By Thom Krystofiak, Jonas Magram, Inga Frick, all of Fairfield
To the editor:
We were the subject of your January 18 article, “FBI Files Report on Three Fairfield Residents.” Though the article was generally quite accurate, we’d like to make a few clarifications.
We write this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which commemorates America’s most prominent example of the value of peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience. It’s important to distinguish such actions from any kind of criminal activity. The Ledger used a headline on the second part of the article (“Did not receive prison term”) that could confuse some readers about what actually occurred.
There was never any possibility of us receiving a prison term for our protest. Prisons, unlike local jails, are for serious crimes, and our action was very far from that. It was a peaceful, symbolic action that constituted only a misdemeanor.
Such an action would never result in a prison term, and only rarely would it result in even an overnight stay in a county jail. As it happened, we were never convicted of nor did we plead guilty to any offense. Our judge, who seemed to understand the importance of our action, approved a “Deferred Prosecution” agreement that simply required us to pay $100 each in court costs and to agree not to get arrested again for six months. After fulfilling those conditions, the charges against us were dropped.
A few more points: The FBI’s file on us refers to the protest as “mostly peaceful.” In fact, the thousand-person march was 100% peaceful, as the organizers had promised law enforcement that it would be.
The FBI report also says that a small group of protestors – the arrestees – “broke away from the main group and blocked a road.” Actually, those of us volunteering for arrest were already at the front of the march. The marchers filled a side road that had already been closed by law enforcement as part of our officially permitted march – so no active road was blocked. What 41 of us did, finally, was to move onto the grounds of the BP refinery and sit down in a circle outside of the main entrance gate. Our action was peaceful, and we cooperated fully with the arresting officers.
Civil disobedience is not for everyone, and people can debate its effectiveness as an agent of change. But it has a long and noble history, blossoming in the 20th Century with Mahatma Gandhi and the movement for Indian independence. Gandhi was in turn the direct inspiration for Reverend King and his bold actions to foster civil rights. We were proud to play a small role in that ongoing tradition, to try to help turn the tide against the pressing dangers of climate change.