Climate Emergency justification in Pearson’s trial

Dear Friends,

Here’s the release Bold Iowa sent out on Friday about this Wednesday’s press conference, organized jointly with the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition. Heather Pearson’s jury trial for her arrest last fall as part of Bold Iowa’s “Farmers Defense Camp” is significant. Read the details below, and join us on Wednesday in Rockwell City for the trial and press conference.

Heather Pearson

Please share this release with your local news outlets and circulate it through your online networks. And since a Judge sometimes postpones a trial with short notice, check this Facebook Page on Tuesday to make sure the Wednesday trial and press conference are still on.

Heather’s trial has the potential to impact pipeline fights, eminent domain law and climate change in a big way. Let’s support her and the other fighters who have taken brave stands against this unprecedented attack on our land, water and property rights!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 19, 2017

Contact:
Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa: 515-238-6404ed@boldiowa.org
Jessica Fears, Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, 515-450-9627fearsj@gmail.com

Iowa Woman Arrested Stopping Dakota Access Construction on Iowa Landowner’s Property Taken by Eminent Domain to Plead “Not Guilty,” Citing “Climate Emergency” Justification for Trespassing

Bold Iowa’s “Farmer Defense Camp” was established with permission on eminent domain holdout landowner Shirley Gerjets’ property, a first of its kind in Dakota Access pipeline fight

Rockwell City, IA — Heather Pearson, a resident of Logan, Iowa and Water Protector who was arrested in October 2016 during a nonviolent direct action to stop construction on the Dakota Access pipeline on Iowa farmer Shirley Gerjets’ property, will plead “not guilty” to charges of trespassing in Calhoun County court on May 24.

Pearson will argue in court that a “climate emergency,” outlined in a document signed by 188 Iowa climate science faculty from 39 institutions from all over the state, justified her action to stop construction on the pipeline that is abusing eminent domain for private gain and threatening our land, water and climate.

• WHAT: Trial of Dakota Access Direct Action Participant Pleading “Not Guilty”
• WHERE: Calhoun County Courthouse, 400 Main St., Rockwell City, IA
• WHEN: Wednesday, May 24
◦ 9:00 a.m: Trial start time
◦ 12:00 p.m. / lunch break: Press conference (Note: If the trial ends before noon, participants will also be immediately available for comment.)

(Check out the video of the action where Heather was arrested, and scroll down on that page to view the “Climate Emergency” document and affidavit signinghttp://boldiowa.org/2016/11/07/climateemergency)

Under Iowa state law, “justification” is a valid defense to charges of trespassing.

All of the Water Protectors arrested on Oct. 29 were invited on Shirley Gerjets’ property with express permission, in the form of a written affidavit from Shirley. In addition to Pearson, two other Water Protectors intend to plead “not guilty” to trespassing charges stemming from the Oct. 29 action and have pending court dates in Calhoun County (Emma Stewart, of Rockwell City, IA and Mahmud Fitil, of Omaha, NE).

Meanwhile, the Dakota Access pipeline workers and private security personnel were on Shirley’s property only by power of eminent domain, which Shirley strongly opposed. Shirley also had “No Trespassing” signs posted on her property that expressly forbade Dakota Access on her land.

The court will be tasked with determining who is the victim of “trespassing,” when a landowner is actively challenging eminent domain authority granted for a pipeline easement, and yet her expressly invited guests are arrested and charged with “trespassing” on the same land where eminent domain authority is still under judicial review.

Several of those who were arrested appeared to have been physically detained not by Iowa State Patrol, Calhoun County sheriff’s deputies, or other law enforcement, but rather by men wearing yellow jackets believed to be private security hired by Dakota Access Pipeline.

Were these private security “deputized” by Calhoun County law enforcement, the state of Iowa, or some other authority to detain citizens? The court must determine on what authority these security personnel were acting, and whether their actions constituted false imprisonment.

“In Iowa, eminent domain has always been intended strictly for public purposes,” said Bold Iowa director Ed Fallon. “And in 2006, during my last session as a state lawmaker, House and Senate members voted overwhelmingly to further strengthen eminent domain law in response to the ‘Kelo’ U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Given that amended law, this lawsuit makes a powerful case that Dakota Access violated the law. Those of us invited onto the land by the property owner had every right to be there.”

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New IUB conflict revealed as DAPL request denied!

To those who say, “The fight against the Dakota Access pipeline is over, so just move on,” we pipeline fighters and water protectors say, “Not so fast!”

Lawsuit plaintiffs at a 2016 press conference

Tuesday, the Iowa Supreme Court sided with nine Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, rejecting Dakota Access’ request to have the landowners’ lawsuit dismissed!

The Court’s order reads: “Dakota Access contends this appeal should be dismissed because the appellant, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, has failed to establish proper standing in this matter and the remaining appellants’ claims are moot. Upon consideration, the motion to dismiss is denied. Dakota Access may raise the issues regarding standing and mootness in its appellate brief.”

The march after the landowners’ hearing at the Polk County Courthouse in December

Click here to read the complete order: 17. Order – Motion to Dismiss Denied

This is a really big deal. It means the case against the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) and Dakota Access will move forward, with a schedule for court filings being established and a trial likely later this year or early in 2018.

The Court’s order revealed another important and disturbing development. Richard W. Lozier, Jr. requested permission to withdraw as counsel for the MAIN Coalition — a front group for Dakota Access. The Court rightfully granted that request. What’s incredible is that Governor Branstad recently appointed Lozier to the IUB, filling the seat vacated by Libby Jacobs, despite this clear conflict of interest!

Richard W. Lozier, Jr.

If Branstad wanted to inflame pipeline opponents and encourage further criticism of the rampant corruption within his administration, putting Lozier on the IUB was the perfect way to do that.

Now the burden of defending this wolf-guards-hen-house appointment falls to Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. It’ll be interesting to see how Reynolds responds. If she kowtows to Big Oil and keeps Lozier on the IUB, don’t be surprised if her Republican opponent(s) make hay with it leading up to next June’s gubernatorial primary.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 8

Saturday, April 29, 2017 – Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol (7 miles)

It’s just under a seven-mile march from our church lodging in Pleasant Hill to the Iowa State Capitol for the People’s Climate Movement Rally. We set out on schedule and arrive at Sleepy Hollow for our break, just as it’s starting to rain.

Marching to the Capitol

We know we won’t stay dry for long, but take this opportunity to sit under the facility’s patio roof for our half-hour break. There’s a car out front, suggesting staff is present, so figure I’ll let them know we’re here. I try the door, and it’s unlocked, so I enter, to be greeted by a blaring security alarm.

I quickly exit the way I came in, apologize to other marchers as I make a lame joke about setting off the alarm about the climate crisis. I call the Des Moines Police Department, and the matter is soon resolved.

Donnielle Wanatee and Shelley Buffalo are the opening speakers, and Heather Pearson wraps up the rally. As with Donnielle and Shelley, Heather has been a solid leader on the March, and her speech is a powerful closing statement for both the march and the rally. Here’s what she had to say:

“I am an air breathing, water drinking, Iowa pipeline fighter. For the last seven days we have marched 85 miles across Iowa to discuss climate justice and unity with rural communities along the way. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone to agree to march 85 miles, but it’s not the first time that this fight has taken me outside of that comfort zone.

“Most Iowans have been opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline since it was first proposed three years ago. Last year, I was asked to give testimony in front of the Iowa Utilities Board at their meeting in Boone. I’d never been to Boone before and didn’t know a single person there. That experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.

“I told the Board that I find it appalling that they were so willing to trample Iowans’ private property rights while putting our air, our farmland, our water and our climate at risk just so that a private corporation can fatten its bottom line with an export pipeline.

Heather Pearson addresses rally. Photo by Jack Schuler

“In August, I got a call from Ed Fallon asking if I would be willing to risk arrest while participating in peaceful civil disobedience. I’d never been arrested before, or even had any interaction with law enforcement. In the days leading up to direct action I was anxious, and again had to step out of my comfort zone because I felt that it was my duty. I’d signed the ‘No Bakken Pledge of Resistance’ and the movement needed people power. I was handcuffed and taken away.

“Fast forward a couple of months. I met a farmer named Shirley Gerjets. Dakota Access had already begun construction on her property against her will even though she hadn’t had her day in court to fight eminent domain. As I stepped onto Shirley’s property, with her permission, I handed the Sheriff the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement signed by 188 climate scientists. I stated that it was my justification for being on that property.

“Of course, I was arrested yet again. I have pled not guilty and am now preparing to take my case to court since climate change is indeed justification for stepping onto a fossi-fuel easement.

“Again and again, I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone. You see, we must all step out of our comfort zones. We must all come together and raise our voices to hold our elected officials accountable for the decisions they’re making about our water, our air, our soil and our climate. Climate justice is a human rights issue. We must unite for climate justice. We must all step out of our comfort zones because that’s where real change occurs.”

 

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 7

Friday, April 28, 2017 – Prairie City to Pleasant Hill (14 miles)

Mike Shapiro and Sylvana Flute. Photo by Kelly Boon

Today promises to be the most difficult of the March: 14 miles in cold, rainy weather along a busy four-lane highway. We’re soaked both from above and below, as trucks barreling along spray us when they pass. It’s a testament to the commitment and perseverance of our group that ten marchers make it every step of the way in such conditions.

At our rest stop at the 5.2 mile mark, we decide to break into two groups — one fast, one slow. We’ve stuck together as one marching column the entire week. But now, we face the reality that some of our group have to go slowly to be able to make the distance, while some of us have to move quicker if we’re to stay warm enough to avoid hypothermia.

Isidra Borjas

Isidra Borjas is one of our younger, faster marchers. She’s from Ft. Madison and says she appreciates the age and cultural diversity of the March. She’s Mexican-American. Her Dad is from Mexico. On her Mom’s side, she’s fourth generation American.

“You’ve got me beat by two generations,” I tell her. “My Dad’s parents came over from Ireland in the 1920s.”

Isidra felt inspired to join the March because “we all have to take care of our home. Yet I was surprised that some people we met along the way weren’t kind at first. I was under the impression that everyone in rural Iowa was nice.”

Isidra is one of four women who took turns carrying the flag when the weather allowed. “I always associated the flag with rednecks who drove big trucks. Now, after seeing how the flag was carried during our March, I see it as our flag. I’m an American as much as anyone else. For me, it was really empowering as a minority and a female.”

Annie Casey. Photo by Kelly Boon

Another impressive young marcher is Annie Casey. “Seeing the creative energies and common cause that came out of Standing Rock inspired me to get involved with the March,” she says. “I was drawn to the possibility of listening to and talking with people who speak a very different language on climate.”

As a native of Colorado, Annie was caught off guard by the weather. “I was surprised at how tough Midwesterners are. But it was amazing to be part of something with such good intentions and so well organized, and yet incredible to see how it was spun against us. That often happens when a volatile issue enters the cybersphere. But when we met with people along the way, the experiences were powerfully positive. You can never make that connection online.”

Shelley Buffalo and Chuck Hurley. Photo by Kelly Boon

That truth was again realized at our overnight stop in Pleasant Hill, at Rising Sun Church of Christ. The Church had originally said we wouldn’t be able to camp there. But through the kindness of one of the church elders, Chuck Hurley, who I served with at the Iowa Statehouse, marchers were allowed to cook, sleep and meet inside the church.

Cynthia Hunafa, State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad and Jessica Fears. Photo by Kelly Boon

Chuck and Pastor Steve Rowland took time to talk with us during our evening forum. We were also joined by Cynthia Hunafa and State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad. Steve is a hunter and very concerned about the environment. Chuck’s policy focus is kids. He admits he hasn’t thought much about climate change. But I sensed that as we talked, he understood how climate, too, is an issue of great importance to our children and their future.

Pastor Steve Rowland and Ed

Our visit opened the door to continued dialogue. If climate environmentalists and conservative Christians can meet and find common ground, I see hope for the future of our country and our planet.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 6

Thursday, April 27, 2017 – Reasnor to Prairie City (11 miles)

Shelley Buffalo and Zach Ide lead the March.

The weather has gone cold and damp, with temperatures 20 degrees below average. Days like this give fodder to the handful of people who completely deny climate change, with comments like, “Gee, we could sure use some global warming now.”

Yet the vast majority of Iowans know the climate is changing, although there remains disagreement over the cause. My entirely unscientific estimate is that about half the people we’ve met on the March accept that it’s caused by human activity while the other half believe it’s cyclical.

The common denominator is that nearly everyone agrees it’s changing, and on this point of agreement we find support for renewable energy, improving water quality and limiting the scope of eminent domain. That’s a solid starting point for crafting an agenda for policy change that our local, state and federal officials need to get behind.

Darrin Ehret writes me again with more encouraging news: “I found it interesting that one of the people that opposed your group the most has had a change of heart. She encountered one of your group (Chap Myers) at a gas station. She was short on cash while at the cash register and needed to go back to her car to get more. A gentleman paid the difference for her. On their way back to her car to get the money it turned out to be one of your folks. So I think things are softening up. I did see the changes. Thanks.”

Little acts of kindness matter. Even though there was no conversation about climate change between Chap and the woman, there was a transformation of heart based on Chap’s simple gesture of generosity.

The group that’s been attacking the March and Little Creek Camp online has softened its stance, too. Here’s their latest video, which is full of inaccuracies (I address those below), but shows how the March’s approach to civility and dialogue is having a positive effect. Click here to see the video.

Here’s my response, which I shared with the video’s author who has since invited me to do an interview with him:

“While I appreciate some of this, I offer a few corrections and clarifications:
1. I am not the defacto leader of the camp.
2. Christine Nobiss has not stepped down.
3. The red cape in the photo of me joking around pretending to bend a pipe (actually carrying water) is photo-shopped.
4. We did not fly the flag reluctantly (any patriotic American who heard the discussion we had about carrying the flag would have been impressed with our conversation and reasons for flying it).
5. We did go door-to-the-door on the march but to my knowledge never asked for donations.”

Craig Stafford’s dog, Penny, pretends to drive the gear truck that Craig and Joe Henry drove.

After a solid day of cloud cover, the sun shines this evening on our camp at the Community Center in Prairie City. The City Administrator, Lori Martin, stops by to welcome us, and the school across the street provides showers. The amazing, talented Natalie Lowe performs for us (really, check out her music here: https://natalielowe.bandcamp.com) and we again enjoy Chap’s cooking and Donnielle’s fry bread.

Marchers pose with “United for Climate Justice” signs before dinner at the Prairie City Community Center.

An evening of fun, food and fellowship is followed by a difficult two-hour meeting to discuss internal concerns within our March family. It’s an emotional meeting — painful but productive — and there’s a collective sense of accomplishment at the meeting’s conclusion.

Our work is not always with those who disagree with us. Maintaining harmony and understanding within any group of fellow travelers is a challenge and requires time, effort and patience. Tonight’s meeting was a reminder of that, and of the positive dividends that such an investment can bring.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)

Chap Myers

We scramble out of our tents early today for the ride to Des Moines for Donnielle Wanatee’s trial. She was arrested for trespass at Governor Branstad’s office during the February 22 Day of Action Against DAPL. Donnielle pled “not guilty” and asked for a jury trial. The judge denied her request. Nevertheless, she persists.

It’s a miserable morning. The wind and rain make it impossible for our cook, Chap Myers, to keep the stove lit. Some marchers opt for a cold breakfast. Most of us end up at the Coffee Cup Cafe across the street, grateful that it opens at 6:00. With the cumulative exertion of four days of marching, my caloric output has surged to that of a college athlete. I order the menu’s largest breakfast, which finds its way into my fuel tank faster than civilized dining standards allow.

Jon Neiderbach and Donnielle Wanatee

Today, we’re an organized, efficient group and arrive on schedule at the Polk County Justice Center. When I enter the court room, Donnielle is already testifying. She comports herself with clarity and dignity. Jon Neiderbach, an attorney who marched with us for two days, represents Donnielle pro bono.

The trial is quick and predictable. The judge praises Donnielle’s commitment to clean water but finds her guilty of trespass. She wants a jury trial, but the judge had previously cited a procedural nuance that denies her this right. With Jonathan’s help, she appeals the judge’s ruling, insisting on her right to a jury trial. I’m proud of both her and Jon. It’s a great start to the day, and we haven’t even marched a step.

By early afternoon, we’re back in Sully to begin the day’s 10-mile trek. The rain’s stopped, and we again carry the American flag at the front of the march column. Isidra and Annie lead the way, taking turns as flag-bearer.

Marchers gather in front of Lois and Irving Vander Leest’s piano lawn art

Three miles from Reasnor, we meet Lois and Irving Vander Leest. Their farm is on the path of the pipeline, and it’s here that construction equipment was torched by an arsonist last August.

The Vander Leests strongly support the pipeline. Lois assures me she’s had no trouble with either the pipeline company or the workers. I’m candid with her about my opposition, based on concerns about climate, water and the abuse of eminent domain. We concur that arson is inexcusable, and she and Irving agree to join us for dinner tonight at the United Methodist Church in Reasnor. Before we set out from the Vander Leests’ farm, we pose for a picture in front of a piano cleverly repurposed as a lawn ornament.

Marchers pause for prayer as they cross the path of the Dakota access pipeline

Two miles from Reasnor we cross the pipeline. The scar from last year’s construction is still visible. We pray. Donnielle offers tobacco. It’s a solemn moment. I think of the 570,000 barrels of oil a day that will soon move through the ground under our feet. I remind other marchers that, despite the imminent flow of oil, if the lawsuit by nine Iowa landowners prevails, it could require that the pipe be removed, forcing Dakota Access to attempt a lengthy and complicated reroute.

Reasnor is a town of 153 people, and everyone we meet is friendly and helpful. The Methodist Church, with a congregation of eight parishioners, opens its doors to us for food and lodging. After dinner, some of us wander down to the D & T Tap, where Zach Ide, Heather Pearson and I break out our guitars. I play The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) and solicit a rousing response from the locals. Perhaps they appreciate the challenge of walking a long distance for an urgent cause. Perhaps I’m just making that up.

But one thing I know for certain: This march is connecting us in ways that we — marchers and locals alike — rarely experience. It’s easy to stay in one’s own social, cultural and online bubble. This march pushes us beyond that bubble and out of our comfort zone. It pushes us to confront the truth that their is no us vs. them. There is only we.

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