EIP Response to Criminal Arrest Warrant of Louisiana Bucket Brigade Activists for Peaceful Protest Against New Petrochemical Plant

On June 25, 2020, Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade were charged with “terrorizing” an oil and gas lobbyist. These charges stem from a peaceful protest that Rolfes and McIntosh took part in back in December, during which they delivered a file box full of plastic pellets, also called nurdles, to an oil and gas lobbyist’s home with an explanatory note. The Environmental Integrity Project calls for the charges against these two activists be dropped immediately.

“Using criminal statutes designed for terrorists to charge Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh for their effective – and totally nonviolent – activism on behalf of communities opposed to construction of yet another petrochemical pollution source in Louisiana is outrageous, un-American, and sets a dangerous precedent. The Baton Rouge Police Department should withdraw this absurd arrest warrant and the public should be alarmed by this attempt to criminalize the Constitutional right to peaceful protest.” – Eric Schaeffer, Director of the Environmental Integrity Project

Background information:

  • In December 2019, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade organized a coordinated protest against Formosa Plastic’s plans to build a plastics manufacturing complex in an already heavily polluted portion of Louisiana commonly referred to as “Cancer Alley.”
  • This protest involved delivering packages of plastic “nurdles”—a product of petrochemical facilities and a common form of plastics pollution in communities along the Gulf coast—to several locations, including the home of a prominent oil and gas industry lobbyist.
  • The sealed packages of nurdles were accompanied by a note that detailed the purpose of this protest, who had organized it, the contact information for the group’s legal counsel, and the contact information of a local recycling facility that could dispose of the nurdles. The note stated that the package contained “just some of the billions of nurdles that Formosa Plastics dumped into the coastal waters of the state of Texas,” and that “Louisiana does not need any more pollution, plastics or otherwise.”
  • On April 16, more than four months after the Baton Rouge police responded to the delivery of the nurdles to the oil and gas lobbyist, police filed charges against Rolfes and McIntosh for “terrorizing” the lobbyist, claiming that the package of nurdles and its accompanying note was an attempt “to cause the homeowners to fear for their safety and to intimidate the home owner.”
  • Two months later on June 20, twelve hours after Formosa lost a lawsuit to block a community prayer on its property, a district judge issued the arrest warrant for Rolfes and McIntosh. Rolfes and McIntosh subsequently surrendered themselves to the police and were both charged with “felony terrorizing” under Louisiana statute 14:40.1, carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

If being temporarily exposed to such a small quantity of this plastic byproduct left an oil lobbyist feeling “terrorized,” how should the citizens of St. James Parish feel about the potential discharge of enormous amounts of plastics pollution into their community?

We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with 40+ environmental groups and colleagues in issuing a joint statement on this grave injustice.