(Protestors sit on the edge of the exacted street above a 16-inch gas pipeline being laid five feet below the street in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood on May 25, 2016, halting work from being done. Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A group of 13 protesters have dodged criminal charges after a judge reportedly deemed their actions necessary.
More than 198 protesters, including Karenna Gore, the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore, were arrested in 2016 after protesting the pipeline in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. 13 protesters, having climbed into a construction trench in an act of defiance, among other things, were originally facing charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace, The Boston Herald reports, before prosecutors requested that the original criminal charges be downgraded to civil infractions.
On Tuesday, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll of West Roxbury District Court found all 13 defendants not responsible, after each defendant made a statement explaining their actions, The Independent reports.
“Based on the very heartfelt expressions of the defendants who believe, and I don’t question their beliefs in any respect, who believe in their cause because they believe they were entitled to invoke the necessity defense, I’ll accept what they said,” Driscoll reportedly said.
Following the verdict, Karenna Gore called the decision historic and “really important.”
“The people … were found not responsible by reason of necessity. The irony is that we are making ourselves responsible. We’re part of the movement that is standing up and saying we won’t let this go by on our watch. We won’t act like nothing’s wrong,” she said.
Andrew Fischer, an attorney for a number of the defendants, made comments in a similar vein, The Boston Herald reports.
“It may well be the first of its kind in a case involving climate change, in that it’s a judicial recognition of the measures that we need to take to address climate change,” he said. “In that sense, it is a revolutionary step.”
Though Judge Driscoll has not commented on the case, a court staff member who requested to remain anonymous confirmed the ruling to The Independent, but denied that the judge had done so on the grounds of legal necessity. This statement is in contrast with the assertions made by others including defense attorney Josh Raisler Cohn, who told reporters that the protesters had been found not responsible “by reason of necessity.”
The company responsible for the pipeline — Spectra Energy, which was bought by the Canadian firm Enbridge Inc. last year — has not commented publicly.