Preparing for Trial in North Dakota

58408707190cf_800x686-56195462478UPDATE:  My trial has been postponed until February or March, because there are so many court cases.  Shirley’s trial is now scheduled for Jan. 31, together with Janie and Christy’s.  Their trials could be postponed as well.

 

As the New Year approaches, four of us from Nevada County who were arrested in November during a nonviolent action near Standing Rock are preparing to return to North Dakota in January for trial.   The lawyers we have retained are in touch with the Water Protectors Legal Collective, the legal team that bailed us out of jail and keeps us updated about trials related to Standing Rock.

My trial is scheduled for January 13, so it’s coming up soon.  My lawyer is trying to have it rescheduled to January 31, so I can travel and go to court with Janie and Christy, whose trials are scheduled for that date.  Shirley’s trial has not yet been scheduled.  Evidently the courts are overwhelmed, so my lawyer says that some of our cases may be postponed or even dropped.

But trials are moving forward.  According to the Water Protectors Legal Collective, “Criminal prosecutions of the over 500 Water Protectors who have been arrested since August are moving forward rapidly, amidst an extremely hostile criminal legal system.  Hundreds of Water Protectors will be in court during the next few weeks.”

The first trials related to Standing Rock were held these last two weeks of December.  The first case was continued because the prosecutor had failed to provide the defense team with evidence that could exonerate the defendants.  Several other cases were continued due to the holidays and the difficulty of getting to court because of the recent blizzard.  On December 20, those who appeared had a jury trial, were found guilty, and were sentenced to 10 days in jail.  All 10 days were suspended for those willing to pay $500 to Morton County and $500 in court costs.  According to the Legal Collective, “Though disappointing, the sentence is much better than the plea bargain the prosecution had offered prior to trial.”

We will see how these cases proceed.  Each case is different, and the charges vary.  I am charged with “obstructing a government function” (I thought I was obstructing a corporate function).  It is a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious, carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail, though I doubt that the sentence will be that harsh.

I welcome the opportunity to “speak truth to power” through the court system in support of the water protectors at Standing Rock.  By standing up for what we believe and refusing to be intimidated, we discover the strength we have.  By acting for justice in solidarity with others, the way forward becomes clear.  Both personal and social transformation become possible and hope becomes a reality.

For those who are able to make a year-end donation:

Donate to the Crowdfunding Site for our Legal Fees.  This is tax-deductible because it is being administered through local nonprofit Earth Justice Ministries.  Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are close to our goal of raising enough money to pay the up-front fees for our lawyers.  Additional funds will go towards travel and lodging as we return to stand trial.  Funds that we don’t need for our trials will be donated to the Water Protectors Legal Collective.

Donate to the Water Protectors Legal Collective, which paid our bail, are working with our lawyers, and are keeping us updated about trials related to Standing Rock.  They are also raising money to assist people with travel and housing who need to return to stand trial.

Donate to the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the main camp at Standing Rock.  As of today, they are not accepting any physical donations except firewood and cash.

 

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 Find previous blog postings about Standing Rock.  

In Court for Anti-Drone Action

drones make enemies

I appeared in federal court again yesterday for engaging in civil disobedience with four others during an anti-drone action at Beale Air Force Base last October.  This time we were in court  facing Judge Katherine K. Delaney in order to set a new trial date.  This is no small effort, since so many people will need to be there for the trial:  government prosecutors, witnesses from the base, five defendants (including me), and five defense lawyers, one for each of us.  It took some juggling of schedules to arrive at a date that would work for all of us.

The date finally agreed upon is August 12.  Several motions will be filed before then, by both the defense and the prosecution.

A prosecutor stated that he will put forth a motion to bar “the necessity defense.”  If the judge rules in his favor on this motion, it will be more difficult for us to build the case that we risked arrest because it was necessary in order to prevent a greater harm (that is, the deaths of thousands in drone strikes).

Our defense lawyers plan to request a jury trial.  The judge could agree to this, but since our charge, misdemeanor trespass, carries a penalty of no more than six months of jail time, she is under no obligation to do so.  Our lawyers are also hoping to call expert witnesses to testify about the threat posed by drones.  We were heartened to hear that on April 24th, the judge in the Transform Now Plowshares case allowed expert testimony from former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.  Read the remarkable transcript of his testimony here.

It seems to me that people are waking up to the reality that there’s something cowardly, inhuman, and just plain wrong with illegal targeted assassinations by remote-control killer drones.  U.S. drones have killed thousands of people, mostly civilians, including hundreds of children. We are creating enemies, making our world less secure.  Over fifty countries now have drones.  If we use drones for targeted killings, other countries will be emboldened to follow our example and use them, too.

I trust that the tide of public opinion is turning against support for the U.S. drone warfare program.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a small wave in the larger ocean, filled with wave upon wave of people working together to change the direction of the tide.

Courtrooms can be boring, dry, and depressing, but as I sat in court yesterday, I experienced the presence of God.  We have no idea what God can do when we take a stand for justice, big or small.  As I sat there in the courtroom there was no place I would rather be.

Tax Day Demonstration Against Drones

children killed 6

Our anti-drone action this morning at the federal courthouse in Sacramento was one of many actions taking place around the country this month, during the April Days of Action Against Drones.  Five of us still face federal charges for trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base last October during an anti-drone protest.  We were protesting drones based at Beale, Black Hawk surveillance drones, which identify targets for killer drones.  Even more, we were challenging our government’s illegal and morally reprehensible policies that include kill lists, targeted assassinations, and remote-control killing.  You can read about my motivation for taking this action at “Why I Crossed the Line at Beale.”

Our trial was originally scheduled for today, but it’s been postponed.  Still, April 15, Tax Day, is a good day for a demonstration against drones.  The drone program consumes billions of our tax dollars.  Our government cuts programs that promote the common good and serve basic human needs, while it pours billions into hi-tech robotic killing machines that destroy human lives and communities halfway around the world.

U.S. drones have killed thousands of people, mostly civilians, including women and children.  We know many of their names.  They are our neighbors, fellow members of our one human family.  But the more people we kill, the more enemies we create.  We are setting into motion a cycle of violence that may last for generations.

Friends from the Radical Art for These Times group brought a quilt-like banner they had created for this action.  After looking at the paintings of children who have been killed by U.S. drones, and reading their names, ages, and their countries of origin, Guari and I stood there, held each other, and cried.

There has to be a better way.  Another world is possible.  It will take all of us working together to create a grassroots movement with the power to raise public awareness, inspire action, and pressure our public officials to change the system of global military domination to one of peace.

I trust that the Love that brought this universe into being and sustains us in every moment is on the side of compassion, healing, and peace, and is working through every person who is moving us toward a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.  That’s where I see God in the world.