Oral arguments for a federal appeal in the high profile case of environmental activist Jessica Reznicek will be heard by the 8th circuit court of appeal on May 13. In a defining moment for the climate justice movement and for all civil rights, the court will decide whether or not to uphold a “domestic terrorist enhancement” that an Iowa court applied to Reznicek’s prison sentence. Reznicek is expected to argue that the terrorism enhancement was both illegally and unjustly applied.
In 2016, Jessica Reznicek took action to stop the construction of Dakota Access Pipeline by dismantling construction equipment and pipeline valves. In 2021 she was sentenced to 8 years in prison with a domestic terrorism enhancement.
Under normal conditions Jess would have been sentenced to 37 months, but the terrorism enhancement resulted in a sentence of 96 months. She was also ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution to Energy Transfer corporation.
The appeal is supported by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), National Lawyers Guild, Water Protectors Legal Collective, and the Climate Defense Project. “If Jessica Reznicek’s acts can be punished as terrorism,” says an amicus brief filed by CCR, “the United States will have moved so far past the international consensus as to be operating in a completely different realm.”
WHAT: Oral arguments for federal appeal, U.S.A. v. Jessica Reznicek. Case # 21-2548
WHO: United States Court of Appeals- 8th Circuit, DAPL activist Jessica Reznicek
WHEN: Friday, May 13 at 8:30 CST
WHERE: St Paul, Minnesota United States Court, Courtroom 5A. Closed to the public in person. Listen in by calling 1-888-363-4749 Code 4423562. Jessica Reznicek is 5th on the docket.
In 2017 Jessica Reznicek and a partner from the Catholic Worker Movement publicly claimed responsibility for acts of vandalism against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In February, 2021 she pled guilty to a single count of Conspiracy to Damage an Energy Facility. In June, 2021 an Iowa judge imposed a “terrorism enhancement” at the prosecution’s request and sentenced Reznicek to 8 years in prison with restitution of over $3 million to be paid to Energy Transfer LLC. No one was injured by Reznicek’s acts of civil disobedience.
Although federal courts have ruled the Dakota Access Pipeline was constructed illegally, excessive punishment for people like Jessica, who tried to stop it, is on the rise – and scrutiny is growing of fossil fuel industry influence in the process. Wrote Jessica in a 2021 statement to the court, “I am not a political person. I am certainly not a terrorist. I am simply a person who cares deeply about an extremely basic human right that is under threat: Water.”
Jessica Reznicek, a 39-year-old environmental activist and Catholic Worker from Des Moines, Iowa, was sentenced in federal court June 30 to eight years in prison for her efforts to sabotage construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
In November 2016, Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, a former preschool teacher, set fire to heavy construction equipment at a pipeline worksite in Buena Vista County, Iowa.
Over the next several months, the women used oxyacetylene torches, tires and gasoline-soaked rags to burn equipment and damage pipeline valves along the line from Iowa to South Dakota. Their actions reportedly caused several million dollars’ worth of damage and delayed construction for weeks.
Climate activists Ruby Montoya and Jessica Renzicek are pleading guilty in federal court in the legal action against their sabotage of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On July 24th, Ruby Montoya and Jessica Renzicek released a press release admitting that they had carried out multiple acts of sabotage against the then-under-construction Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in Spring 2017. The two activists set fire to heavy machinery and used blow torches to damage the oil pipeline and valves in an effort to decisively halt the project. While the DAPL was ultimately finished, their actions singlehandedly delayed construction for weeks or months. Their eco-sabotage resulted in millions of dollars of damage.
In September 2019, Jessica, 39, and Ruby, 30, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage to an energy facility, malicious use of fire, and other felonies. Montoya and Reznicek are now set to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to damage an energy facility. The other charges will be dismissed, with sentencing due in May 2021. Pleading guilty may result in up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Both Montoya and Reznicek were seasoned activists and knew sabotage may carry consequences. However, they were clear that direct action was a must, if we are to protect the planet and future of life. They asserted they were in support of indigenous sovereignty and were resisting corporate power.
“Our conclusion is that the system is broken and it is up to us as individuals to take peaceful action and remedy it, and this we did, out of necessity,” Montoya said.
Although the direct action undertaken by Montoya and Reznicek may have been controversial, Deep Green Resistance stands in support of Ruby and Jessica and remains opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, and any development that destroys the natural world.
Please listen to Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek talking with Jennifer Murnan and Max Wilbert during this 2017 interview, or read the transcript here. Their understanding and commitment is inspiring. We salute Ruby and Jessica and will keep readers up-to-date on their sentencing and where people can send support.
Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) eco-saboteurs Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya have been arrested and charged with multiple felonies.
They face up to 100 years or more in prison. Their next hearing is currently scheduled for December 2, 2019, before U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger in Des Moines, Iowa.
Statement of Support from Deep Green Resistance
Deep Green Resistance officially stands in solidarity and full support of the actions taken by Jessica and Ruby.
We expect they will find no justice in the colonial courts of an imperialist state, in a city founded as a military fort to oversee the destruction of local indigenous inhabitants and facilitate the settler-colonial invasion project, but the struggle does not end with incarceration. Revolution is bigger than any individual, and we struggle in solidarity with comrades locked in cages.
In an era of mass extinction, climate chaos, and ecological collapse, an era in which mainstream environmentalism has failed to even partially reverse these problems, militant action against industrial infrastructure such as pipelines is, without any question, justified.
In fact, militant resistance is a moral and physical obligation—a matter of planetary self-defense.
How to Support Jessica and Ruby
We invite you to join us in pledging our full support to their legal defense and to work in solidarity outside the courtroom. We are currently gathering more information about their legal situation. Pending information, we are now taking donations for their legal defense and expenses.
To donate, click here and follow the instructions. Be sure to earmark your donation (using the “comment” field or memo of a check, etc.) for Jessica and Ruby legal defense.
For more updates on this case, visit this site regularly, or subscribe.
Their Actions: Eco-Sabotage Against the Dakota Access Pipeline
Between July 2016 and May 2017, Jessica and Ruby are believed to have committed at least 10 acts of eco-sabotage against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) using oxy-acetylene torches and improved incendiaries.
These attacks delayed pipeline construction by several months. In terms of material effectiveness vs. resources invested, their ecosabotage was roughly 1000 times as efficient as the aboveground fight at Standing Rock.
We say this not to disparage aboveground resistance, but to highlight the efficacy of militant underground struggle. Two people with a tiny budget were highly effective at fighting this project
Comparison of material effectiveness and efficiency of various pipeline resistance techniques. Image via “Pipeline Activism and Principles of Strategy.” Click the image for the source.
Interview with Jessica and Ruby
In July 2017, two days after Jessica and Ruby publicly admitted to carrying out the eco-sabotage campaign, Deep Green Resistance interviewed the two women. You can listen to that interview here:
The Charges They Are Facing
Press release from the U.S. Department of [In]Justice, Southern District of Iowa:
Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
DES MOINES, Iowa – On September 19, 2019, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging defendants, Jessica Rae Reznicek and Ruby Katherine Montoya, with one count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility, four counts of use of fire in the commission of a felony, and four counts of malicious use of fire, announced United States Attorney Marc Krickbaum. Montoya was recently arrested in the District of Arizona and detained pending court proceedings to determine her appearance in the Southern District of Iowa. Reznicek appeared in Des Moines on October 1, 2019 and was conditionally released pending trial. Trial is currently scheduled for December 2, 2019, before United States District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger.
According to Count 1 of the Indictment, from at least as early as 2016 and continuing in 2017, in the Southern District of Iowa and elsewhere, Reznicek and Montoya conspired to knowingly and willfully damage and attempt to damage the property of an energy facility involved in the transmission and distribution of fuel, or another form or source of energy, in an amount exceeding or which would have exceeded $100,000, and to cause a significant interruption and impairment of a function of an energy facility.
Counts 2 through 9 of the Indictment allege specific instances of damage or attempts to damage portions of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the Southern District of Iowa by Reznicek and Montoya on various dates in 2017.
The public is reminded that an Indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless they are proven guilty.
If they are convicted of Count 1, conspiracy to damage an energy facility, Reznicek and Montoya face up to 20 years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both such fine and imprisonment.
If they are convicted of Counts 2, 4, 6 and/or 8, use of fire in the commission of a felony, Reznicek and Montoya face a mandatory minimum 10 years imprisonment to be served consecutive to the sentence imposed on Count 1. For each second or subsequent conviction of Counts 2, 4, 6 and/or 8, Reznicek and Montoya face a mandatory minimum 20 years imprisonment to be served consecutive to the sentence imposed on Count 1.
If they are convicted of Counts 3, 5, 7 and/or 9, malicious use of fire, Reznicek and Montoya face a mandatory minimum 5 years imprisonment and a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both such fine and
The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.
Editor’s note: Neither of the events are being organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity with both of these and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.
Community Rights US to reorganize as Association
The following is a message from Paul Cienfuegos, the Founding Director of Community Rights US, regarding some news about his movement and virtual book talks on April 1 and April 17. You can join the event here.
Greetings to all of our thousands of loyal supporters!
The Community Rights US Board of Directors has come to the decision that we no longer have the capacity to continue our work to build the Community Rights movement across the US at anywhere near the scale or scope we had always envisioned. For some time now, we have been struggling to sustain a Board large enough to maintain the critical focus of our organization. We haven’t generated sufficient volunteer energy to support our project work. We’ve been unsuccessful in our grant writing efforts, and our ongoing fundraising efforts with our human supporters have not generated sufficient funds to maintain paid staff. And so it is with some sadness, I’m announcing that last month was our final month of existence as a formal non-profit tax-exempt organization.
On the good side, at least three members of our existing Board (including myself) will continue to meet monthly to discuss next steps for our work. We have absolutely no intention of vanishing into thin air. We just won’t exist as a non-profit corporation anymore. We plan to restructure ourselves as an Association.
So if you have been meaning to make a tax-deductible donation to us for awhile now, we’re sorry but it’s already too late to do so! But a NON-tax-deductible donation is still very much welcomed, by donating to me at my Patreon account here. Monthly donors will have access to a wide variety of provocative writings, talks, and interviews that I’ve done over these past years, and will continue to do albeit less frequently. Thank you for your continuing support!
And as soon as we launch our new Community Rights US “Association,” we’ll let you know how to make donations there too!
I have been taking leadership in the Community Rights movement since 1995. As the founder of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (California) in 1995. As the co-founder of Community Rights PDX (Oregon) in 2012, the Oregon Community Rights Network in 2013, and Community Rights US in 2017. That’s 28 years of sustained organizing and teaching and consulting and cheerleading efforts! And to be totally transparent with you, I am feeling deeply exhausted, and don’t have the same level of energy that has propelled me for so many years.
I have a strong desire to shift my priorities towards a lot more play and rest and reading and spacious friend time and deep nature and quiet time. I am extremely proud of the contributions I have made to this national movement, and to many other social movements in the decades prior to 1995.
I have been having a ton of fun and gratifying experiences promoting my book to audiences of every political stripe. On February 2nd, I came to the Midwest for a month-long book tour at bookstores and libraries to ten mostly rural communities (in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota) where I spent six intensive and truly wonderful years teaching and consulting up until covid crashed everything.
And if you haven’t already purchased my book for yourself, a family member or friend, or for your public library, now is a good time to do THAT also. Thank you! My book is now available directly from your local bookstore, as well as all the other mega-corporate stores. The paperback is the very revolutionary price of $17.76. The e-book is a steal at just $1.99. And I can offer you bulk discounts if you contact me directly.
I’ll be offering two virtual book talks in April (see poster above): Saturday, April 1 at 12 pm PST and Monday, April 17 at 6pm PST. Use this LINK to join and feel free to invite others who might be interested in learning more about our approach.
Community Rights US will continue to publish occasional newsletters to share our latest endeavors as we re-imagine ourselves as an “Association” that continues to promote the Community Rights movement, which I continue to believe is this nation’s best hope and political, legal, and culture-shift strategy to reclaim our power as citizens, as my book title states!
We will continue to maintain our incredible WEBSITE that is chock full of resource materials. As well as our substantial AUDIO FILES on PodBean, including all of my two years of weekly radio/podcast commentaries. And also our Youtube HOMEPAGE with many talks, interviews, and more. Please continue to utilize our extensive resources.
We want to thank each and every one of you for your support over these past 5+ years since our founding in 2017. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And last but certainly not least, I want to thank all of the people who made this organization run over these wonderful last 5-1/2 years…
Board members (past and present): Forest Jahnke (WI), Carla Cao (FL), Bryan Lewis (OR), Evelina Avotina (OR), Steve Luse (IA), Joan Pougiales (WI), Jenny Krol (MN), Heather Tischbein (WA), Mark Dilley (MI), Teresa Cisneros (OR), and myself Paul Cienfuegos (OR).
Staff (past and present): Kelly Brown, Eva Riversong, Jen Forti, Michelle Martin, Curt Hubatch, Davi Rios, Tyler Norman, Jimmy Dunson, and Abigail Harris.
Thank you all SO SO MUCH!
Fires, Floods and Terrorism Charges: The escalation of state repression during the climate crisis
The following is a message from Free Jessica Reznicek campaign.
On Tuesday, April 4th at 7:00 pm CDT we are hosting an international webinar to highlight how this frightening trend of human rights abuses is not just sweeping the United States. We will talk with land defenders worldwide who have been targeted by their governments or industry for trying to protect life on Earth. We have an incredible lineup from around the world and we hope you can join us. Our strength is in our solidarity.
Please find the info below and register here! http://bitly.ws/BKIS
As global temperatures rise and make record-breaking floods and fires daily headlines, national governments repeatedly protect the corporations that fuel the climate crisis and incarcerate those who challenge them. Around the world the communities that attempt to protect and preserve their environment are increasingly met with terrorism charges, assasination, and egregious human rights abuses. In this international webinar we will explore the questions:
Does protecting clean water or taking climate action make you a terrorist?
What are the implications of governments labeling their population terrorists for political action?
Our panelists include organizers from the youth climate movement in the Philippines, the Palestinian liberation movement, the climate justice struggle in Germany, the Indigenous land defense movement in Honduras, the Campaign to Free Jessica Reznicek, and Stop Cop City in Atlanta GA.
The panelists will discuss their experiences with criminalization and how the growing repression of land defenders affects us all.
Marlon Kautz, Atlanta Solidarity Fund. #StopCopCity in Atlanta, GA.
Sandra Tamari, Adalah Justice Project. Palestinian Liberation Movement.
Michèle Winkler, Grundrechtekomitee. German Climate Justice movement.
Alab Ayroso, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines. Youth Climate Movement in the Philippines.
Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, COPINH-Indigenous land defense in Honduras.
Friends of Jessica from The Campaign to Free Jessica Reznicek.