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Update: Contested Omnibus Hearing

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

It was a rainy, cold day for a rally today - but we are grateful to do it!

On May 8th, the Four Necessity Valve Turners appeared in Itasca County Court in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, to give testimony to support their claim that the necessity defense is justified for their case. The defense legal team was notified that this would be the focus of the contested omnibus hearing last Friday, which was insufficient time to line up expert witnesses to support the case. Because of this our legal team, Tim Phillips and Jen McEwen, asked and were granted permission to present written affidavits from the expert witnesses in coming weeks after hearing verbal testimony from each of the Four Necessity Valve Turners during the hearing. This oral testimony began around 3 pm and continued until after 6 pm, longer than the stated 2-hour hearing limit, with two short recesses.

The testimony needed to prove that each defendant took action to avert greater harm, and must meet the following challenges:

  • The defendant reasonably believed there was threat of imminent danger that they did not cause

  • There was no practical, legal alternative action that would prevent the harm

  • The harm caused by the illegal act is less than the imminent danger

  • The action taken can be reasonably expected to impact the imminent danger

All of the defendants spoke eloquently to each of these points. Allyson highlighted how successful legislative campaigns are futile in the face of the oil industry lobby. Daniel presented a wealth of research and the immediacy of the climate crisis. Brenna shared how successful mass action campaigns are often overturned by the oil industry, and the president. Finally, Michele highlighted the depth of commitment to nonviolence as a long tradition in our movement, and our belief in the spirit, ancestors, angels and holy friends guiding our action. She also recalled our attention to how great a struggle it was to pass laws, and how systematically they are being dismantled by the government at this critical moment in the climate crisis, representing a great threat to our own wellbeing.

The hearing also confirmed that the state prosecutor, upon contacting Enbridge, confirmed there was no damage to the valve. The second felony charge (property damage exceeding $1,000) was thus dropped. The charges that stand include aiding and abetting attempted damage to pipeline property and misdemeanor property damage.

Yesterday several other groups took action in Duluth opposing Enbridge Line 3. While we could not be with them, or them with us, we are grateful for each other's mutual support and believe that in spirit we are together. We are deeply inspired by the continuing effort to take grassroots action in the face of climate change, and believe that this is our best hope for the future.

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