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Extinction Rebellion Portland (XR PDX) Activists to Be Tried for Criminal Trespass

Portland, OR—Five XR PDX climate activists are going to trial on Monday, February 24th, at the Multnomah County Courthouse for allegedly building a victory-over-climate-change garden on the railroad yard and track at Zenith Energy Corporation. The defendants’ criminal charges of trespassing in the first degree resulted from an April 2019 action intended to disrupt or halt Zenith Energy Management’s essential role in the global production, movement and burning of fossil fuels— specifically tar sands oil. The defendants’ action was also designed to enforce the policies of the City of Portland and Multnomah County, which oppose expansion of new fossil fuel infrastructure.


The activists, Ken Ward, Jan Zuckerman, Margaret Butler, Mike Horner, and Emily Carl, challenge the existential threats posed by Zenith Energy and fossil fuel industry activities, as well as the failure of federal, state, and local governments to adequately address the imminent harms posed by the global climate crisis. The defendants assert that their alleged criminal act is justifiable, and therefore not criminal, pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Oregon law. The defendants’ attorneys have notified the State of Oregon that they intend to present an affirmative defense known as the climate necessity, or “choice of evils,” defense.


“Even though the City of Portland has policy banning the creation or expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, City officials said they couldn’t do anything to stop Zenith’s construction project to triple the processing of oil train cars,” stated defendant Jan Zuckerman. “This is an emergency. We have to quickly transition off of fossil fuels if we are to stop the worst impacts of climate change. This is about our children and grandchildren, and about keeping our communities safe.”


The trial will begin Monday, February 24th, at 8:30 a.m. at the Multnomah County Courthouse: 1021 SW 4th Avenue, in Portland, OR. It is expected to last several days. Defendants intend to call expert witnesses to testify to the imminent harms from the continued use and export of fossil fuels, as well as to the reasonableness of the defendants’ actions in light of the current impediments to reducing carbon emissions.


“Every day there is another report that the climate is changing faster than predicted—higher sea level rise, faster melting of polar ice, and more species and people around the globe impacted,” said defendant Mike Horner. “ We have to act decisively, and we have to act now.”