Last Thursday several people appeared at the Okfuskee County Courthouse in Okemah, Oklahoma to support Elisabeth as she went to trial. People nervously awaited trial in the hallway, some folks talked to individuals from Bikers Against Child Abuse, and others helped Elisabeth practice pronouncing some hard words from her statement.
Leading up to the trial, Elisabeth and her attorney Doug Parr had made several trips to Okfuskee County for arraignments, hearings, etc. From the day she was arrested last February until the day of her trial, even when faced with time in the county jail, Elisabeth refused to give in. Elisabeth was determined to take her case to trial, hoping to mount a necessity defense to highlight the many egregious social and ecological problems associated with tar sands. From extraction to transportation to refining, Elisabeth’s statement goes farther than the conventional discourse associated with the Keystone XL. Never the less, Elisabeth didn’t go to trial. The prosecutor in this case reportedly said this trial would be a waste of the state’s resources. We were informed ten minutes before trial was scheduled to begin that the case had been dismissed. Slightly disappointing but better than a guilty conviction!
Elisabeth put a lot of time and work into preparing her statement. You can read the full statement here. Elisabeth’s statement is a glaring example of the reality that resisting resource extraction is not a wild idea, rather resisting resource extraction is an act of basic human decency:
“I was taught to leave my surroundings and the world in as good as or better shape than it was before I entered into it.”
- Elisabeth Leja
Elisabeth Leja is going to trial this Thursday in Ofuskee County, Oklahoma. Elisabeth was the first person to take direct action against the Keystone XL in Oklahoma last year when she locked herself to construction equipment with a bike lock. You can read more about Elisabeth’s upcoming trial here. If you live in the area, we’d love to see you at the courthouse to support Elisabeth through the legal process. The trial will take place at the Okfuskee County Court House, 209 N 3rd St, Okemah, Oklahoma 74859. Court starts at 2:00pm, so try to get there a little early.
If you would like to carpool, let us know here or call (405) 283-6140. As always, your support is greatly appreciated. Please consider making a generous donation to help cover Elisabeth’s fines, court costs, and travel expenses.
The Southern Leg of the Keystone XL is in the ground, but Elisabeth Leja and Alec Johnson are still fighting! Elisabeth Leja and Alec Johnson both took direct action against the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline last year with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance in Oklahoma. Elisabeth is a 75-year-old, retired math teacher from Norman, Oklahoma. Elisabeth was the first person to risk arrest opposing KXL in Oklahoma when she locked herself to construction equipment with a bike lock in the whee hours of Feb. 4th, 2013. Alec Johnson is a climate justice organizer based in Nacogdoches, TX who took action last year on Earth Day in Atoka County, Oklahoma.
When Elisabeth isn’t busy shutting down industrial construction sites, she spends time playing with her companion dogs, Omni and Mega, in the beautiful woods near her home. Elisabeth is a retired math teacher. Citing exponential theory to illustrate the rapid rise of carbon emissions from tar sands exploitation, Elisabeth explains that the Keystone XL just doesn’t add up. “I have nothing to lose personally if the pipeline is completed and used incessantly by Trans Canada. If there were to be a spill, I wouldn’t be directly affected. I live too far away. So why protest? Because I love the earth, our planet. I live on it, and we need to take care of it. Why sit back and let greed run the world?” Determined to put the KXL and the whole tar sands industry on trial, Elisabeth has taken a No Compromise stance in her ongoing legal defense. Elisabeth is now scheduled for trial at 2pm on June 26th in Ofsukee County. She is facing a charge of trespass. She would love to have community support as she defends herself and individuals’ rights to raise their voices through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.
Alec Johnson is also refusing plea deals and going to trial in order to defend his actions. The prosecutor in Alec’s case is pursuing two charges of Obstructing an Officer, each of which carry a possible one year sentence in Atoka County Jail! Recently an Atoka County Judge overruled a pretrial motion to dismiss Alec’s charges. When asked about his upcoming jury trial, Alec had this to say:
“The KXL Pipeline is a clear threat to our children’s futures. Those promoting tar sands exploitation are engaged in a crime against humanity. My action sought to prevent the expansion of the tar sands industry. The fact that the Keystone XL is even being considered represents a stark failure by federal, state, and local government to protect the atmosphere that all life shares. I am NOT GUILTY by reason of necessity. I am defending a right to life that depends on a habitable atmosphere. I am protecting that right to life for future generations. I look forward to the opportunity to present the facts of global warming to a jury and to highlight the urgency and necessity that we all face in fighting global warming and the destructive tar sands industry.”
Alec has been scheduled to go to trial, possibly September or October, no definite date has been set. Stay tuned for updates!
We need your help packing the court room to show support for Elisabeth and Alec! Supporting resisters like Elisabeth and Alec through the court process is an essential part of building a nonviolent direct action movement in the Great Plains. Please let us know here if you’d like to support Elisabeth and Alec by attending their trial. Donations to help cover travel expenses, court costs, and fines are extremely appreciated. Thank you so much for your support!
Media Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 283-6140
Our friends with Idle No More Central Oklahoma are organizing and hosting an educational symposium called Native Voices. Topics to be discussed include “Removing Obstacles to Higher Education”, “Mass Incarceration and Native People”, “Protecting Turtle Island”, and “The Importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act”. Folks from Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance will be sharing during the Protecting Turtle Island panel. This whole day will be a great opportunity to learn and connect with each other. Idle No More Central Oklahoma is also soliciting donations to help put this event on, please chip in!
On June 24th, Fitzgerald Scott locked down with 7 other protesters to resist construction of the Southern leg of the Keystone XL. TODAY in court, Fitzgerald Scott’s charges of trespassing and obstruction were DISMISSED!
Alec Johnson is still facing trespassing charges and two obstruction charges which together carry a maximum two year sentence. Elizabeth Leja is still facing trespassing charges. Expect more updates soon.
Donations to our legal fund are being accepted and are greatly appreciated!
Thirty three arrests were made in “Oklahoma” last year during Keystone XL work-stopping direct actions. Of those arrests, fifteen have been dismissed, fifteen were resolved through plea deals with fines and court costs only, and three cases are still pending.
Elizabeth Leja, a 75 year old resident of Norman, was the first person to lock down to KXL construction equipment with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance in in Muscogee (Creek) Nation land by treaty, Ofuskee County, Oklahoma. This summer, Elizabeth will be going to trial for a trespass charge which if convicted would at most result in a fine.
During last summer’s “Fearless Summer” week of actions, Fitzgerald Scott, along with 9 other activists, was arrested shutting down construction of a Keystone XL pump station in Seminole Nation land by treaty, Seminole County, Oklahoma. Fitzgerald refused a plea deal and is potentially going to trial facing trespassing and obstruction charges, if convicted facing up to a year in jail. Today in the Seminole County courthouse, a judge will be hearing evidence for a motion to dismiss Fitzgerald’s charges.
Alec Johnson also shut down construction of the KXL Gulf Coast project, this time in Choctaw Nation land by treaty, Atoka County, Oklahoma. This action resulted in Trespass and two Obstruction charges. Alec’s trespass charge was dismissed but Obstruction charges still stand and carry a potential sentence of one year for each count (2 years total) in the Atoka County jail. A motion to dismiss hearing is scheduled for May 7th.
Please help spread the word about these people and their fight. Court costs and fines are likely, as well as potential jail time. Your donations are needed to help pay those fines and support jailed friends if it comes to that. Thank you so much for your support!
Would you like to learn more about Nonviolent Direct Action? Are you part of an organization or group that might benefit from NVDA strategies? Are you simply hoping to learn more about the history of NVDA in Oklahoma? On Saturday, May 10th, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and friends will be hosting an Introduction to Nonviolent Direct Action day-long workshop.
What: Intro to Nonviolent Direct Action Workshop
When: Saturday, May 10th from 10am-6pm
Where: Oklahoma City, OK
What can you expect from this event?
Free Lunch and childcare! And… At the NVDA workshop experienced trainers will guide people in learning how to implement Nonviolent Direct Action strategies. You will have the opportunity to hear from and meet people who have been involved in NVDA demonstrations. If you have been curious about these tactics but are intimidated, unsure about their usefulness, or simply have questions, this is a great opportunity to learn about Nonviolent Direct Action from experienced organizers. More information and a schedule of the days events will be posted soon.
Cost? Donations will be accepted the day of; however, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Registration is required to attend. Your registration is not complete until you receive an e-mail or phone confirmation.
If you would like to attend, fill out the following registration form:
To learn more about the event, volunteer, or donate, e-mail: email@example.com or call: (405) 283-6140.