Climate activist Tim DeChristopher visited "The Late Show" with David Letterman on Tuesday to discuss the documentary "Bidder 70," which tells the story of his stunning act of civil disobedience in a time of global climate chaos.
DeChristopher disrupted a highly disputed Utah BLM Oil and Gas lease auction, effectively safeguarding thousands of acres of pristine Utah land that were slated for oil and gas leases. Not content to merely protest outside, Tim 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), winning 22,000 acres of land worth $1.7 million before the auction was halted.
Two months later, incoming Interior Secretary Ken Salazar invalidated the auction. DeChristopher, however, 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 DeChristopher pro-bono.
With the threat of prison looming, DeChristopher stepped up his activism and evolved into a charismatic and ingenious climate justice leader. He co-founded Peaceful Uprising, a grass-roots group dedicated to defending a livable future through empowering non-violent action.
After two years and nine postponements, his trial began on February 28, 2011. Outside the courtroom, hundreds rallied in solidarity with Tim. Inside, Judge Dee Benson disallowed every defense his lawyers put forth. After a five-day trial, DeChristopher was found guilty. His sentencing was scheduled for summer 2012.
Refusing to back down, Tim flew to D.C. in April 2011 to give a keynote speech at Power Shift 2011 in front of 10,000 students. He then led students to occupy the Department of the Interior. Tim wisely avoided arrest, but dozens of others were arrested for this mass act of peaceful civil disobedience.
On July 26th Tim was sentenced to two years in federal prison and removed immediately from court in chains.
Letterman, who said he considered DeChristopher's bidding at the auction as more of a "prank" than an actual crime, seemed stunned by the conviction on two felony counts and resulting prison term.
DeChristopher seems genuinely at peace with his actions -- as well as the results -- noted that prison "wasn't so bad." He explained that due to mass incarceration that prisons are filled with a lot of "normal people."