Hillary Clinton

Activists cutting chain on pipeline valve. Photo: Climate Direct Action

Leading eco-activists like Bill McKibben are supporting Climate Direct Action’s illegal pipeline tampering, Hillary Clinton should denounce

Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that Hillary Clinton has battled radical eco-activists inside the Democratic Party. Given the environmental movement’s enthusiastic support for pipeline tamperers, expect that fight to ratchet up in the final weeks of the election campaign.

Hillary Clinton

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.

In fact, there may be a rupture coming between Clinton and eco-activists like Greenpeace and Bill McKibben, head of 350.org, who lobbied unsuccessfully behind the scenes this summer to make Democratic Convention climate and energy resolutions much stronger than the party establishment was willing to tolerate.

Even though the Platform Committee adopted joint resolutions from the Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns to support the Paris Climate agreement and switch the US to clean energy by 2050, the committee rejected calls by McKibben to impose a carbon tax, declare a fracking moratorium, and ban new drilling leases on federal lands and waters, according to progressive website CommonDreams.org.

“When you’re on the edge of the abyss or when you’re on that stove, to use the language of Malcolm X, you don’t use the language of incrementalism. It hurts, and the species is hurting,” said Dr. Cornell West, a leading progressive and a member of the platform committee.

The backroom fighting between Clinton’s campaign and the eco-activists is ready to burst onto the center stage of American politics, thanks to Climate Direct Action members who last Tuesday shut down five pipelines carrying oil sands crude oil from Alberta to American markets.

Nine people were arrested, including five Climate Direct Action members who committed the actual tampering, and a filmmaker and her crew who were documenting the illegal acts. The activists were charged and eventually released from custody.

What’s interesting is the endorsement by Greenpeace, McKibben, and many other eco-activists (e.g. Naomi Klein) for the pipeline tampering and their promotion of a fundraising campaign for the legal defense of the Climate Direct Action members.

“Greenpeace supports the brave activists who peacefully shut down all 5 tar sands pipelines into the US yesterday, in solidarity with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. If our leaders won’t take action to protect people and the planet, the climate movement is willing and able,” the organization said in an astonishing statement provided to North American Energy News.

“Those who #shutitdown yesterday need to raise 50k for bail etc; so far they’re at 35k; you can help,” McKibben tweeted on Oct. 13.

This is a huge political problem for Clinton. Probably not before Nov. 8, but if she wins the election and becomes president, she cannot condone or support for activities that are highly illegal and border on the legal definition of terrorism, according to University of Calgary academic Ted Morton.

Morton said in an interview that civil disobedience “is a long standing right in Canada and the United States, but the line’s drawn at breaking laws, in particular, destruction of private property. It’s one thing to obstruct, it’s another thing to destroy.”

“Under Canadian law, if you read the definition in the Criminal Code of Terrorism Act, they come very, very close,” he said.

“Under these circumstances, where they did it very publicly, turned themselves in, didn’t resist arrest, obviously they’ve trying to make it an act of civil disobedience. I think prosecution under the terrorism provisions would be a mistake given these circumstances but it should be made very clear that this is critical North American energy infrastructure and any attempt to disrupt it or destroy it is a very, very serious offense.”

The Climate Direct Action members were all American citizens, committed the pipeline tampering on American soil, and face American charges.

But the general principles described by Morton apply in the United States.

And a President Clinton will have no choice but to take those charges very seriously. Her leaked emails show a candidate already trying to beat back aggressive eco-activists atttempting to pin her down on “keep it in the ground” and a fracking ban.

““I’m already at odds with the most organized and wildest… They are after everything and I’m just talking through them. They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it,” she told a group of unions in 2015.

Well, the list of the “wildest” eco-activists just got a lot longer.

They’re no longer just yelling at her at rallies, they’re leading some of the biggest environmental organizations in the United States.

They’re supporting illegal activities and fund raising to defend those activities in a court of law.

And they’re implicitly (one could probably argue explicitly, too) encouraging more illegal action in the future.

Clinton should denounce Greenpeace and McKibben and Klein for supporting Climate Direct Action. That is unlikely to happen this close to election day, but it should.

At the very least, expect fireworks in the coming months. The conflict between reasonable action on the environment and radical demands is coming to a head.

Hillary Clinton

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