By Deirdre Fulton / Common Dreams

A climate activist and two documentary filmmakers were arraigned Thursday in Washington state for their roles in last week’s #ShutItDown act of non-violent civil disobedience. 

Ken Ward of Oregon, who was arrested for closing a safety valve on Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain tar sands pipeline in Anacortes, Washington, faces charges of burglary, criminal trespass, sabotage, and assemblages of saboteurs.

Videographers Lindsey Grayzel and Carl Davis, who were on site documenting Ward’s actions—but did not participate—were arraigned on conspiracy charges. Four other activists, two support team members, and another independent documentary filmmaker are also facing charges in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.

Ahead of his participation in the “unprecedented” protest, 59-year-old Ward explained why he was taking part: “There is no plan of action, policy, or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin. Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats—oil sands fuels and coal.”

In a statement on Thursday, Ward reiterated that sentiment, noting that he is “a responsible and law-abiding citizen” whose previous brushes with the law also involved attempts to avert climate catastrophe. In 2013, Ward and one other activist blockaded a shipment of West Virginia coal from arriving at Brayton Point Power Station in Massachusetts—an act for which they were later praised by a local district attorney who dropped all charges against them. Then last year, Ward took part in the Break Free from Fossil Fuels oil train blockade, also in Anacortes. 

“I did these things because I believe that it is the obligation of every thinking person to find a way to stave off climate cataclysm, and there is no effective, legal alternative to personal direct action,” Ward said. 

He cited a recent study from Oil Change International that showed the vast majority of fossil fuels must be left in the ground for a good chance at a habitable planet.

“In this context and with these terrible imperatives,” Ward said, “my actions of walking across a field and cutting a fence chain are inconsequential and excusable compared to the ghastly effect of continuing to burn tar sands oil.”

Deirdre Fulton is a staff writer at Common Dreams.

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