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Activists Mount 'Necessity' Defense for Anti-Coal Action

Ken Ward and Jay O'Hara
Ken Ward and Jay O'HaraPhotograph by Ben Thompson

This morning, a jury in Fall River, Mass., is hearing the curious case of two men, a lobster boat, a load of coal, and whether Earth, in the eyes of the law, is a jailhouse on fire.

On May 15, 2013, Ken Ward, of Corbett, Ore., and Jay O’Hara, a Cape Cod native, took a little white boat—they rechristened it the Henry David T. for the occasion—and anchored it in the path of an incoming freighter, interrupting the scheduled delivery of 40,000 tons of West Virginia coal to a power plant in Brayton Point, Mass. They did this, they write on a website about their brief naval blockade, because carbon from burning coal is overheating the planet and “bold action is required to achieve the deep emissions reductions the science says we need for a stable planet.”