In 1849, Henry David Thoreau, of Concord, Massachusetts, wrote one of his most famous essays, Civil Disobedience, on the virtues of following one’s own conscience. The Thoreau Society says the original title of the work was “Resistance to Civil Government.”
On May 15, 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, took their lobster boat, the Henry David T.. up the Taunton River to Somerset, Mass., in an act of civil disobedience. Their goal that day was to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal bound for the Brayton Point Power Plant. Since then, federal regulators have cited the coal-fired plant as being one of the state’s heaviest polluters.
For Ward and O’Hara, the act of blocking the coal delivery was designed to bring attention to global warming. Although they were charged with disturbing the peace, conspiracy, failure to avoid collision, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, according to The Providence Journal, they succeeded in bringing attention to their cause. Their arrests were covered here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Then as the trial date approached the issue drew more attention in part because they faced as much as six months in jail on the misdemeanor charges. That’s when the case took a surprising turn.
During their appearance in Fall River District Court on Sept. 8, 2014, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter announced he had reached a plea agreement with the pair, essentially dropping the charges. Sutter agreed with their position, telling The Boston Globe that global warming is one of the greatest crises the planet faces. Ward, a carpenter from Corbett, Ore., and O’Hara, a sail maker from Bourne, Mass., paid $2,000 each in restitution.
To read more about this case, see the coverage O’Hara and Ward have collected on this issue, and see videos here and here.