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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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 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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DAPL Contractor Reaches Out

Dear Friends,

Recently, Heather Pearson was contacted by a former DAPL contractor, who said to her:

Heather Pearson, leading the chants at the Women’s March in Des Moines.

“I have the highest respect for what you and others are doing to protect the environment. Truth be told, I really had no idea about the concerns involving the pipeline, or knew much about it at all. Boy, was I in for a shock!

“Regarding Dakota Access, I’ve never had a position working for such a morally bankrupt entity. I struggled with it everyday. You always hear about corruption in large corporations, but when I witnessed it firsthand…WOW!

“When my contract ended, I was so relieved to be out of work. I did get to meet a lot of wonderful people over the course of my contract. I also learned a great deal about DAPL and how they do business. Like I said, I have the highest respect for you and others like you. Keep up the good work! Keep up the fight! You have support in unlikely places!”

Heather’s conversation, and the fact that the contractor reached out to her, is nothing short of amazing.

The contractor also told Heather that DAPL was so concerned about our “BATs” — the Bold Action Teams we mobilized last fall to stop construction — security formed special units to respond to the BATs. How’s that for validation that our efforts were effective!

In sharing this story, Heather writes: “Once people realize that this is just a corrupt, private corporation that wants to ship its toxic sludge to the export market via our farmland and watersheds, people tend to oppose the project. We must keep up the fight. We must continue to spread the message. We must take time to talk to people and combat the mountains of disinformation out there. We have to make our voices heard. It works!”

Heather’s story is a reminder that everything we do makes a difference. It’s also a reminder that, in the spirit of nonviolence, we must always show kindness and respect toward workers, law enforcement and security personnel.

Ed Fallon

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