What Role for Civil Disobedience?

Bidder 70 poster.387“The decision to actively, deliberately, and peacefully disobey specific laws or rules can play an important role in any social movement, just as other tactics such as lobbying, electoral work, and public education play important roles. Civil disobedience reflects core American values first articulated by Henry David Thoreau and used effectively by abolitionists, suffragists, and in the civil rights movement by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.” – Sierra Club’s President Allison Chin and Executive Director Michael Brune on the Sierra Club’s recent suspension of its 120 year old policy against civil disobedience. They were arrested along with 46 other environmental leaders at the White House on February 13, 2013 during an organized protest against inaction on climate change.

Tim DeChristopher’s story of civil disobedience and subsequent prison time is documented in a film released last year and coming to Court Square Theater (CST, tickets are $6 in advance or at the door) on Earth Day 2013:  Bidder 70.  “On December 19, 2008 Tim DeChristopher disrupted a highly disputed Utah BLM Oil and Gas lease auction, effectively safeguarding thousands of acres of pristine Utah land that were slated for oil and gas leases. Not content to merely protest outside, Tim entered the auction hall and registered as bidder #70. He outbid industry giants on land parcels (which, starting at $2 an acre, were adjacent to national treasures like Canyonlands National Park), winning 22,000 acres of land worth $1.7 million before the auction was halted.”

The April 22 CST showing is the day after Tim DeChristopher’s scheduled release from prison on April 21, 2013.  “After screening Bidder 70,… we will be part of a nationwide SKYPE Q&A with Tim from the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City.”

DeChristopher’s actions were an inspiration to over 1200 climate change activists who were arrested in August 2011 at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. CAAV founder Cathy Strickler, her husband Charlie and CAAV members Laura and Bishop Dansby were among this dedicated group.

On March 21 “religiously and spiritually rooted Americans of all traditions … gather(ed) at the White House for a moral act of loving nonviolent civil disobedience,” as organized by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate. Valley resident and CAAV member April Moore writes about her experience of being among the 15 arrested at this event in Thoughts from a Climate Jailbird for fiftyoverfifty.org.

Fifty Over Fifty is a new effort by Lawrence MacDonald of Washington, D.C. who says his organization “is an appeal to a small number of boomers — members of the US baby boom generation — to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to push for sensible climate policies in the hope that this can help to avert catastrophe.  We call this effort 50 over 50 x 50 because we believe that members of our generation (over 50 years old)  have the means and the responsibility to act and that a few dozen of us in each of the 50 states (50 x 50) can tip public opinion in favor of action if  we are prepared to organize at the grassroots level, speak out, risk arrest and occasionally spend some time in jail.”

The need for action on climate change is seeing increasing use of civil disobedience to get attention. The upcoming Bidder 70 screening could be a perfect time for a community discussion on use of this controversial strategy. Courageous Leadership: Civil Disobedience and Climate Disruption has been planned by area groups to precede the showing of Bidder 70. This panel discussion will feature Sierra Club president Allison Chin.

Find the showing’s facebook event page here. Find the preceding forum’s facebook event page here.

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