Tar Sands Trail Begins Monday January 27

14800_588890957864124_550682738_nby Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands

On January 27 members of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MICATS) begin jury selection in their trial for an action against Enbridge Energy in July 2013. MICATS folks locked themselves to machinery expanding tar sands pipleline 6b. This is the same pipe that burst in 2010, spilling more than one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. While Enbridge has been focusing on building a bigger pipe, deadlines for cleaning up the river have been passing. There are still an estimated 80,000 to 280,000 gallons of tar sands in the Kalamazoo today.

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered Enbridge to remove all of the “recoverable oil”- only 12,000-18,000 gallons- by December 31. That day came and went without even this small amount of oil being removed, yet criminal charges are pending for 4 of the people who were stopping Enbridge from expanding their destruction. While the criminal justice system is anything but just, and filing charges against Enbridge will not halt environmental destruction, it is flagrantly unjust to threaten those fighting for a livable planet with 2-3 years in prison for their actions.

Felony Resisting and Obstructing: Michigan’s Law Against the People

In Michigan doing anything other than exactly what the police tell you to means getting charged with a felony. They say stay on your porch and you go back inside your home- felony. They tell you to relax and you tighten up- felony. Dare to question an order the police give- felony. If you are blockading a tar sands pipeline, the cops tell you to unlock, and you continue to stand your ground- felony? The answer will come after the trail that begins Monday, January 27 in Ingham County Michigan.

Michigan’s Resisting and Obstructing law, statute MCL 750.479 defines “obstruct” as “the use or threatened use of physical interference or force or a knowing failure to comply with a lawful command.” The good news in that is that the command must be lawful. Not much, but better than nothing! Until the case of People v. Moreno in April of 2012 people were commonly arrested for not complying with unlawful commands. The case of Angel Moreno started when the police showed up at his home and demanded to be let in. When Angel asked about a warrant, and found that they did not have one, he refused them entry. The police illegally forced their way inside to “secure the premises” while waiting for a search warrant- and they arrested Angel Moreno for resisting their illegal entry. The case had to go all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court because the trial court ruled that although the police were acting unlawfully, he had no right to obstruct them!

To-Exist-is-to-ResistIn most of the U.S. when someone is charged with “resisting” there are misdemeanors for resisting police “without violence to his/her person”, and felonies for other actions. Michigan’s law, rewritten with the help of prosecutors in the early 2000s, takes out the misdemeanor level offense and makes it a 2 year felony even if no “violence” or injury are present. Since 2002 this has been a tool of racist police to disrupt communities and fill jails and prisons across the state. Frequently people are in jail for months or years at a time with R&O as the only charge. Thanks to commonly known practices of racial profiling, and stop and frisk by police departments, we know that R&O is especially hard on anyone not perceived as white.

In July 2013 members of MICATS used lockboxes to attach themselves to machinery at an Enbridge construction site for the pipeline 6b. Line 6b will over double the capacity of the old pipe and will tie into a much larger network of pipelines that are pumping Tar Sands out of Alberta, Canada and into refineries poisoning communities of color. The four folks who locked onto equipment are being charged with Resisting and Obstructing for refusing to unlock from equipment. They are all facing 2-3 years in prison for this action.

There are many things to do to be helpful with this. Stuart Dunnings III is the prosecutor in Ingham County who needs to be contacted and urged to drop the felony charges against the MICATS Felonious Four-his office number is 517.483.6272 or email sdunnings[at]ingham.org. Solidarity actions are the best! Take action the week of January 27 (and forever after) in solidarity with MI CATS and against Enbridge, industrial exploitation, state repression, or anything crappy! More ideas for supporting the Felonious Four can be found here

Changing this law to stop the incarceration of thousands across Michigan is a longer and harder road. The groundwork for building a movement against this is just beginning, and the action possibilities are endless. From letters to the editor and contacting State representatives in Michigan and urge them to take on this issue, to building solidarity and support for those incarcerated by this law, to civil disobedience and direct actions at local courts, jails and government buildings (watch out for those charges though!). It also time to contact lawyers and friends in Michigan to ask for help; and let the Michigan Supreme Court know that a case is headed their way to overturn this law and urge them to support the change- (517) 373-0120.

Trial updates can be found at michigancats.org

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