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Back in Court After Two Years of Attacks on the Movement

by Daniel Brindis

May 29, 2018

It's decision time for our defense of free speech and the forests.

Participants and activists appear outside United States District Court for the Northern District of California for a hearing on the controversial racketeering case filed by logging company Resolute Forest Products to silence forest defenders and environmental organizations Greenpeace and Stand.earth. The defendants and other stakeholders had drawn attention to the company's unsustainable practices in the Canadian boreal forest.

This Thursday, May 31, we will be defending ourselves and the environmental movement in the courtroom once again. It has been 2 years since Resolute filed its menacing CAD$300 Million RICO Racketeering lawsuit against me, my colleagues, Greenpeace entities, and Stand.Earth (formerly Forestethics). For the last 104 weeks, our organizations have had to defend our right to exist, while individual staff defendants have had to carry on with our lives with the potential multi-million dollar judgment hanging over our heads.

And it does not stop with us!  Resolute’s Trump-linked law firm — Kasowitz, Benson, & Torres — is peddling this Resolute model of criminalizing advocacy. Last year these same lawyers sued Greenpeace entities, again, this time for almost a billion dollars, on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners, builders of the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline. This racist and outrageous lawsuit goes after the inspiring Indigenous-led peaceful resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline, alleging that a criminal network of organizations was secretly working behind the scenes to fabricate the issue and even incite violence.  These lawyers even hinted that they were in talks with other companies considering similar attacks on civil society.

On the day Resolute filed the RICO lawsuit in the US, about 730 days ago, we knew that the case had no merit but would be costly to defend. And Resolute has made sure of that. Back in October, a federal judge dismissed the case and awarded us our attorneys’ fees. But, just three weeks later, Resolute filed a repackaged version of the same baseless claims. So here we are again, and the case is still not over.

The biggest lesson I hope these last 17,520 hours will show is that SLAPPs will never work. Resolute, ETP and their lawyers undeniably thought these lawsuits would divert the movement’s attention and resources away from their destructive corporate behavior. But they have only emboldened us and our allies. Our campaigning has increased, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world now know what a SLAPP suit is, and have took action against them.  Resolute’s destructive environment record and attacks on free speech in the U.S. and Canada received even more scrutiny.  Resolute’s customer base criticized the company’s suppression of advocacy with public statements and even joined an Amicus Brief in Greenpeace’s and Stand.Earth’s favor. In a similar vein, ETP’s attacks on free speech and its growing reputation as a toxic company have inspired more grassroots resistance against climate-destroying pipelines. When corporations try to silence us, it only makes the movement louder.

Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada [situated upon the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River.] Greenpeace Toronto staff, volunteers, allies, and supporters stand in solidarity with the message #OurVoicesAreVital to unite against Canadian logging company Resolute’s multiple lawsuits to stifle free speech and the organization’s work to protect the Great Northern Forest in Canada.

I remain hopeful that someday Resolute will be associated with solutions in the forest but for now, the company’s actions are ensuring its name is synonymous with attacks on free speech.

I’m proud that you and all supporters of Greenpeace and our offices around the world have remained steadfast and have continued our vital work toward a green and peaceful future.  Over last 24 months, just four of the things we were able to achieve included: working with the Munduruku to help stop the construction of a destructive mega-dam in the Amazon, successfully pushing for the creation of the Ladoga Skerries National Park in Russia, ensuring that Samsung could not dispose of 4.7 million recalled smartphones irresponsibly, and secured a historic pledge by seafood giant Thai Union to reform its labor and environmental practices. Imagine what Resolute could have done with all of its time and all of its money instead of trying to silence us!

Help us illuminate an alternative world to Resolute and submit an idea for how it could have spent the last two years.

Daniel Brindis

By Daniel Brindis

Daniel is the Forests Campaign Director, based in San Francisco. His portfolio includes the Amazon, the Canadian Boreal, and environmental certification schemes like the Forest Stewardship Council. He splits his time between the San Francisco and Manaus offices.

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