Forgive Us Our Trespasses…

by Sara Grusky, July 3, 2013

I am writing this with a stubby pencil inside Mendocino County Jail where I am accompanied by five other brave “trespassers” including my daughter, Thea, Earth Firster Naomi Wagner and Matthew Caldwell. We spent the last two nights on a cold concrete floor under the bright florescent lights of the 6 ft by 6 ft holding cell. Now we are more comfortably housed as official inmates with cots to sleep on. Many people ask us why we continue doing this. Jail gives one lots of time for reflection and contemplation so here is my answer to the question.

Why I trespass. Civil disobedience is a fancy name for the idea, deeply rooted in American history and culture (beginning with the Boston Tea Party), that we have a right, even a responsibility and duty, to disobey laws that are unjust, destructive to people and other living things, and do not uphold our basic constitutional rights. Henry David Thoreau popularized the idea of civil disobedience but all of the major social movements in U.S. history including the movements for the abolition of slavery, the suffrage movement, civil rights, anti-war and environmental movements have used the tactic of civil disobedience. It is a time-honored tradition.

I believe it is a great honor and privilege to stand up for what you believe in. Most days, I cannot think of anything more important to do.....except maybe farming. (I do love to nurture plants and animals and make healthy food for my family and community!) Here is a short list of reasons why I trespass.

I trespass because I do not accept as legitimate Caltrans claim to “own” approximately 2,060 acres, one third of our precious Little Lake Valley (sixty acres are part of the Bypass footprint and 2,000 are part of the so-called Mitigation Plan). I believe this “land grab” is a great travesty. We need farmland, pastures, wetlands, forests, in part, because our future will require greater local economic self-sufficiency. Our children and grandchildren will face many challenges but I would like them to have a fighting chance to make a life and have a livelihood here in Little Lake Valley.

I trespass because I do not believe it was legitimate for Caltrans to dispossess local farmers, ranchers and homeowners in order to build an over-priced and unnecessary Bypass freeway.

I trespass because I cannot accept as legitimate Caltrans claim that they have the right to destroy and remove the forests, the soil, the creeks, the ancient oaks, the wetlands the pastureland and all the beautiful, delicate and intricate life forms that depend on these miracles of nature.

I trespass to protect the future for our small herd of goats. I know this sounds silly, but it is the honest truth. Watching our goat herd graze and browse teaches me many things about the plant life in our valley. I know the goats are concerned about the future of the creeks, the wetlands and the pasture lands because they understand how they are an interdependent part of the web of life in our valley.

I trespass because many people in this community have spent more than two decades trying to get their voices heard. Doors have been slammed again and again. Our political and judicial systems have failed to provide any viable recourse for those who seek a commonsense alternative route to Caltrans' Bypass boondoggle. Unfortunately, putting our bodies on the line seems to be necessary, but we all know it should not have come to this.

I put my body on the line as an offering of hope for the future. I know there has to be a better way than building another asphalt and concrete freeway. Climate change is real and it is caused by burning fossil fuels — including the fuel we put in our cars. So many people in Willits and in Mendocino County have a long and proud tradition of seeking and implementing alternative solutions to our energy and transportation needs. It is time all stand together to stop this bypass freeway.

Why we trespassed on June 22, 2013

More than 35 community supporters gathered to bring food and water to Will Parrish who has been sitting in the crane of the wick drain machine since June 20th. The machine had been drilling “wicks” eighty feet deep into the wetlands to remove water and compact the soil in preparation for the fill dirt, asphalt and concrete that will follow in order to build a freeway over the top of the wetlands. Will's brave presence on the crane of the machine has prevented it from working. The community supporters, myself and my daughter included, “trespassed” in an attempt to bring food and water to Will Parrish. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) blocked the delivery of supplies, cutting Will's rope, and later ordering us to leave. As we were moving to leave I was grabbed and arrested. My daughter was very upset by what she perceived as my wrongful arrest and when she spoke up in my defense she was also arrested. Naomi Wagner also sat down to protest the arrests and was later arrested along with Matthew Caldwell.

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