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Tim DeChristopher: The Political Prisoner
Jim Urquhart/AP Photo16/17

Tim DeChristopher: The Political Prisoner

Tim DeChristopher has been hailed as both the Rosa Parks and the Henry David Thoreau of the climate movement. But the act of resistance that sent him to jail is less straightforward than the flat refusals of those protest icons. In December 2008, DeChristopher – the founder of the climate group Peaceful Uprising – walked into a federal Bureau of Land Management auction and submitted $1.8 million in bids on oil and gas leases. For throwing a paper monkey-wrench into a federal auction he deemed illegitimate and immoral — "obstruct[ing] lawful government proceedings," in the words of the prosecution — the feds decided to make an example of the activist, who was then 29 years old. They indicted him on one count of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, and one count of making a false statement. After a high-profile trial that generated protests across the country, a Utah judge delivered a sentence of two years out of a maximum of 10. Before being taken into custody, DeChristopher issued a statement that instantly entered climate activism lore. "Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight," he told the court. "The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it's that I have greater respect for justice." The judge later admitted that DeChristopher's defiant courtroom vow to continue his activism contributed to his harsh sentence. DeChristopher will emerge from a Salt Lake City halfway house on April 21st, as a powerful voice for confrontational direct action. "It's no longer acceptable for us to stay in the stands," he says in Bidder 70, a film about his trial. "It's time to rush the field. It's time to stop the game."

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