Last week, a Massachusetts district attorney compounded their crime: He denied the victims justice because he agreed that their business—coal power— was a menace
“Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced,” said Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter, who has expressed an interest in higher office. “In my humble opinion, the political leadership on the issue has been gravely lacking
In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jonathan “Jay” O’Hara used Ward’s lobster boat to try to stop the Energy Enterprise
from bringing its 40,000-ton load of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Mass. They succeeded in delaying it by one day
. They were to have gone on trial last week, but Sutter dropped the criminal charges against them, demanding only that, as penalty for civil infractions, they pay restitution for some police overtime
—as if the only wrong here worth doing anything about were placing an extra burden on the government.
Whether climate change is settled science, utter fraud, or anything in between—a matter on which Ward, O’Hara, and Sutter are certainly entitled to express their opinion—blocking the Enterprise was not just an expression of opinion. It was an initiation of physical force. It violated the rights of the owners of the ship and the power plant to transport property and do business.
By announcing that he will not prosecute them criminally for it because he agrees with them, Sutter is declaring that he will not defend the rights of people in the power business because he disapproves of their work. That means he is painting a target on them. He is saying: Go ahead and commit crimes against these people; the government will not give them the protection it gives to people it likes—or people Samuel Sutter likes.
That’s not just wrong because the power industry, which provides energy for human achievement, ought to be valued
. It’s wrong because the function of government is to protect everyone’s rights. When a prosecutor declares someone out of his protection, he is attacking the principle that everyone is entitled to the equal protection of the law. And when he thinks doing that is a good political move, that suggests that the voters he’s trying to please have forgotten that they need prosecutors to protect everyone from criminals.
And that puts everyone at risk.