Judge Phillipa James announced today a Not Guilty Verdict in regards to last month’s Disorderly Conduct trial of local environmental activists Moriah Stephenson and Stefan Warner. Stephenson and Warner were arrested nearly two and a half years earlier when glitter spilled off of a Hunger Games-themed banner that the activists hung in the open-to-the-public atrium of the Devon Energy building. The glittery banner read, “The Odds Are Never in Our Favor.”
At their trial, Stephenson and Warner explained that the banner was intended to highlight the disproportionate ways in which oil and gas development occurs. Stephenson explained, “Our intent was to highlight that the odds are never in our favor, our being the people’s favor.” Stephenson explained that oil and gas development disenfranchises communities of color and low-income, rural communities, a practice commonly referred to as environmental racism. Stephenson told the courtroom, “The purpose of the demonstration was to raise awareness about Devon Energy’s involvement in tar sands extraction and the environmentally racist nature of tar sands extraction.” Warner contributed that the large tax incentives that oil and gas corporations receive have exacerbated our current economic crisis in Oklahoma. Additionally, oil and gas corporations gain wealth from hydraulic fracturing, while homeowners are forced to pay for earthquake damage that results from the disposal of fracking wastewater.
The activists’ lawyer argued that Stephenson and Warner’s actions were a form of protected free speech. Judge Philipa James found that Warner and Stephenson were both engaged in political protest and that the evidence presented by both the defense and the City of Oklahoma City established that there was no “public alarm” caused by the protest activity.