THE ARRAIGNMENT OF TIM DECHRISTOPHER
Tomorrow morning at 11:45, Tim DeChristopher will be arraigned at the Frank E. Moss Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City.
For those who don't know, Tim is a 27-year-old economics student at the University of Utah, who became a sort of folk hero around here last December. In one of its final acts, the Bush administration set up a last-minute BLM auction for oil and gas exploration leases in rural Utah. Tim, with the sort of financial backing typical of undergrad students, signed up as a bidder and won 13 parcels near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, totaling 22,000 acres, drove up the prices of numerous other parcels, and threw the entire auction into confusion. His total bill: $1.7 million.
I speak for many when I say I wish I had the inspiration and chutzpah to have engaged in such elegant sabotage. Tim caught us all by the imagination, and his support from the community has been a wonderful thing to watch. A website was set up to collect funds to cover the down payment on his BLM invoice, which was raised, though the government refused to accept it, saying it was late. On February 1, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ruled that the auction had been improper, and ordered the BLM not to cash any of the checks. It's hard to say for sure, But I imagine Tim's act of civil disobedience played a big part in that decision. Even so, Brett Tolman, Utah's US Attorney, has decided to charge him with two felony counts punishable by up to ten years. Tim's attorney, Pat Shea, says he expects his client to plead not guilty tomorrow before the federal magistrate.
At 11:00am, DeChristopher's supporters will gather at Library Square in Salt Lake (4th South & 2nd East). Samba Gringa will entertain and former NASA climatologist James Hansen will speak, then we'll all march over to the federal courthouse for a silent protest until Tim's arraignment. After that, it will be back to Library Square, where Hansen and DeChristopher will speak.
All too often, activists are hotheads whose philosophies are weakly constructed and whose actions are poorly thought-through. Tim is one of those rare individuals who not only has the courage of his convictions, but who's scrutinized those convictions thoroughly. We need to publicly demonstrate the civic support behind this thoughtful young man and not allow him to waste his next decade behind bars. See you there.