DES MOINES, IOWA — The trial of the Iowa Climate Defenders Five (Todd Steichen, Martin Monroe, Miriam Kashia, Kathy Byrnes, and Ed Fallon) is scheduled to move forward on Tuesday, November 12 at 2:00 at the Polk County Justice Center, 222 5th Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Before the trial at 1:30, the five will hold a press conference outside the building.
On June 11, 2019, President Trump visited Hy-Vee’s Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines for a GOP rally and fundraiser. Thirty Bold Iowa supporters called out the president’s climate denial to him and attendees. Initially, protesters blocked one of the entrances to the facility’s parking lot. Later, five carrying a banner approached the building, hoping to enter and bring their urgent message to the attention of the president and the audience. At that point, they were arrested by West Des Moines police for simple misdemeanor trespass.
“Women’s right to vote. Civil rights. Stopping the Vietnam War. Environmental protections. The Women’s Movement. LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. These and so many other significant social justice shifts were accomplished because ordinary citizens were willing to take to the streets, and in many cases, willing to commit civil disobedience,” said Kashia. “History tells us that this is what has turned the tide.”
“We risked arrest because it’s urgent that we capture the attention of politicians, the press, and the public in this unprecedented moment where saving human life and the planet is on the line,” said Fallon. “We wanted to emphasize to those gathered at the rally and fundraiser that climate change threatens our very survival, and a president who denies the problem — whose policies in fact greatly exacerbate the threat — must be called out and challenged.”
The urgency of climate change is also shared by Iowa scientists in the Iowa Climate Statement and in a report by the Iowa DNR. Both warn about the harm being done because of our dependence on fossil fuels.
Furthermore, earlier this year, the Iowa Supreme Court stated in its ruling in Puntenney vs the Iowa Utilities Board (the Dakota Access Pipeline case), page 37, “We recognize that a serious and warranted concern about climate change underlies some of the opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline.”
Because of the worsening climate emergency, the Iowa Climate Defenders Five feel called to act in the interest of present and future generations and the planet. Similar cases across the country have seen judges responding more sympathetically to the climate necessity defense.
The Climate Necessity Defense: A Legal Tool for Climate Activists
The climate necessity defense is an argument made by a criminal defendant to justify action taken on behalf of the planet. It’s offered by activists who have been arrested for protesting fossil fuel extraction and government inaction on climate policy.Climate Disobedience Center http://www.climatedisobedience.org/necessitydefense
The climate necessity defense is associated with the tradition of civil disobedience — the deliberate violation of the law to confront a moral problem. People who commit civil disobedience believe that they are obeying a higher moral law or code. Sometimes the existing criminal law doesn’t align with this higher morality, and so disobedience is required in order to live morally. Climate necessity defendants argue that their actions were not really illegal: they were acting in the public interest, which the law protects.Instead of seeking a plea agreement or trying to win an acquittal, defendants offering the climate necessity defense admit their criminal conduct but argue that it was necessary to avoid a greater harm. The basic idea behind the defense — also known as a “choice of evils,” “competing harms,” or “justification” defense — is that the impacts of climate change are so serious that breaking the law is necessary to avert them.
By admitting their conduct and asking a judge or jury to find them not guilty by reason of necessity, activists draw attention to injustice and the failure of the law to protect the planet.
Because the climate necessity defense asks people to make judgments about individual responsibility, legal obligation, and the good of society, it is essentially a moral argument couched in the language of criminal law.