Five XR PDX climate activists are going to trial on Monday, February 24th, at the Multnomah County Courthouse for allegedly building a victory-over-climate-change garden on the railroad yard and track at Zenith Energy Corporation. The defendants’ criminal charges of trespassing in the first degree resulted from an April 2019 action intended to disrupt or halt Zenith Energy Management’s essential role in the global production, movement and burning of fossil fuels— specifically tar sands oil. The activists, Ken Ward, Jan Zuckerman, Margaret Butler, Mike Horner, and Emily Carl, challenge the existential threats posed by Zenith Energy and fossil fuel industry activities, as well as the failure of federal, state, and local governments to adequately address the imminent harms posed by the global climate crisis. The defendants’ attorneys have notified the State of Oregon that they intend to present an affirmative defense known as the climate necessity, or “choice of evils,” defense.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with three of these defendants—Jan Zuckerman, Margaret Butler and Mike Horner—about why they chose to get arrested on the tracks and what they hope to achieve by going to trial.
Jan Zuckerman co-founded the Environmental Middle School, now Sunnyside Environmental School, 25 years ago. Since retiring in 2015, she has been actively involved with environmental and social justice community organizers in Portland, and is a member of XRPDX, Stop Zenith Collaborative, StopFrackedGas/PDX, the Climate Action Coalition, and board member of SEEN (Sustainable Energy and Economy Network) and The Media Project. She is also a member of the Portland Public Schools Climate Justice Committee, working to implement one of the nation’s first Climate Justice Resolutions. Through her work on the committee, as a teacher trainer, and as a mentor for the Portland Youth Climate Council, Jan supports youth by encouraging them to develop confidence and see themselves as leaders and activists for social and environmental justice.
Margaret Butler discovered the power of collective action when she was 20 and spent 40 years in the labor movement. She was a rank and file activist, local union officer and organized for her national union. She helped start Portland Jobs with Justice and spent 17 years as the director there. Most recently she served as ED of AAUP-Oregon. Since her retirement in 2017, she has been working with the Climate Jobs committee and Extinction Rebellion.
Mike Horner has worked on climate issues for 7 or 8 years, starting with the coal issue, then the megaloads and now pipeline resistance, after he organized a donation run to Standing Rock in 2016. He wound up designing and delivering the Medical Buses for Standing Rock. He was arrested in Vancouver in 2017 for blocking train tracks and again twice in 2019 for blocking the tracks at the Zenith Energy.