Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Sit-Ins that kicked off the Civil Rights Movement, 20 citizen-activists from across Massachusetts woke up early to make their way to the Boston Municipal Court, to face trespassing charges for their participation in the Sleep-outs on the Boston Common last fall.
Over the next two weeks, close to 200 residents of Massachusetts – joined by renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and journalist/activist Bill McKibben – will face the courts for demonstrating their disagreement with their dirty-electricity-powered homes.
Because the citizen-activists’ numbers have overwhelmed the court system, the trials are spread out over the course of two weeks, with 20-30 people appearing before the courts each day. Yet the district attorney and court magistrate were not unsympathetic, allowing students studying abroad to appear in court in May or September (with approximately two-dozen people appearing between these two later court dates).
“I am very appreciative of their willingness to work with our lawyers to best accommodate the use of their resources, and the interests of our activists.” said Nathan Nesbitt, a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the Worcester Campaign Coordinator for Studens for a Just and Stable Future.
The community members – including students, faculty, clergy, and others – were calling for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to repower with 100% clean electricity by 2020. When presented with the charges before them and offered a deal (removing the criminal complaint in exchange for full up-front payment of related fines), it was made clear that the deal would not be offered again, and the participants were advised not to continue their tactics in the future.
Yet the citizen-activists were not soon to back down. Jess Feldish, a Northeastern University student and former Northeastern Campus Campaign Coordinator, summed up her feelings: “I’m pumped. I’m incredibly ready to defend my beliefs. It doesn’t feel like breaking the law, because I feel like the state isn’t holding up it’s end of the deal to protect me. I am glad to be a citizen and to do what I feel is necessary to participate in my government and make my voice heard.”
After the conclusion of the legal proceedings, all of the participants marched together from the Court House to the State House, where they lobbied key legislators about the bill. Members visited included John Binienda, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Frederick Berry, Chairman of the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee, Michael Morrissey, Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities Committee, Barry Finegold, Chairman of the House Telecommunications, Energy, and Utilities Committee, Speaker of the House DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray.
The citizen activists are determined to continue pushing until their state moves aggressively towards a clean electricity future for all. Already, Nathan, Jess, and hundreds of others are prepared to stand again (or in this case, lie down) for a clean electricity future when they go sleep-out on the Amherst, Cambridge, and Boston Commons on February 20th, March 28th, and April 21st, respectively. Unlike last fall’s 7 large sleep-outs, the first two of these sleep-outs (in Amherst and Cambridge) will be legal. The Boston Common Sleep-out, scheduled for the night before Earth Day, will not be, and participants expect increased penalties.
For more information, visit The Leadership Campaign website