In 2013 Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, with the support of a team on shore, blockaded 40,000 tons of coal being delivered to the Brayton Point generating station in Somerset, Massachusetts – the largest single source of climate changing carbon emissions in the northeast.

The two of us headed to trial intending to offer a climate necessity defense, which had been permitted by the judge. But to our surprise the prosecutor, District Attorney Samuel Sutter, dropped the criminal charges and on the steps of the courthouse in Fall River made a breathtaking statement about climate change, and pledged to join us for the People’s Climate March in New York City in two weeks.

Ken and I have gone on to help found the Climate Disobedience Center and were both subsequently involved in the October 2016 #ShutItDown tar sands valve turning action in four states.

Please enjoy reading through this piece of history on this site!

Minute of Appreciation

The Quakers of West Falmouth (Jay’s home Meeting) approved the following minute:

West Falmouth Friends Meeting is deeply grateful for the care and support given to Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward at the time of their trial at the Fall River District Court on September 8, 2014. The trial was a consequence of their action to block the delivery of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Plant on May 15, 2013.

Meeting is grateful to the hundreds of supporters who sent letters, prayers and financial & material support and who filled the courtroom to overflowing at the time of the trial. In particular we raise up the pro bono counsel of attorneys Joan Fund and Matt Pawa. We are grateful to the Better Future Project, and Marla Marcum particularly, for effectively bringing together students, community members and the faith community in lifting up Ken and Jay’s witness. We thank Tim DeChristopher and Bill McKibben for sharing their insights and experience.

We appreciate Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter’s courageous stand of conscience to reduce the charges brought against Jay and Ken, and to make a public statement. Sutter gave voice to the need for change in how our government and policy makers respond to the climate crisis and the need for bold prophetic action.

As one Friend expressed about the trial, “What a journey we have had and a blessed resolution.” For the Inner Light that guided all of us in this witness, we are deeply grateful.

This minute of appreciation was approved at West Falmouth Friends Meeting for Business on September 28, 2014.

People’s Climate March

True to his word in front of the Fall River courthouse, District Attorney Samuel Sutter, our prosecutor, joined Ken and I in New York City for the epochal People’s Climate March. Sam brought his family and several of his staff from the DA’s office to join him and marched with us for over three hours.


Wow! What an Exciting 24 Hours!

Ken and Jay’s story is now national — it’s clear that their bold action has inspired many people in every corner of the country (and even beyond!)

For a full round-up of media hits, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Democracy Now, and more, click here.

For amazing photos and videos, click here. 

To share the meme on Facebook (it’s already gone viral!), click here. 

If you’re just tuning in now, this amazing video from Sarah Athanas and Elise Hugus will get you up to speed:

Bristol County DA drops criminal charges against Ken and Jay from Mate Corazón on Vimeo.

Press Release: All Criminal Charges Dropped!


September 8, 2014

Contact: Emily Kirkland, Communications Coordinator for Better Future Project, 646 623 5271, emily@betterfutureproject.org

FALL RIVER, MA — In a major — and unexpected — victory for the climate movement, the criminal charges against two men who used a lobster boat to block a massive coal shipment were dropped this morning.

In May 2013, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used a little white lobster boat, the Henry David T, to block a shipment of 40,000 tons of coal to the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, MA, the largest coal plant in New England. They were charged with conspiracy, disturbing the peace and motor vessel violations and faced up to several years in jail.

The Bristol County District Attorney, Sam Sutter, dropped the conspiracy charges and reduced the other charges to civil infractions this morning, saying that he saw the need to take leadership on climate change. He called climate change “one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced” and told a cheering crowd that he would join them at the People’s Climate March in New York City in two weeks.

Ken and Jay had sought to become the first American climate activists to use a “necessity defense”, arguing that the blockade was necessary in light of the imminent threat of climate change. They had planned to call former NASA climatologist James Hansen and environmentalist Bill McKibben to the stand as expert witnesses.

“The truth is that taking these sorts of actions is necessary in light of the drastic news that continues to be described by the science. This decision by the District Attorney is an admission that the political and economic system isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously, and that it falls to ordinary citizens, especially people of faith, to stand up and take action to avert catastrophe,” said Jay O’Hara, a Quaker.

“By dropping the criminal charges against us and stating that ‘political leadership on this [climate] issue has been gravely lacking,’ DA Sutter in effect accepted our necessity defense. The climate crisis is so terrible and so fast that it overwhelms ordinary political avenues. Even now, as the West Antarctic ice shelf is in unstoppable collapse, the Brayton Point plant is increasing the amount of coal it burns. Protest works, indeed protest maybe the only thing that can save us,” said Ken Ward.

Ken and Jay’s blockade sparked a summer of action at the Brayton Point, including the arrest of 44 people at the gates of the plant in July 2013. Last fall, the owners announced the closure of Brayton Point in 2017.

For a full list of media resources, including a press statement from Matt Pawa, Ken and Jay’s lawyer, and an unofficial transcript of the DA’s remarks, click here.

For links to photos and videos for press use, click here.

Ken and Jay are available for interviews. To schedule, contact Emily Kirkland (646 623 5271, emily@betterfutureproject.org), Communications Coordinator for Better Future Project, a Cambridge-based climate advocacy group that has been supporting Ken and Jay.

Informal Transcript of District Attorney Sam Sutter’s Statement

After dropping the conspiracy charges and reducing the criminal charges to civil infractions, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter issued the following statement*:

“The decision that Assistant District Attorney Robert Kidd and I reached today was a decision that certainly took into consideration the cost to the taxpayers in Somerset, but was also made with our concern for their children, the children of Bristol County and beyond in mind. Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced. In my humble opinion, the political leadership on this issue has been gravely lacking.

photoI am heartened that we were able to forge an agreement that both parties were pleased with and that appeared to satisfy the police and those here in sympathy with the individuals who were charged. I am also extremely pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that symbolizes our commitment at the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office to take a leadership role on this issue.


It’s very inspiring to me and I will carry that with me in my heart. Thank you.

Rabbi Katy Allen: Will you be an example for across the country?

Sutter: I certainly will be in New York in two weeks, how’s that? I’ve been carrying around Bill McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone.


I’m sending a message that this was an act of civil disobedience. I’m not at all disputing that the individuals were charged, but this was the right disposition, it was reduced to a civil infraction, it was civil disobedience after all, and restitution is going to the Town of Somerset in full, and part of the state police’s expenses will be paid for, so this is about as good and reasonable a disposition as could be reached.

Climate change is one of the gravest crises the planet has ever faced. The evidence is overwhelming and it keeps getting worse. So we took a stand here today, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.”

*This is an informal transcript based on a video taken outside the courthouse.

Charges reduced; DA makes historic statement in support of climate action

This morning marked a significant victory for the climate movement. Approximately 100 supporters gathered at the Fall River Justice Center for the scheduled trial of climate activists Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward. Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter dropped the conspiracy charges and reduced the other charges to civil infractions. O’Hara and Ward will pay $2,000 each in restitution to the Town of Somerset, Massachusetts.

O’Hara, Ward, and their attorney Matt Pawa, spoke to supporters outside following the conclusion of events in the court room. Sutter also addressed the assembled crowd, saying “[The agreement] was made with our concern for their children, the children of Bristol County and beyond in mind. Climate change is one of the gravest crises our planet has ever faced.”

A full press release will be posted here later today. Follow the commentary on Twitter via #ClimateTrial. More details and photographs are available at https://twitter.com/BetterFuturePro


Jay and Ken gathered outside the courthouse with their lawyers Matt Pawa and Joan Fund, along with climate activist Tim DeChristopher and other supporters.


Para difusión inmediata

8 de Septiembre, 2014

contacto: Emily Kirkland, Coordinadora de Comunicaciones para Better Future Project, 646 623 5271, emily@betterfutureproject.org

Fall River, Massachusetts, EEUU- En una importante – e inesperada – victoria para el movimiento mundial sobre el clima, las causas penales contra dos hombres que utilizaron un barco langostero para bloquear un cargamento masivo de carbón fueron retiradas esta mañana.

En mayo de 2013, Ken Ward y Jay O’Hara utilizaron un pequeño bote blanco para pescar langostas, el Henry David T, para bloquear un cargamento de 40.000 toneladas de carbón a la central eléctrica de Brayton Point en Somerset, Massachusetts.  Esta es la planta de carbón más grande de la región nordestina de Nueva Inglaterra. Fueron acusados ​​de conspiración, perturbación de la paz y de varias violaciones relacionadas con regulaciones para  embarcaciones motorizadas, y se enfrentaron a la posibilidad de ser condenados a varios años de cárcel.

Esta mañana, el fiscal de distrito del condado de Bristol, Sam Sutter, retiró los cargos de conspiración y redujo las causas interpuestas contra Ken y Jay a otras infracciones civiles, diciendo que veía la necesidad de asumir un papel de liderazgo en materia de cambio climático. Se refirió al cambio climático como “una de las crisis más graves que nuestro planeta jamás haya enfrentado” y le dijo a una multitud jubilosa que se uniría a ellos en la Marcha Popular Sobre el Clima (el “People’s Climate March”) en la ciudad de Nueva York en dos semanas.

Ken y Jay habían tratado de convertirse en los primeros activistas del clima estadounidenses en utilizar la defensa “por la necesidad”, con el argumento de que el bloqueo era necesario en vista de la inminente amenaza del cambio climático. Habían planeado llamar a ex climatólogo de la NASA James Hansen y ambientalista Bill McKibben al estrado como testigos expertos.

“La verdad es que la toma de este tipo de acciones es necesaria a la luz de las noticias drásticas que continúan siendo descritas por la ciencia. Esta decisión del fiscal de distrito es una admisión de que el sistema político y económico no están tomando en serio la crisis climática, y que corresponde a los ciudadanos comunes, especialmente las personas de fe, ponerse de pie y tomar medidas para evitar la catástrofe”, dijo Jay O’Hara, que es cuáquero.

“Al retirar los cargos criminales en contra de nosotros y al afirmar que ‘el liderazgo político en esta cuestión [climático] ha sido gravemente deficiente,’ el fiscal de distrito Sutter en efecto haaaceptado nuestra defensa de necesidad. La crisis climática es tan terrible y tan rápido que abruma las vías políticas comunes. Incluso ahora, cuando la plataforma de hielo de la Antártida Occidental está en colapso imparable, la planta Brayton Point está aumentando la cantidad de carbón que se quema. La protesta funciona, de hecho protestar tal vez sea lo único que nos puede salvar “, dijo Ken Ward.

El bloqueo de Ken y Jay provocó un verano de acción en el Punto de Brayton, incluyendo el arresto de 44 personas a las puertas de la planta en julio de 2013. El pasado otoño, los propietarios anunciaron el cierre de Brayton Point en 2017. 

Una transcripción no oficial de las observaciones del fiscal, en inglés, está disponible aquí.

Fotos para el uso de medios están disponibles aquí (Crédito de la foto: Peter Bowden). 

Un video de las declaraciones del fiscal está disponible aquí.

Ken y Jay están disponibles para entrevistas. Para programar una entrevista, póngase en contacto con Emily Kirkland (646 623 5271, emily@betterfutureproject.org), Coordinadora de Comunicaciones para el Better Future Project, un grupo de defensa del clima con sede en Cambridge que ha venido apoyando Ken y Jay.