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Chris Hayes calls it his "Story of the Week" ... and it begins with a daring act of Civil Disobedience ...

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher goes to trial

by Ask Umbra, -- Feb 23, 2011

Dearest readers,

I want to share a story of an ordinary citizen using peaceful direct action to take a stand.

When Tim DeChristopher woke up one morning in December of 2008, what he was intending to do that day was disrupt a Bureau of Land Management [BLM] oil and gas lease auction. He did not expect he was starting down a road that would leave him $1.7 million in debt, facing a court date and up to 10 years in jail. But next Monday, Feb. 28, DeChristopher will go to trial for an unusual and profound act of creative, direct, nonviolent civil disobedience.

As a busy graduate economics student at the University of Utah, DeChristopher hadn’t planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, “Yes, I would.”

Handed bidder paddle number 70, DeChristopher began bidding as soon as the auction opened. He bought more than a dozen parcels and drove up the prices of others before being stopped by a federal agent. His “purchase” totaled 22,500 acres, and effectively put a halt to the 11th-hour leases and subsequent drilling.

The auction itself was later deemed illegitimate by the Obama administration because it was conducted outside of the rules set for holding such auctions. [...]

DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in prison, which he is now serving.

Which he is now appealing, with the legal representation of the former Director of the BLM, Patrick Shea ...

Tim DeChristopher


On July 26, 2011, Judge Benson sentenced DeChristopher to two years in prison, imposed a $10,000 fine, and ordered him into immediate custody.  [...]

DeChristopher was initially detained at the Davis County Correctional Facility in Farmington, Utah. He is currently serving his two-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Herlong in California, a facility which holds medium and minimum security prisoners. His Federal Bureau of Prisons Register Number is 16156-081 and he is scheduled for release on April 21, 2013.[17][18]


On July 28, 2011 DeChristopher's defense attorney Pat Shea and his team filed documents notifying the court of their plans to appeal DeChristopher's sentence.[19]

Up with Chris Hayes -- April 7, 2012

link to video

Story of the Week: Civil disobedience as final resort
Up with Chris Hayes -- April 7, 2012

Up host Chris Hayes covers environmental civil disobedience through the story of activist Tim DeChristopher, who is currently serving a two-year sentence in federal prison for protesting at a federal energy lease auction and buying up leases he never planned to pay for.

Up with Chris Hayes -- April 7, 2012

link to video

Civil disobedience for the environment
Up with Chris Hayes -- April 7, 2012

Attorney and former director of the Bureau of Land Management, Patrick Shea, joins Up w/ Chris Hayes to discuss his client Tim DeChristopher, whose environmental activism landed him in federal prison.

Tim DeChristopher's statement to the court

by Tim DeChristopher, -- 07-28-2011

Before being sentenced to two years in prison and slapped with a $10,000 fine, Tim DeChristopher made this statement to the prosecution and the judge:
In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar. It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.” Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love. And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future. I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom. The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.” [...]

This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr. Huber [Assistant District Attorney] claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development. A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

Tim DeChristopher's appeal for civil justice continues this week ...

None of the Oil interests, including the Koch Brothers, who profit from such environmentally-negligent sales, have faced as much as a traffic ticket ...

None of the dozens of other "bid-walkers" who committed the "same crime" as DeChristopher, have ever been arrested, let alone gone to jail ...

None have been made a "scape goat" for unacceptable civil disobedience.  They are still free to keep bidding, to keep tapping the well-oiled system of natural resource extraction, from every conceivable corner of the Earth ... environment be damned.

=======  =======

On March 11, 2009, the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued Secretarial Order No. 3285:

Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on America’s Water, Land and Other Natural and Cultural Resources

This Order replaces Secretarial Order No. 3226, Amendment No. 1, issued on January 16, 2009, and reinstates the provisions of Secretarial Order No. 3226, issued on January 19, 2001.

As Chris Hayes put it in that first clip:
The Earth's Atmosphere does not care about the filibuster. Its patterns are changing right before our eyes, as our [political] system dithers. Last month alone, US cities recorded over 6000 record High days.

The only hope, and I say this without hyperbole, is to force the issue forward through channels other than electoral politics.

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