Three people were arraigned in Skagit County Superior Court Thursday on charges related to Oct. 11 demonstrations against oil pipelines. A lawyer said two of those people are journalists who did nothing to warrant the criminal charges.
Ken Ward is an activist with the Climate Disobedience Center. As part of those demonstrations, he’s accused of breaking through a fence and shutting down a valve in the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline near Burlington.
That pipeline brings Canadian oil from Alberta to refineries in Anacortes. Two other people were watching from outside the fence: Lindsey Grayzel and Carl Davis, who lawyers say are making a documentary about Ward.
Ward posted his video in which a Skagit County deputy approaches the filmmakers, telling them, “You don’t have permission to be on this property. So now’s your chance to go back. If not, you will be arrested also.”
Court documents suggest they complied. But all three were arrested that day and charged with the same felonies: burglary, criminal sabotage and being part of an assembly of saboteurs.
“These two latter crimes were adopted in the state of Washington early last century in an effort to combat the militant labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World," said Grayzel’s attorney Neil Fox.
He said it’s fairly unprecedented for journalists to face those charges in Washington, but it resembles the rioting charge filed against "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman during similar protests in North Dakota. This week a judge there dismissed that charge.
The three arrested in Skagit County also face a misdemeanor trespassing charge.
The filmmakers crossed what court documents say is a "privately owned field" to get to the fence. Fox says this charge is also unusual.
“Normally if you’re on unimproved property and there are no ‘no trespassing’ signs, it’s not a crime to be there," Fox said.
Fox said police confiscated their cameras and equipment.
Trans Mountain issued a statement saying, “We respect the right to peacefully demonstrate” but “we condemn any actions that put the integrity of our facilities and in turn our communities at risk.” It continued, "We support the efforts of the authorities and courts to hold these individuals accountable for their actions."