“Those who write the rules are those who profit from the status-quo. If we want to change that status-quo, we might have to work outside of those rules because the legal pathways available to us have been structured precisely to make sure we don’t have any substantial change.”
Tim DeChristopher speaking at the Chicago History Museum. Photo by: Shirley Coenen.
A tall, wiry man in a black fitted suit stepped up to the podium. He adjusted his glasses and with a smile said to the eager audience, ” If you would please all take out your NSA tracking devices, and put them on silent that’d be great.” Jokingly he continued on, “Here at Haymarket Books we try to make the NSA work a little bit for their illegal information…but seriously feel free to take out the battery of your phone.”
It was a Friday evening in Lincoln Park’s Chicago History Museum. Never had I been in a place with so many like-minded, passionate activists for climate justice.
Walking around the lobby of the museum I joined in conversations of intellectuals ranging from a group of economists debating how capitalism affects the environment, some Ph.D sociology students discussing how Marxism is related to current environmental protection laws,and a group of environmentalists who were recently charged with felony crimes for protesting oil pipeline construction in Michigan.
We were all there for the same reason: we were inspired by Tim DeChristopher and his organization called Peaceful Uprising.
In 2008, DeChristopher disrupted a government oil and gas lease auction in an effort to protect Utah’s pristine wilderness and was imprisoned for 21 months.
“The presiding federal judge, made clear at my sentencing [in 2011] when he said this wasn’t about my actions; it was about my words. What I actually did was not that big of a deal, he admitted, but because I was continuing to speak out since the auction, criticizing the government and encouraging civil disobedience, that is why I needed to go to prison. The judge said very directly that if I hadn’t continued speaking out after the auction I wouldn’t have been prosecuted in the first place. And that’s something that’s been very much in line with the Obama administration in the way that they treat whistle-blowers or anyone who speaks out against the government or embarrasses those in power. They have been more repressive against whistle-blowers than any previous administration, and I think that my case just fits that pattern.”
His commitment to saving our fragile earth was evident throughout his speech. At times I could feel the strong emotions of the room, and the palpable silence as Tim spoke out for science, reasoning, and what is morally right for all humanity.
” Up until 2009 we had a theory of appeasement to those in power, we tried to appeal to them and reduce emissions. We tried to do what is politically feasible” he continued. “That was an utter failure. An alternative theory of change to rise up, in order to create change we have to pressure those in power, not appease them. We need to confront them, that’s what is going on right now.”
Video of DeChristopher on David Letterman’s show this past June.