ROSELAND, NJ — Karlos Edmonds, Extinction Rebellion activist, and Ted Glick, president of 350NJ-Rockland and coordinator of Roseland Against the Compressor Station, were recently convicted in Roseland Municipal Court by Municipal Judge William T. Connell, Esquire after a two-hour trial and a pre-trial rally by supporters.
The two activists were arrested at a nonviolent civil disobedience protest on May 22 after walking onto the Roseland gas compressor expansion construction site alongside a handful of people who held banners saying, “Roseland Not Gasland,” and “Governor Murphy, No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure.” A 33,000 horsepower gas compressor operation is currently being built at the Eagle Rock Avenue site next to a 27,500 gas compressor station that was built in 2013 and expanded in 2016.
Both men, who were arrested and charged with “Failure to Obey Order of a Police Officer,” pleaded not guilty at their arraignment, stating that they believed their actions were necessary due to “the failure of the federal government and state government to reject this unneeded, dangerous, destructive project,” according to Glick.
“They did this despite all of the many reasons our coalition of opposition provided to do so and the efforts of hundreds of people using all of the legal avenues,” said Glick, who urged the community to attend the trial in order to “strengthen the movement and let the judge know that many people support this righteous cause.”
Although Glick and Edmonds faced up to 90 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, Glick was ultimately fined $375 and Edmonds was sentenced to 50 hours of community service.
The Roseland Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the recent demonstrations and arrests. Roseland Mayor James Spango stated that the governing body “joins Edmonds and Glick in their opposition to the expansion of the compressor station.”
“While we stand with them against the expansion, we do not advocate for the violation of any law,” said Spango. “We also implore the DEP to have the expansion cease until the freshwater permit is decided.”
Action against this project has been ongoing since mid-March after the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection allowed construction to take place on the gas compressor expansion despite active appeals by the Borough of Roseland, Roseland Against the Compressor Station, Food and Water Watch, New Jersey Sierra Club and 350NJ-Rockland of a Freshwater Wetlands permit that issued in December of 2018.
Livingston native Carolyn Elefant—a lawyer who has been representing groups around the country opposing proposed fossil fuel infrastructure for more than 10 years—explained that if this 60,500 horsepower gas compressor operation is completed and goes into operation, it will be larger than 97 percent of the gas compressors in the country.
Following his conviction, Edmonds—a 35-year old, full-time, volunteer climate activist—said that the legal system in Roseland has “failed the people of Roseland and the disrupted and heating-up climate [at the trial].”
“What we did was a necessity because of the extreme threat to human existence, and existence for all life forms on earth, due to the burning of fossil fuels and the environmental pollution of our corporate-dominated economic and political system,” he said. “It is clear that the people must take action, must draw attention to the urgency of our crisis and get organized to stop the expansion of any new fossil fuel infrastructure right now. As our lawyer Bennet Zurofsky said during the trial, ‘Legality is not morality.’”
Glick, a retired 69 year old who is also a full-time volunteer climate activist, said it was “disappointing that Judge Connell refused to consider our argument that the severity of the climate crisis and the health and safety threat to Roselanders and others justified our civil disobedience action.”
“Down through history, from Henry David Thoreau protesting the war with Mexico in the 1840’s to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement risking their lives to end Jim Crow segregation in the South in the 1960’s, and many more, nonviolent civil disobedience has been used when the institutions of society have failed the test of justice,” he said. “Such is our situation today. The movement in New Jersey and nationally and, indeed, internationally will not rest, and will continue to take what actions are necessary, until the power of the fossil fuel industry over our government is broken and job-creating renewables and just, energy-efficient economies are our reality throughout the world.”
Edmonds and Glick were represented by labor and progressive lawyer Bennet Zurofsky, who donated his time and energies due to his own belief in the importance of action now on the climate crisis.