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Climate activist Abby Brockway sits atop a tripod blocking a BNSF oil train in Everett, Washington in September 2014. (Photo: Delta 5)

Historic Test for Climate Defenders Dealt Legal Blow

Delta 5, who staged blockade of oil train, lost ability to use 'necessity defense'

Andrea Germanos

A group of climate activists known as the Delta 5 facing trial for blocking an oil train were reportedly dealt a blow on Thursday when the judge "undercut their ability" to defend their act of civil disobedience on the basis of the threat of climate change.

Though last week Snohomish County Judge Anthony Howard took the unprecedented step of allowing the defense to use the "necessity defense"—an argument to justify action taken on behalf of the planet—it now appears the jury will not be able to consider that defense.

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher, who has been tweeting developments from the courtroom, posted the news:

It was also tweeted by the organization Environmental Action:

As Common Dreams previously reported, in September 2014, the defendants, Patrick Mazza, Abby Brockway, Mike Lapointe, Jackie Minchew, and Liz Spoerri staged an 8-hour blockade of a BNSF rail line carrying crude oil through the town of Everett, Washington by tying themselves to a 25-foot tripod structure which they had erected over the tracks.

Spoerri said her aim with the action "was to oppose WA state becoming a fan for the fires of climate chaos," and that her hope was for others to "be inspired to block carbon exports and prevent climate chaos in any way they can."

DeChristopher, who spent two years in federal prison for disrupting a federal auction of oil and gas leases, wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday at the Guardian that "the principled position of the activists demonstrates the potential of power rooted in love rather than force. The activists bring a vision of justice that shames the mere legalism of the state."

"Around the globe climate movements are trying to build power. Some of those are trying to build power based on an old model from a dying empire," he continued. "Here, in the trial of the Delta 5, the climate movement is building a new kind of power, grounded in interdependency and wielded through vulnerability. Our rapidly evolving and unstable world demands no less."

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