BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield resident Ted Glick and co-defendant Karlos Edmonds of Freehold were found guilty on Wednesday, July 10, by Roseland Municipal Judge William Connell for failure to obey an order from a police officer. Glick was fined $375 and Edmonds $200. But after telling the judge he had no money, Edmonds was sentenced to 50 hours of community service. The attorney for the defense was Bennet Zurofsky of Newark who took the position that the law was being broken out of dire necessity. The Roseland prosecutor was Nancy Gennaro.
The charges against both men stemmed from a climate-change protest at the site of the Roseland compressor station on Eagle Rock Avenue where a second compressor is being built.
Glick and Edmonds were part of a group attempting to prevent the second compressor from being built by generating public awareness of the project and the dangers of global warming. Periodically the group has protested at the site by holding up placards for passing motorists to read.
On May 22, the protesters went into a restricted area at the site. Roseland police told them to leave. All complied but Glick who was arrested. Edmonds retreated across the street where he was asked by police to go back to a marked-off protest area. He refused and was arrested.
The defense was handed a setback at the outset after Gennaro objected to a report written by an environmental attorney supporting Glick’s necessity to break the law in light of the dangers of climate warming.
“Climate change is not on trial,” Gennaro said.
Zurofsky responded by saying the lawful requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is to consider the impact of another Roseland compressor and the commission did not do this. FERC issues permits for energy infrastructure construction.
“Climate change is a runaway train that is causing destruction,” he said.
But Connell said a person’s First Amendment rights were not in dispute.
Gennaro called four witnesses to the stand, all Roseland police personnel who were at the protest. None knew if a protest permit had been secured but later it was learned that Glick had informed the Roseland mayor of the planned protest. The police set up traffic cones and remained there.
The first witness, Detective Jason Hiter, told the court he ordered the protesters to leave the construction area. He identified Glick by pointing at him.
“He was standing by himself,” Hiter said. “I told him he was under arrest and to place his hands behind his back. He didn’t say anything.”
Capt. William Maldon said a construction foreman told him the protester had to leave because the area required protective clothing.
“Mr. Glick said he wasn’t leaving,” Maldon said.
Officer Anthony McDavitt said he approached Edmonds who had crossed the street and told him to go to the protest area.
“We stopped traffic while we spoke to him,” McDavitt said. “I told him he would be placed under arrest. He said he wasn’t leaving.”
Zurofsky asked McDavitt if people were prohibited from walking on that side of the street. McDavitt did not think so. Was Edmonds stopping traffic? The officer said no. The judge asked if Edmonds was holding a protest sign. McDavitt said yes. The judge concluded he was protesting outside the protest area. But Zurofsky asked McDavitt if he knew for a fact that protesters had to remain in the protest area. McDavitt said he did not know that.
“If Mr. Edmonds was a pedestrian on a walk, would he have been allowed on the other side of the street,” Zurofsky asked.
“Yes,” McDavitt said.
Zurofsky asked for the charge against Edmonds to be dismissed because he was not blocking traffic or violating any ordinance.
“He was exercising his freedom of speech as the other protesters on the other side of the street,” he said.
Gennaro said she did not know if Roseland had a protest permit but Edmonds was in an unsafe place. Connell would not dismiss the charge because a police officer can make a determination of safety.
The defense called two witnesses, Glick and Edmonds. Connell and Gennaro both asked Glick if he intended to be arrested. Glick said no, but the protesters discovered the gate to the construction site open and decided to risk it.
“Would you bring dynamite,” Connell asked him.
“No,” Glick said, “I’m nonviolent. I wish we could stop the work.”
Connell wanted to know why he did not pursue legal remedies. Glick said the issue of climate change was too important.
“What do you expect to do next?” Connell said.
“Maybe we have to lock ourselves to something,” Glick said.
Edmonds said when he left the restricted construction area and crossed Eagle Rock Avenue, he was angry.
Before passing sentence, Connell said the trial was not a question of necessity. When Zurofsky told the judge the defendants were acting out of morality, Connell said he would consider that.
In a telephone interview earlier this week, Zurofsky said the trial went well. If there were any appeal, it would be for Edmonds.
“He had a right to be there,” he said. “The sign shouldn’t make a difference.”
He said the courts do not generally recognize the necessity defense.
“I believe the issue of climate crisis demonstrations should be as numerous as possible and as militant as possible,” he said.
Glick said in an interview early this week that he was disappointed Connell did not allow the defense to make the case of necessity. Edmonds could not be reached in time for this story.