[The pictures are from other activist events, that are not otherwise described here.] This has been quite a week and it’s only Wednesday. On Monday, I was arraigned in the Concord, NH court for criminal trespassing at a climate protest in September. The process went well, as expected. We, ten defendants, all pleaded not guilty and now have a February 14, 2020 court date for ‘trial management’, when we will work out details for a trial, which the court does not want. On February 14, all 66 defendants will be present, instead of 10-11 at a time, which is happening now, on consecutive Mondays.
The judge asked each of us, in turn, if we understood the offense we were being charged with: “that I, knowing that I was not licensed or privileged to do so, did enter onto a secure premises, the Granite Shore Power/Merrimack Station, in defiance of an order to leave or not to enter, which was personally communicated to her by an authorized person.” Each time I heard it read, in my mind, I saw the face of the officer on the other side of the gate with the No Trespassing sign, as he said to me, “please don’t do this.”
One at a time, we pled (pleaded?) ‘not guilty’. Our response was based on an ‘affirmative defense’, which is used when a lesser ‘crime’ is used to prevent a greater crime. For example, if I broke into a house to save a person from dying, the lesser ‘crime’ of breaking in would be excused. In our case, the lesser crime of criminal trespassing will, hopefully, be excused in recognition of the greater crime of climate damage by the coal plant.
I was the ninth defendant to respond to her questions and the eight before me each said, one at a time in response to the question, ‘How do you plead?’, ‘not guilty’. I said with confidence and satisfaction, ‘Your Honor, I am not guilty.’
It was quite an experience.
So that was Monday. Yesterday, Tuesday, I took the train into Boston to testify at the Massachusetts State House about three items at a hearing. I unexpectedly saw two Quaker friends, there with the same purpose as me, which added to my pleasure of the day. Adding to our excitement was the fire alarm going off after we had spent half an hour in line going through security, then another half hour at the beginning of the hearing. After calmly exiting the building, we were required to go through security again before settling into the hearing one more time.
I needed to have a written copy to give to the committee chair. When it was my turn, after about a dozen others had spoken, here’s what I said:
Resolve S 1877 and H 2776 each support creation of a special commission relative to the seal and motto of the Commonwealth. I support these because our state flag and seal are offensive to Native Americans, as they should be to all of us, because they remind us of the violent conquest of indigenous people in Massachusetts. At some point in the past, the image used on the Massachusetts turnpike was changed from a pilgrim’s hat with an arrow through it because its offensiveness was recognized.
When we are routinely exposed to images like these, we absorb implicit messages without being entirely conscious of them. These particular images position indigenous peoples as enemies, other, different, each of which promotes exclusion and separation, the opposite of what we want to promote among the people of our state.
I oppose H 2719, labeled as an act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts, which actually would penalize those who boycott for Palestinian rights. It was defeated last year and refiled. The right to boycott is an essential part of our First Amendment Rights. We must preserve it.
I am a Quaker and, as such, boycotting is often an important part of my nonviolent approach to encouraging and securing a desired change. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit Israel and Palestine and to witness firsthand the sharp differences in rights and opportunities in their roads, their access to water and electricity, and their personal freedoms. Penalizing anyone wanting to boycott for Palestinian rights is not an acceptable path for us.
So that was yesterday. Today, recalling these actions in writing is the perfect action, because, as an activist, I want my actions to be underlined and bolded and shared.