Greetings from Cavalier, North Dakota where we are currently defending the North Dakota Valve Turners, Michael Foster and Sam Jessup. It’s day 3 of trial today. We spent a day and a half picking a jury in this rural, conservative farming community on the outskirts of the Baaken oil fields and less than 30 miles from the Canadian border. It was a tough jury selection—with many jurors stating their opinions that protestors should go to jail before trial, and that acts of direct action or civil disobedience must be punished as unsafe. Ultimately, we hope the jury of 12 will be fair and open minded to our case, especially now that the Judge has refused to allow Michael and Sam to use the necessity defense. Yesterday afternoon the prosecution began their case in chief with a retired TransCanada employee who testified that they ascertained there was no damage to any of the Transcanada equipment after about 15 minutes of inspection. Today we expect the State’s case to conclude and tomorrow we will begin our case. Many people in this community would be affected if the TransCanada Keystone pipeline were to spill oil onto the farmland or rivers that traverse this area. TransCanada was responsible for 13 spills totaling 829 barrels of crude oil since 2010 – largely as a result of two “significant” 400 barrel spills in 2011 and 2016. Unlike conventional crude oil, bitumen has the consistency of a thick tar and is too thick to be pumped out of the ground. In order to flow through a pipeline, bitumen must be mixed with light crude oil or natural gas liquids to make diluted bitumen, or dilbit. On October 11, 2016, the Valve Turners stopped the entire flow of tar sands oil into the U.S. from the Alberta tar sands region of Canada. Felony charges were brought against all, including videographers merely filming the acts from public property, in Washington (on appeal), North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota—all along the Canadian border in small, rural county courthouses. The legal team for Michael Foster and Sam Jessup include myself, North Dakota lawyers Michael Hoffman and William Kirschener, and Alice Cherry. Many supporters from as far away as Seattle and Washington, DC have filled the courtroom and offered amazing support to all
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