Archive for October, 2011

Letter writing to Skidmore

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
posted by becks

Hey all,

First off, just wanted to give a quick update about my status hearing, which happened earlier today. I met with my public defender for about fifteen minutes and told her that I wont take a deal and am taking this to trial.  She met with the prosecutor and all went well–just awaiting the motion for my trial.

I have heard from several folks that they’d be interested in writing letters to the Integrity Board at Skidmore, the people who are making me come before them to justify my actions during the tree sit.  The hearing is currently scheduled for next Friday, November 4th.

I think that it will be important to highlight that although I may have technically broken Skidmore’s policy, there needs to be flexibility within this policy.  This action should be glorified by Skidmore, not condemned; and they need to do a better job (well, a job) at supporting civil disobedience as a way of challenging this system and affecting change.  Although I definitely disagree with how this is being handled, and I know many folks also disagree, I think the letter needs to not talk too poorly on Skidmore and instead try to talk about what they should be doing with this case and how the actions I, along with Squirrel, Eli, and Junior, took should be praised. For more info, check out my previous post.

I would love to bombard the Integrity Board with letters of support, so if you have a free minute, please send something this way:

Don Hastings
Office of Residential Life
Skidmore College
Rounds Hall – 1st floor
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Thank you all for the support!
So much solidarity,

Eli goes to court

Monday, October 17th, 2011
posted by admin

I have already explained in video and through previous posts why I joined this fight for justice. I have not yet explained how I was also able to undertake this task through the bravery shown to me by the tree sitters in their mental and spiritual preparation. As Becks said in their most recent update: “I challenge the legal system . . . I challenge you, and I challenge myself to fight back against this repression and stand up for what is right.”

In beginning to think about the tree sit, we both agreed that fulfilling our personal callings here would require continuing to try to expand the action. The tree sit is meant to challenge the coal companies that poison families and the land. However, state and federal agencies permit the coal companies to continue their dirty work without adequate regulation, oversight or accountability. If we are to do the tree sit, then we should continue this path to challenge the system. The same system that so passively permits coal companies to poison families should then have to actively pursue proving that we are criminals for what we have done.

In beginning to plan this action, I knew that the hopes for continued confrontation with systems of injustice after my arrest, would hinge on receiving some length of continuance from the court. I am a full-time graduate student with a part-time research position in Michigan and numerous volunteer appointments (as well as a treehugger). I’m also working with Coal River Mountain Watch to produce a hydrologic analysis of the cumulative impacts of strip mining on the Elkhorn Creek, Pigeon Creek and Laurel Creek watersheds for eventual litigation. From the time I left West Virginia I had to consider whether to heed my original calling in this action, or challenge the system through policy research and legal strategies with Coal River Mountain Watch. I still hoped for the best outcome possible: both legal strategies and direct action for challenging coal companies and corrupt bureaucracies!

Update from becks [college edition]

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
posted by becks

Yesterday afternoon I received notice from the Dean of Student Conduct at Skidmore College (where I am currently going to school) that I would need to meet in front of the Integrity Board to have my actions from the tree sit judged. The policy that I imagine I violated, which can be found here, says, “In addition to following basic College regulations, community members are also obligated to observe the laws and ordinances of local, state, and federal governments. The College may press charges against community members engaged in criminal activities on or off the campus”  Though I can’t argue that the arrest didn’t happen, I am frustrated by the way Skidmore is choosing to deal with this particular action.  From my understanding, the policy is used in determining consequences for individuals who commit violent actions that harm themselves or others as well as actions that directly affect one’s standing in the larger Saratoga Springs community and/or Skidmore community.  On July 20th, when the tree sit began, I was not a Skidmore student nor had I been a Skidmore student for over a year.  I was in West Virginia, in a location 709 miles away; this nonviolent action did not tarnish my reputation in the Skidmore community and the Saratoga Springs community, nor did i tarnish the reputation of Skidmore College as an institution.

One of the reasons that I participated in this action, besides the fact that mountaintop removal mining poisons and kills communities and destroys rich and bio-diverse lands, is to challenge the powers that are able to dominate our society. The Coal Industry is able to get away with these atrocities because they have an incredible amount of power– politically, legally, socially, and economically.  When we try to fight back by working in the system, by lobbying for instance, we are easily stopped by the politicians who are bought out by Coal. When we try to fight back by working outside of the system, by sitting in trees and halting blasting, we are arrested and tried as “criminals.”  And now, I have another institution who is treating my action and the action of this campaign, as criminal.  Though I wont go as far as to argue that Skidmore College is bought out by coal, it is evident to see where its interests are and its interests certainly do not lie in its students and in its students fighting for what is just.

I challenge the legal system, I challenge Skidmore, I challenge you, and I challenge myself to fight back against this repression and stand up for what is right.  Following something because “that’s the way it is” or because that’s how the policy may be written, is incredibly sad.  Things will not change unless we make them change and I refuse to sit back and be intimidated.

(I am unsure when this meeting will take place, but will certainly update about it. Just like in my criminal case, I don’t believe I am guilty and thus will act accordingly).