General · 13th November 2014
On Saturday November 22 Sierra Quadra is pleased to present Bidder 70, a feature documentary that tells the story of one young man’s risk on behalf of the environment. It’s a moving film that walks the audience through the step-by-step experience of peaceful civil disobedience and its real-life consequences.
About their award-winning film directors Beth and George Gage said: “Once in a while someone comes along who totally wows you. That’s how we felt when we read about Tim DeChristopher. As bidder #70, DeChristopher bid [nearly two million dollars and saved thousands of acres] of pristine wilderness. No property was destroyed, no one was hurt, and valid concerns were raised over the entire Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas leasing process. Bidder 70 was a story we wanted to tell.”
It was during the Bush administration, December 2008. Vast tracts of Utah were up for grabs in a dubious BLM auction which would open pristine lands of the US southwest to oil and gas exploration. Not content to protest outside, DeChristopher entered the auction hall and registered as bidder #70. He outbid industry giants on land parcels – which, starting at $2 an acre, were adjacent to national treasures like Canyonlands National Park – and ended up winning 22,000 acres of land valued at $1.7M. The auction was halted and later invalidated by the incoming Interior Secretary.
But DeChristopher was indicted on two federal felonies with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. Patrick Shea, former BLM Director for Clinton, represented him pro-bono.
With the threat of incarceration looming, DeChristopher stepped up his activism. He co-founded Peaceful Uprising, a grass-roots group dedicated to defending a livable future through non-violent action.
After two years and nine postponements, his trial began in February 2011. Outside the courtroom, hundreds rallied in solidarity. Although the auction had been declared illegal, DeChristopher’s defense attorneys were prevented from informing the jury of this. They were also barred from telling jurors that their client had raised the money for the initial payment to the Bureau of Land Management, a payment the BLM had refused to accept. After a five-day trial, DeChristopher was found guilty. His sentencing was set for the summer of 2012.
In April 2011 DeChristopher gave the keynote speech at Power Shift 2011 in front of 10,000 students in Washington DC. He then led them to occupy the Department of the Interior. Dozens were arrested in the mass act of peaceful civil disobedience.
On July 26, 2012, DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in prison and removed immediately from the courtrooom in chains.