Two Catholic worker activists have been indicted on charges for their efforts to try and stop the Dakota Access pipeline. If found guilty, the women face up to 110 years in prison as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Two years ago Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek confessed to acts of sabotage on the Dakota Access pipeline, including damaging pipeline vale sites using a welding torch. The women claimed that the actions were necessary to protect the rivers and waterways that the pipline’s construction threatened. According to The Intercept, the woman reported that they had “no choice but to act.”
In 2017 Reznicek told Democracy Now!:
I think that the oil being taken out of the ground and the machinery that does it and the infrastructure which supports it, that this is violent. This is—these tools and these mechanisms that industry and corporate—corporate power and government power have all colluded together to create, this is destructive, this is violent, and it needs to be stopped.
And we never at all threatened human life. We never at all—and, actually, we’re acting in an effort to save human life, to save our planet, to save our resources. And nothing at any point was ever done by Ruby nor I in anything outside of peaceful, deliberate, and steady loving hands.
Last week a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the defends with nine counts each: one count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, four counts of use of fire in the commission of a felony, and four counts of malicious use of fire. The count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility by itself could lead to up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. All counts combined could leave them with up to 110 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Although the women’s defense, that they had no choice but to act, has yet to be accepted in a federal case related to climate issues, it has been accepted in lower courts, especially in the cases of pipeline protesters.
According to The Intercept:
Civil liberties lawyers say the charges are in line with industry-inspired scare tactics meant to deter citizens from participating in direct-action protests or acts of sabotage against oil and gas companies. As the deadly impacts of carbon emissions grow ever clearer, the fossil fuel industry has increased pressure on lawmakers and government officials to penalize those who would inhibit their projects’ operations.
Faced with 10-year mandatory minimums, Lauren Regan executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center who is representing Montoya says it is too early to tell if the women will continue with this defense strategy.
Reznicek and Montoya were a part of the activist organization Mississipi Stand, which carried out protests along the Iowa leg of the Dakota Access pipeline. After the pipeline’s valves were sabotaged the women became the target of an investigation by the mercenary security company TigerSwan, which went so far as to send one of their contractors under cover posing as a water protector to get information on the two women.
During an industry energy conference last year, Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer, the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline, referred to Reznicek and Montoya’s actions, stating: “I think you’re talking about somebody who needs to be removed from the gene pool.”
The trial for Reznicek and Montoya is set for December 2.