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With bogus "terrorism hoax" charge dropped, eco-activists face reduced charge

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Environmental activists Moriah Stephenson and Stefan Warner in January 2014.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Two-and-a-half years ago, environmental activists Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson – both with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Cross Timbers Earth First! – were arrested after unfurling a protest banner in the main area of the Devon Tower in downtown Oklahoma City.

The banner, which read “The odds are never in our favor” (borrowing a line from The Hunger Games), was directed at Devon because of their role in the extraction of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, a process which is of grave concern to many environmentalists, political activists and citizens in North America, particularly in relation to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Image via Earth First! Journal

And when the banner was unfurled, black-colored glitter on the banner fell to the floor, reportedly “alarming” people nearby, leading to a eyebrow-raising charge of “terrorism hoax,” a state felony charge that could lead to a 10-year prison sentence.

But late last year, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater declined to file those charges, but later, the city filed a disorderly conduct charge – a misdemeanor which can lead to the maximum of a $500 fine.

Having defended political activists of various stripes since the 1970’s, Oklahoma City defense attorney Doug Parr has been representing Warner and Stephenson for all of this time and said that things look up for the defendants.

When Red Dirt Report originally interviewed Parr about the case in early 2014, he said that it was the first time he had ever heard of political activists being arrested on terrorism-related charges “for protest activity.”

And on Thursday, Warner and Stephenson are scheduled for a non-jury trial in front of Municipal Judge Philippa James.

 “The defense is that there was no public alarm caused, that there was no intent to cause public alarm and that Moriah and Stefan engaged in constitutionally-protected free speech,” Parr said, adding that on-site testing of the glitter revealed “it didn’t contain chemical or biological agents.”

In 2014, Stephenson said the charge of “terrorism hoax was over-the-top and that she felt bad for the Devon custodian who had to sweep up the glittery mess.

“It was so absurd,” Stephenson said at the time. “It seemed like (the Oklahoma City Police Department) were searching for some way to come after us and make an example of us.”

Warner and Stephenson had also noted that big companies like Devon and TransCanada often look to local law enforcement to crack down on protesters, even non-violent ones like Stephenson and Warner, so as to deter further protests of their extracting activities.

Attorney Parr said the case is on the docket for Thursday at 8 a.m., but may be later since there are other cases on the docket before theirs.

It is expected that the duo will have many supporters in the courtroom.

The Oklahoma City Court Administration building is located at 700 Couch Drive.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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