Human Rights

Environmentalist Could Get 3 Years for Hanging Banners From Senate Building

Ted Glick, an environmental activist who has been arrested for non-violent protest more than two dozen times, will be sentenced today.

A 60 year-old environmental activist who hung two banners in a government building will be sentenced Tuesday -- and faces up to three years in prison.

Bloomfield, NJ resident Ted Glick will be sentenced Tuesday for unfurling two banners saying “Green Jobs Now” and “Get to Work” from the Hart Senate Office Building’s 7th floor into the atrium on Sept. 8, 2009, the day the Senate returned from its summer recess. Glick and approximately 30 demonstrators were attempting to pressure the Senate to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House in June 2009.

Despite entering the building legally and following all security requirements, including providing identification and having the banners and other items scanned, Glick was convicted of two misdemeanors—disorderly conduct and unlawfully assembling on Capitol Grounds—on May 13.

Glick, who has been married for 31 years and has a 26 year-old son, says he entered the situation fully cognizant of the possible outcomes. Glick has been arrested more than two dozen times for non-violent protests over the years.

“I knew there was a risk,” he told Raw Story.

Glick says he thought the most likely scenario would be that the Capitol Police would eject him and his co-protestors from the building, as they did in 2003 when he protested the US invasion of Iraq.

One other demonstrator hanging the banners was also arrested, but accepted a plea bargain that included probation. Because of two prior misdemeanor convictions also stemming from non-violent protests, Glick’s plea bargain required a 30-day jail sentence.

But Glick says that he was simply “unwilling to accept that anyone should go to jail for 30 days for hanging a banner.”

Each of the two convictions typically carries a maximum of six months in prison, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicated to the judge they will request the sentence be tripled because of the prior convictions.

In all, Glick has been arrested 16 times for non-violent protests and served time in 1971 for resisting the draft.

At a July 6 noon sentencing hearing, Glick’s fate will be handed down by Judge Frederick H. Weisberg of the Washington, DC Superior Court.

Weisberg, who currently serves as Chairman of the District of Columbia Sentencing Commission and presided over Glick’s trial, is being heavily lobbied for leniency by a letter-writing campaign that includes celebrities such as Danny Glover and Ed Asner.

Mike Tidwell, founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) where Glick is Policy Director, said CCAN is hoping Weisberg will suspend Glick’s sentence and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue those “who are the real problem.”

Tidwell, said “we’re astonished that a principled, non-violent staff member such as Ted Glick is facing a jail sentence while we are simultaneously witnessing violence in the current coal and oil catastrophes that has not resulted in any action.”

“The contrast couldn’t be more profound in the country’s energy priorities,” said Tidwell.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 2001 is dedicated to global warming issues in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

According to the CCAN website, the mission of the organization is “to educate and mobilize citizens of this region in a way that fosters a rapid societal switch to clean energy and energy-efficient products, thus joining similar efforts worldwide to halt the dangerous trend of global warming.”

Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 with the promise of an improved political atmosphere, CCAN has increasingly focused on federal legislation and insists that government at all levels should be taking the environment seriously, part of the motivation that brought Glick to the Senate building that day.

However, it may be the case that the Obama administration is showing few signs of easing the pressure on dissent.

“I would have thought that the Obama administration would be more tolerant of dissent—and the Senate, too, for that matter,” said Glick.

And it’s not that Glick thought either the administration or the Senate would get involved, but he did think that the U.S. attorney’s office under Obama’s watch “would not be vindictive.”

Instead, Glick says, “They made it clear they will penalize me for not taking the 30-day sentence and asking for my right to a trial.”

Glick now says it is “highly likely” he will have to serve a jail sentence that will exceed the 30-day sentence that would have gone with the initial plea bargain.

In a June letter to supporters, Glick wrote that “the government has made it clear by what they have said and done that they want to make an example of me.”

“What example do they think they’re making by putting Glick in jail while corporate criminals remain largely unpunished?” asked Tidwell.

According to District of Columbia law regarding the Capitol Grounds, Glick violated two sections.

Engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct on Capitol Grounds:

To utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or to engage in any disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place upon the United States Capitol Grounds or within any of the Capitol Buildings with intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of any session of the Congress or either House thereof, or the orderly conduct within any such building of any hearing before, or any deliberations of, any committee or subcommittee of the Congress or either House thereof.

Parading or assemblages on Capitol Grounds:

It is forbidden to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in said United States Capitol Grounds, or to display therein any flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice any party, organization, or movement…

Glick wrote for support in numbers at the  hearing, while also seeming to realize that an unfavorable outcome could result in a teachable moment:

“If you are in the greater DC area, can you be with me next Tuesday AT 12 PM NOON, when I'm sentenced? Or if you're not in this area are there people you know that you could reach out to? It could make a difference to the judge if he sees a full courtroom. And it will also be a way of our collectively saying that the time is long overdue for action by our federal government on the climate crisis.”

The Senate has still not passed a bill regarding the climate crisis.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and Middle East affairs. He blogs at governmentalityblog.com and is currently working on a book project, No Child Left Unrecruited. He lives in Brooklyn.
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