'Overt Bastardization of the Truth': Valve Turner Listed as 'Extremist' by U.S. Government Faces Upcoming Trial
The valve turners recently listed by Homeland Security as "extremists" believe their action of shutting down 15 percent of the daily U.S. oil supply on Oct. 11, 2016 was their only option of fighting the climate crisis.
Five members of Climate Direct Action are seen before a coordinated effort to turn off valves on a pipeline in four states. Climate Direct Action<p>In mid January, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security listed these valve turners as "suspected environmental rights extremists" and "domestic terrorists." What does this listing mean for climate activists? </p><p>Regan is not surprised by this "rhetorical" listing.</p><p>"The far right and the fossil fuel industry are spending about $30 billion in a media campaign, basically a smear campaign. It's one of the last-ditch efforts to try and persuade Americans that their gross profits are worth more than <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/clean-water" target="_self">clean water </a>and a healthy planet," Regan says. "As they're gasping for their last profiteering breaths, they are pulling out all of the dirty tricks that those types of profiteering industries have used historically."</p><p>Such listings seem to have no relevance for climate activists, as those who engage in direct action are aware of risks such as being arrested and potentially facing serious consequences.</p><p>Regan points to "the overt bastardization of the truth or manipulation of reality by those industries." It's an attempt to "frame nonviolent civil disobedience as the same type of action as Nazis who murdered humans or anti-choice zealots that murder abortion doctors. I think normal humans with thinking brains see the incredible difference between those scenarios. It really exposes the desperation of the industry in my opinion."<span></span></p><p>Ward mentions the "immense privilege" he has to engage in direct action here in the U.S. "Most people doing this around the world are getting killed or going to prison for long periods of time," he says. "The costs are so low compared to that."</p><p>Because Ward is engaged in <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-action">climate action,</a> he doesn't have "a certain amount of existential dread." He'd doing what he can. "I encourage everybody to think of what you could do," because we're out of time he says.</p>
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Internal documents from the Department of Homeland Security reveal that non-violent demonstrators targeting the oil industry were classified as "extremists," with some organization members listed alongside known white supremacists, as The Guardian reported.
Michael Foster pictured with his partner and fellow activist Sue Lenander shortly after being released from a six month prison sentence. Shut it Down - Climate Direct Action<p>More recently, the Department of Homeland Security described the Valve Turners as "suspected environmental rights extremists." <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/13/us-listed-climate-activist-group-extremists" target="_blank">The Guardian</a> reported that the document, which evaluated domestic terrorism threats from 2018 to 2020, also categorized the group alongside Dylan Roof, the white supremacists who murdered nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina and James Fields, who plowed his car into a group of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fields killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others.</p><p>"Equating mass murder by white supremacists with what Michael and I did is totally obscene," said Sam Jessup, one of the activists named in the documents, in an email to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/13/us-listed-climate-activist-group-extremists" target="_blank">The Guardian</a>. "This whole infrastructure of so-called security has done little more than secure the future of the fossil fuel industry by terrorizing people into silence."</p><p><span></span>Jessup, 34, was the driver and videographer live-streaming the action in North Dakota while Michael Foster, a former family therapist who lives in Seattle, turned the valve. Foster is the defendant who spent six months in jail.</p><p>Mike German, a former FBI agent and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote an email to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/13/us-listed-climate-activist-group-extremists" target="_blank">The Guardian</a> stating that Homeland Security's framing was "highly misleading because white supremacists are responsible for the bulk of this violence and almost all of the fatalities that result. There is little that environmentalists have engaged in the types of deadly violence that would meet the statutory definition of domestic terrorism, as codified by Congress."</p>
Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein seen bolt cutting. Shut it Down - Climate Direct Action<p>The labeling of environmental groups with extremists is mirrored in Britain as well where the activist group Extinction Rebellion was labeled in a document by Counter Terrorism Policing South East alongside banned far-right organizations like National Action and Islamic terrorist organizations, according to the <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/extinction-rebellion-police-counter-terror-extremism-climate-change-a9279131.html" target="_blank">Telegraph</a>.</p><p>Extinction Rebellion, which uses non-violent disruptions to business as usual to call attention to the urgency of the climate crisis had a similar reaction as the Valve Turners. They were shocked and appalled. </p><p>"How dare they," said climate change group Extinction Rebellion, as the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-51071959" target="_blank">BBC</a> reported. </p><p>A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion said, "Teachers, grandparents, nurses have been trying their best with loving non-violence to get politicians and big business to do something about the dire state of our planet. And this is how the establishment responds," according to the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-51071959" target="_blank">BBC</a>.</p><p>Speaking about the Homeland Security document, Carl Williams, executive director of the Water Protector Legal Collective, which has defended Dakota Access Pipeline protestors said to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/13/us-listed-climate-activist-group-extremists" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Guardian</a>, "I think there is a strategy that rightwing forces are using to criminalize dissent. This bulletin shows that dirty hand."</p>
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