Victory in Detroit Environmental Civil Disobedience Action

Photo by Valerie Jean

By Rev. Bill Kellerman (and various press releases)

Editor’s note: All charges have been dropped in the Detroit civil disobedience environmental action. What follows is a statement from Rev. Bill Kellerman along with information from various press releases.

We blocked all the doors (and eventually the parking lot) of the Michigan Department Environmental Quality (MDEQ) headquarters, plus surrounded the building with crime scene tape because of environmental concerns: namely, the Flint water poisoning, Line 5, Nestle’s and U.S. ecology on June 4, 2018. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, this contributed to the largest focused and coordinated campaign of civil disobedience in US history.

Some thirty people were arrested in this action. A number took a “diversion program” offer early on. Others pled “no contest” to a misdemeanor and made a personal statement on the record. Thirteen of us have been preparing for a trial originally scheduled for next week on a charge of “disturbing a lawful meeting,” (though the wording of the charge was still in dispute). We were on notice that Chief Judge Louise Alderson of 54a District Court in Ingham County was postponing the jury trial until June, since it was becoming clear that this would take more than a day or two and she was actively considering allowing a defense of ‘Justiication/Necessity.” 

The thirteen are

Rabbi Alana Alpert
Carolynn Baker
Claire McClinton
Justin Sledge
Carlos Santacruz
Baxter Jones
Rev. Liz Theoharris
Rev. Deb Hansen
Rev. Ed Rowe
Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Richard Levey
Sylvia Ordono
Leah Wiste
(organizations or affiliations can be had for each)

The defense of justification would have focused on MDEQ permitting for:
The Flint Water Poisoning
Line 5
And US Ecology

The trial was scheduled for May 14, exactly one year from the first direct action in the PPC Launch. The prosecutor has dismissed all charges “in the interest of justice.” The judge initially said she would reject the Necessity Defense in its entirety; but, after the defense team presented the legal/ factual basis for the defense, with a comprehensive Memo of Law and exhibits to support a jury’s finding of imminent harm caused by the MDEQ, the judge acknowledged that these were serious issues to be considered.  She rescheduled the trial to June 24, to allow sufficient time for her to consider the applicability of the Necessity Defense in these cases. Two days later, the prosecution dismissed all charges against all the defendants — rather than face the likelihood of acquittal based on necessity. 

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