Boston Judge Rules Thirteen Pipeline Protesters Not Responsible

West Roxbury District Court ruled 13 pipeline protesters not responsible for demonstrations against a natural gas pipeline

  • The demonstrations occurred in 2015 when protesters halted construction of a natural gas pipeline in the Boston suburb of West Roxbury

  • Over 198 protesters were reportedly arrested during the 2015 demonstrations

  • Judge Mary Ann Driscoll made the decision that the 13 defendants were not responsible

  • One of the 13 defendants on Tuesday was former Vice President Al Gore’s daughter Karenna Gore

On Tuesday, a West Roxbury district judge found thirteen pipeline protesters not responsible for climbing into holes dug for a high-pressure national gas pipeline in 2015.

The thirteen protesters made the argument that their actions were part of an effort to stop climate change and a legal “necessity.” Judge Mary Ann Driscoll of West Roxbury District Court heard each of the defendant’s explanation of why they felt it was important to halt development of the pipeline.

Shortly before the Tuesday’s court date, prosecutors downgraded the original charges to one of a civil infraction according to the Independent. However, Driscoll went on to rule the defendants as not responsible, which is equivalent to not guilty. An unnamed member of court staff confirmed the judge decided the defendants not responsible, but denied that it was out of legal necessity.

The pipeline was being built by Houston-based Spectra Energy. Last year Spectra Energy was bought by Canadian firm Enbridge Inc. During the 2015 demonstrations, more than 198 arrests were made. One of those arrested was the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore, Karenna Gore.

Gore is the Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminar in New York. The mission goal on the Center for Earth Ethics website reads, “We work to cultivate the public consciousness needed to make changes in policy and culture that will establish a new value system that is based on this vision of the world.”

Outside of the courtroom, 44-year-old Gore referred to Driscoll’s decision as historic.

The people….were found not responsible by reason of necessity. The irony is that we are making ourselves responsible. We’re part of the the movement that is standing up and saying we won’t let this go by on our watch. We won’t act like nothing’s wrong.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben tweeted out the news following Driscoll’s decision. In the tweet, McKibben claimed the decision may be a first in American history.

Good golly! A few minutes ago a Boston judge acquitted 13 pipeline protesters on the grounds that the climate crisis made it necessary for them to commit civil disobedience. This may be a first in America. Details to follow, and go to @ClimateDisobey for some live video.

Peter Bowden posted three interviews from outside the courthouse to his YouTube channel and to his Twitter. In the video description area on his YouTube, Bowden gives a more in-depth description of the case that reads as follows.

March 27th, 2018 Boston, MA: 13 defendants appeared in court for their acts of civil disobedience resisting the construction of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. This fracked gas pipeline was opposed by the local community and local, city, and state elected officials. After the state prosecutor reduced criminal charges for the defendants to civil infractions — basically the equivalent of a parking ticket — today 3/27/18 the defendants called on the judge to find them not responsible for the charges by necessity. After hearing statements from the defendants they were found to be not responsible by necessity.

About this trial and defendants from the Climate Disobedience Center:…

In the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, Spectra Energy was building a fracked-gas pipeline off of their existing AIM pipeline. Beginning October 7, 2015, Resist The Pipeline began a campaign of climate disobedience, getting in the way of active pipeline construction. Climate Disobedience Center founder Marla Marcum provided training, logistical and jail support for Resist the Pipeline.

The campaign grew, and eventually 198 people were arrested over the course of a year. The tactics escalated as well, beginning with just a few individuals in front of equipment and ending with large days of mass occupation, and other more disruptive actions.

13 activists from the campaign, including 6 who participated in the June 29 “Mass Graves” action pictured above are taking their defense to trial. Their cases are currently scheduled for trial March 27th. The activists are committed to mounting a climate necessity defense, arguing that they had no reasonable alternative to putting themselves in the path of the pipeline’s construction. If the jury is allowed to decide whether the defendants’ actions were necessary in order to prevent a greater harm, we’ll have a legal precedent that communities across the country can use in their own resistance to pipelines and other infrastructure.



About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.

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