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Do you remember where you were April 19th, 1995? I was seven years old, in first grade at Clara Reynolds Elementary School in Harrah, Oklahoma. I still remember coming home from school and seeing the devastation on the television. For those of us in the Oklahoma City metro who lived here in 1995, we still carry the memory of the chaos and panic of this country’s largest domestic terror attack with us. Growing up, I visited the memorial of the Murrah Building bombing on several occasions. Seeing the faces of the people whose lives were lost, I learned how violence impacts people and communities. Four years ago a man whose daughter died in the Murrah Building bombing spoke at my church about his loss and personal transformation. To say the least, a sense of empathy was ingrained in me. Through my faith, I became committed to non-violent, peaceful resistance.
Eighteen years later, I’m facing the possibility of “terrorism hoax” charges which carries a maximum of ten years in prison. After witnessing real terrorism as a child in Oklahoma and through my commitment to Christian pacifism, I understand the seriousness of violence. I would never use violence or the threat of violence as a form of protest. My intention on December 13th, , in the tradition of Rev. Martin Luther King Junior, was to “arouse the conscience” of a state that refuses to provide storm shelters for children at public schools yet has the gall to pay out $645,000,000 in tax subsidies to the oil and gas industry the past three fiscal years. I helped attach a banner to the second story railing of the open-to-the-public atrium in the Devon Energy Tower. If you see the pictures, a small amount of glitter fell to the floor as employees walked by, unalarmed. We explained to employees this event was a non-violent, peaceful protest, and I left the building when told to by security, since I was hoping to avoid being arrested for trespassing. I left the building, and looked for my friends. Hoping to make a statement that usually goes unheard; we placed a banner inside the largest symbol of corporate welfare in Oklahoma. I had no intention of scaring anyone, nor do I believe I truly did.
TransCanada, the Canadian corporation that John Richels (CEO of Devon) sits on the board of, has been educating law enforcement along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline in how to pursue “terrorist” felony charges against people who engage in non-violent, peaceful protest. Obviously I am concerned about my freedom, but this is not only about me. This is a disgraceful, obvious attempt to dissuade the public from letting our voices be heard. This is an attack on our constitutionally protected, first amendment rights. How is it possible that a Canadian corporation can come here, attempt to silence me, and tell us what terrorism is?
Activism, disagreement, and exercising freedom of speech in peaceful and non-violent ways are simply not forms of terrorism.