Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Prosecution dropped against 2 environmental activists

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State prosecutors have announced they will not pursue felony charges against two New Orleans environmental activists who left plastic pellets on the doorstep of a chemical industry lobbyist.

Friday’s decision ends a case arising from a December 2019 event in Baton Rouge aimed at raising awareness about plastic pollution. The activists left plastic pellets outside the lobbyist’s home that had been collected from Texas bays near a plastic manufacturing facility owned by Formosa Plastics, The Advocate reported.

Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh, activists with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, were arrested in June after police had notified them about pending felony charges. Rolfes was booked with terrorizing, a felony charge punishable by up to 15 years in prison. McIntosh was booked with principal to terrorizing. Each was released on $5,000 bond.

The announcement that the women activists will not be prosecuted was made by the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office.

The Bucket Brigade staunchly opposes a proposed chemical plant set to be constructed in St. James Parish by a Formosa affiliate. Several environmental groups have sued to block permits that would allow construction to begin. The litigation is ongoing.

In court Friday, First Assistant District Attorney Tracey Barbera said the decision to reject the charges was made after a review of the facts and applicable law. Barbera also warned Rolfes, 52, and McIntosh, 26, that any future entry onto the complainant’s property would be considered unauthorized and unwelcome.

“This was serious retaliation even though these completely baseless charges were ultimately rejected,” said Rachel Conner, an attorney representing the two women. “But my clients are not deterred by this flexing of power by the petrochemical industry.”

The box in question was left on the doorstep of a house owned by Greg Bowser, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association. After the item was reported to police as suspicious, a hazmat team was called. The team discovered “trash and plastic,” according to police reports. Video footage showed the women leaving the package on the porch and running back to their rental car, according to authorities.

The legal definition of terrorizing is intentionally causing fear to the general public, causing evacuation of a building or other serious disruption to the general public.

The box had a note attached that said the plastic pellets should not be removed from their packaging, left around children or pets and should be recycled responsibly.

“These are just some of the billions of nurdles that Formosa Plastics dumped into the coastal waters of the state of Texas,” the note said, according to a copy provided by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “These were used as evidence in a landmark lawsuit filed against Formosa under the Clean Water Act.”

Baton Rouge police wrote in an arrest warrant that “it was obvious” the women were trying to instill fear in the homeowners or intimidate them with hazardous materials.

“I think there’s a clear hypocrisy in labeling these plastic pellets hazardous materials when they’re left on someone’s doorstep in a sealed container, but when they’re dumped into our environment, they’re treated as byproducts of a necessary industry,” said Conner.

She said the box was meant to protest chemical pollution, and that the right to protest was protected under the First Amendment.

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