive community. Tim acted and was willing to go to prison and the inescapable fact is that we need people in the streets because our planet cannot wait for decades-long lawsuits or the dead end agony of our regulatory system.
We must act now to halt what is left of our chance to save this planet from a carbon inferno. That will take the ability of more people to fully absorb what is at stake and the willingness to go to jail and even prison for non-violent actions.
We have to begin to stop the loading our atmosphere with carbon right now and we can do that by waking from our consumer fog, working together for bold, non-violent protests and actions, and forming welcoming, diverse communities. We have responded to intimidation with dignity, creativity, joy and resolve and those in power are quaking in their boots.
Climate*Justice*Solidarity*Bear witness to and Peaceful Uprising dot org in the rise of this beautiful movement.