About 40 supporters of Barb Carter, Lisa Leggio and Vicci Hamlin have been braving the cold these last couple of days to show their support for civil disobedience against the dubious corporate practices of Enbridge Energy. Folks spent an hour and a half parading outside of the Mason County Courthouse with signs reading “Jurors: Vote your Conscience” and “Jurors: You are Making History”.
When the trial started, the courtroom was almost packed. Following advisement from the judge, and the Prosecuting attorney’s bland opening statement, the Defense eloquently explained that the State would be unable to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, and that they had to hold the State to the burdan of proof. Defense attorney Josh Covert gave a true, heartfelt monologue about the ecosystems and breathtaking beauty that moved Lisa Leggio to take her actions.
The state’s witnesses included a bunch of Enbridge supervisors, managers, etc, followed a slew of cops. Exhaustively, it was all established. Yes, these three people were at the scene. And yes, they did not have permission to be there. No, they didn’t unlock when the cops asked them to. This was the point of the action.
The judge told these same defendants, and their climate conscious supporters earlier that he has “no patience with people coming in and trying to “use his courtroom for publicity purposes”. This attitude really showed. For a while it seemed like whenever our lawyers would bring up an objection, he would throw it out, and whenever the state prosecuting attorney would do the same thing, he supported her on it.
First, we heard from Micah Harris, an Enbridge supervisor who oversees the pipeline project from a property perspective, dealing with the acquisition of easements, temporary access rights, and writing up contracts. According to his testimony, it’s common for Enbridge to make contracts with law enforcement, however Harris has never been involved in writing those contracts. In terms of carrying out the property contracts he oversees, he trusts that experts from subcontracted company, Holland Engineering, are able to mark easements properly.
Next, the Senior Construction Manager of line 6B, Avery Schott of Avery Pipeline Services spoke. He informed the jury that the outside limits of Enbridge’s easements are marked with ribboned stakes. He had little knowledge of the “security agreement” because it is written by Precision Pipelines, another of Enbridge’s subcontractors. He mentioned that they have hired off duty police, some in full uniform.
Mike Bittle, an inspection analyst and lead inspector for precision pipeline spoke about the approved access road off of Grimes Road. He mentioned signs at the entrance to easements reading “Approved Access” indicating that Enbridge had secured, (or acquired through eminent domain,) access to the area where their pipeline will be constructed. He said that there was a lack of No Trespassing signs. When asked by defense attorney “Why are you building the pipeline?” Mr. Bittle responded “To improve the pipeline” aghast giggles emanated from within the crowd. Judge Collette responded, forbidding any laughter, fun or freedom from his court room.
The final corporate testimony came from Steven Gric, a Precision Pipeline project manager. He handles project security and obtained a contract with Raven Security who “worked hand in hand with Ingham County police” in order to “make sure equipment, workers and the general public remain safe.” Security guards from Raven Security were advised to call 911 if any unidentified people were spotted on the premises, and the hired off duty police were advised to disperse people for “their safety and corporate security.” Enbridge’s contract with Avery had been ongoing for sometime, but within the week of the action, the Canadian company informed Precision Pipeline there may be a potential protest in the area. Security was bumped up- two officers were assigned to the site. Mr. Gric also claimed that “there were ‘Do Not Enter’ and ‘No Tresspassing’ Signs at all of the entrances. When cross-examined by the Defense council, Mr. Gric admitted that he had never been to the site prior to July 23rd (the day after the action) and that he had no personal knowledge whether these signs were posted before/on July 22nd.If MI CATS received a quarter for every time a statement about the “strange jug of liquid” (delicious fresh water!) was said today, we would certainly be wealthy enough to bond another friend out of jail! All three police officers really played up the “jugs of clear liquid”. Finally, defense attorneys got them to admit that it was water.
The first portion of the day was filled with long winded technical testimonies from four police officer. The boring, bleak and sometimes dishonest testimony of Law Enforcement Officers provided stark juxtaposition to the blinding sunshine reflecting off the blanket of snow.
Officer Ryan Cramer (who has been recently promoted to detective) spoke about his experience going to his overtime shift paid for by Enbridge around 6 am on July 22nd. “He said under oath that he showed up in a police cruiser- but according to eye witnesses present on July 22nd he came in his own pickup truck. That info is not being permitted to be brought into the courtroom.” -Fuzzytek. He also claimed to have advised the Acquitable “Felonious” Felines that they were trespassing.
Deputy Jake Newton said he received a call around 6 am. He remained on sight from around 8 a.m. assisting and obtaining evidence. He didn’t remember any of the specific directions or interactions that occurred between the police and the defendants.
Next, Deputy Greg Harris (who is presently being promoted to a Sergeant) testified that he had given dispersal orders, but from distance of 90 feet away from the felonious defendants. He claimed to have placed the defendants under arrest. He is the author of the police report, but misremembered writing that she [Barb] had been arrested for trespassing, and said that he had arrested her for “Resisting and Obstructing an Officer”. The defense attorneys jogged his memory.
Sergeant Melissa Brown spoke of her interactions with the Aquitable Felonious Felines. She said that she asked them to unlock, and that if they didn’t they would face worse charges. They continued their resistance. Through all of this, the state prosecuting lawyer, the cops, and the judge himself formed a unified block of opposition.
After the lunch break, came some bright sparkling relief. First came the testimony of Vicci Hamlin. As a woman of 60 years, Vicci believes she has a duty to protect her 1 day old great grandson, her grandchildren, and her children. When she started to speak, the whole room, which was already totally quiet, somehow found a way to become more still. Something about her wisdom moved all of the dendrite spines in the brains of the people in the room to lean in her direction. She said she was motivated to do what she had done out of love for her children and everybody’s children. And she said she has an ethical obligation to stand up for what’s right.
Next, Lisa, another soon to be a grandmother, also projected a powerful presence that caught everyone’s attention. She went into depth about how much she loves nature, her ethical responsibility to resist Enbridge’s expansion of dangerous line 6B (“OBJECTION” the Prosecuting attorney shouted “judge this is irrelevant”, “sustained” Collette remarked, which meant that Lisa’s remarks would be stricken from the official record- luckily the jury still heard them!) She was able to mention the spill, and her intention she did it, which was to protect people, not to obstruct police.
Finally, came Barb. When asked where she lived, she said “near the Marathon Refinery, where they process tar sands ” Of course, the D.A. said “OBJECTION= IRRELEVANT.” The odds are never in our favor, but Barb eloquently went on about her desire to work for the future, and her moral obligation to protest the pipeline. Right at the end, the judge aggressively questioned her about the distinction she had made. Barb and Lisa had never been ordered to leave by Sargent Brown, instead they were “asked” if they were going to unlock. The judge didn’t understand the difference between an inquiry and an imperative. When he asked her why she didn’t leave, she said “I couldn’t leave. For morals, I had to stay there. To protect the future. I had to stay. It was my moral obligation.” To be honest it was beautiful. Even if the judge doesn’t use the moral compass, it feels like we are winning.