Rushmore activists sentenced for civil disobedience

Feature story - 5 January, 2010
Civil disobedience to stop climate change had its day in court in the US yesterday when activists pled guilty to climbing Mount Rushmore with their message demanding Obama take leadership on climate change. Four other climate activists who have spent three weeks in jail in Copenhagen for gate crashing a Head of State dinner still await their first hearing.

This is what civil disobedience for the climate looks like.

The eleven climate activists who proudly staged an historic protest at Mount Rushmore last July appeared in court yesterday for sentencing. All eleven pled guilty to the charge of Climbing Mount Rushmore and received a fine of US$ 460 each. They will also perform 50-100 hours of community service in the National Park system depending on their individual sentences. The judge requested that some or all of that service be performed at Mt. Rushmore.

Three further charges against the activists were dismissed, as were all charges against Greenpeace.  In a civil decree, Greenpeace has agreed to pay a sum of US$ 30,866, most of which will go to conservation and public park programs.

A single activist who has a history of peaceful civil disobedience was sentenced to 2 days of jail time, which he has already begun serving.

On behalf of all the activists, Jessica Miller delivered a statement on the steps of the courthouse: "We climbed Mount Rushmore because we wanted to send a message to President Obama that this is an issue that is important to us, and to the future generations who will face the increasing impacts of global warming, like drought, severe weather and the loss of millions of lives around the world. Global warming is the most important crisis our generation must tackle, and it is time for all of us to stand up to stop it."

Direct action at Rushmore sent loud call for climate leadership

On July 8th, 2009, Greenpeace activists draped an enormous banner to the right of Lincoln's head on Mt. Rushmore. The banner bore an image of President Obama and read, "America Honors Leaders, Not Politicians: Stop Global Warming" - a challenge to President Obama to take a strong stance on climate change in the leadup to December's UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

08 July 2009

Greenpeace climbers rappel down the face of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, to unfurl a banner challenging Barack Obama to show leadership on climate change.

The care they took not to harm the monument was recognized by the judge and contributed to their sentencing. The judge also noted their motivations and the longstanding tradition of peaceful protest in the US.

Civil disobedience

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, where leaders failed to take action to stop climate change, four Greenpeace activists are still held in jail without trial for taking action against climate change. By the time they can see a judge, they will have spent three weeks in jail without a hearing.

Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace and former apartheid resistant said: "This situation reminds me of the anti-apartheid movement time, when the police entered the houses to make preventive arrests. The arrests are actually a preventive detention without trial and that violates human rights, especially in this case with an arrest for so long."

The arrests are actually a preventive detention without trial, and that violates human rights.

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director Greenpeace International

Climate change is the most important issue the world faces today. If our leaders do not act, individual citizens have the right to resort to civil disobedience to protect the future of our planet.  Actions designed to spur politicians to action against global warming are themselves a form of community service.

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