Climate Change, Civil Resistance, & the Courts:

State of Washington vs. The Rev. George Taylor

Expert Testimony of Tom Hastings, PhD




Hearing, June 26, 2017  – Spokane County District Court, Spokane, Washington

Testimony of Tom Hastings

  1. Judge: The Honorable Debra Hayes, Spokane County District Court

  2. Attorney for the Defense: Rachael Osborn, Esquire

  3. Attorney for the State of Washington: Margaret J. Macrae, Esquire, Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney

Click to view:  Original court transcript


Q. Good afternoon. Could you please state your name and spell your last name?

Professor Hastings:  Tom Hastings, H-a-s-t-i-n-g-s.

Q. And could you describe your professional position and credentials and qualifications?

Professor Hastings:  I'm assistant professor of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University, and I'm coordinator of the undergraduate major and minor programs. I do serve on graduate committees and chair some of them. And I also teach occasionally through Rutgers University and through other various courses, including I'm a founding faculty member of the James Lawson Institute. My research has fallen to this area of specialization over the years. I've got a number of peer-reviewed publications, several books, and my professional association governance activities include being a board member of the Oregon Peace Institute. I served three times -- three terms, rather, on the Peace and Conflict Studies Consortium, which is a regional academic association, and then four terms, two of which I was co-chair of the Binational U.S.-Canada Academic Association for our field, which is the Peace and Justice Studies Association. And I have three international organizations I serve -- the International Peace Research Association. I served two terms on their governing council and the International Peace Research Association Foundation which funds that activity. And in that context, I review research proposals from around the world that specialize in nonviolence, in particular. And finally, in terms of governance, I'm on the Academic Advisory Council and have been for 14 or 15 years of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington, D.C. That's all I can think of right now.

[adjustment of microphone]

BY MS. OSBORN: Q. Okay, thank you. And just to clarify, when you said "this specialization," could you please describe what your specialization is?

Professor Hastings:  Sure. I look primarily at civil resistance, civil disobedience, strategic nonviolent conflict.

Q. Okay, thank you. If you'll take a look at Exhibit 1. Excuse me, I need to provide you with Exhibit 1, if I may.

MR. CHRISTIANSON: Just to clarify, Your Honor, this would be Exhibit 17, even though it's Exhibit 1 to his paper.
THE COURT: Correct. So Jessica, this will be Exhibit 17.
MS. OSBORN: Thank you.
THE COURT: You're welcome.

BY MS. OSBORN: Q. Is this a current and accurate copy of your curriculum vitae?

Professor Hastings:  It was when I gave it to you recently, but since then there's been one more award and one more publication. But yes, other than that.

Q. All right, thank you. And you mentioned that you have written some books?

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. Could you tell us the names of the books that you've published?

Professor Hastings:  The first one was called Ecology of War and Peace, which went through some of our environmental challenges in using nonviolent resistance to help -- to remedy those problems. One was called Meek Ain't Weak: Nonviolent Power in People with Color. It looked at the roots of resistance, nonviolent resistance from around the world. One was called Power and it was about the nature of power and how it is not all done at the barrel of a gun. One is called Nonviolent Response to Terrorism and it looked at the elements – it was after a year of doing elicitive workshops around the country with both activist groups and academic association -- I'm sorry, academic conferences, to find out what people thought would be a multilevel response to terrorism. Another book is Conflict Transformation, which is peer-reviewed -- I ran -- did a blind peer review process for that. So it's an edited compilation. And then another one called A New Era of Nonviolence, which looks at very specifically how civil society can help (inaudible) civil war. That's a pretty good roundup of most of them.

Q. Would you take a look at what I've marked as Exhibit 2, but which is actually Exhibit 18, and tell us what that document is?

Professor Hastings: This is the literature I consulted in preparation of the testimony that I'm going to be giving.

Q. All right, thank you. And I would like to move for introduction of Exhibits 17 and 18.

MS. MACRAE: No objection.
THE COURT: Okay. So Exhibits 17 and 18 will be admitted for purposes of this hearing. (WHEREUPON, Defense Exhibits 17 and 18 were admitted into the record.)
MS. OSBORN: Thank you. And I would also ask the court to move to have the court qualify Professor Hastings as an expert in the area of nonviolent civil resistance.
THE COURT: Ms. MacRae?
MS. MACRAE: No objection.
THE COURT: Okay. He is so certified to be an expert.
THE WITNESS: Thank you.

BY MS. OSBORN: Q. Can you provide a, excuse me, a summary of the testimony you're about to give?

Professor Hastings:  I want to look at the nature of a nonviolent resistance. I want to look at the empirical studies that have been done on the efficacy of civil disobedience or civil resistance. And then I want to look at what our defendant has done that lines up with that.

Q. Thank you. Can you define the term "civil resistance"?

Professor Hastings:  It's used interchangeably and one term goes in and out of fashion and then another, but it's basically civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance, strategic nonviolence and civil resistance are all used. And what they mean is that the activities undertaken by those resistors are nonviolent, they are accountable, and they are transparent.

Q. Is civil resistance effective in bringing about social change?

Professor Hastings:  Yes, it is. The case studies go back a long way, and that case study research has been very interesting, but in the past 12 years, there's been a lot more empirical research, first done by Freedom House in 2005 looked at 67 regime changes from around the world in the past 35 years and looked at metrics of human rights, civil rights, and democracy that resulted. And they were statistically in favor of nonviolence over violent insurgency. Then a very large end study was undertaken beginning in 2006 with a publication of a journal article in International Security Studies by Drs. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan that looked at 323 cases of maximal global struggle, both violent and nonviolent around the world between 1900 and 2006. And what they found was that nonviolent insurgency very counterintuitively was successful about twice as often as was violent insurgency. And it was -- nonviolent insurgency was successful slightly more than half the time. Violent insurgency was successful barely more than a quarter of the time. This was really countervailing research that flew straight in the face of what we had assumed for pretty much forever. So this is game-changing research and it's widely known now amongst pretty much all levels of activists on most issues.

Q. (Inaudible) publications, are they listed in Exhibit 18?

Professor Hastings:  They are, both the journal article and the book that followed.

Q. Were the actions of defendant Reverend Taylor what you would call civil resistance?

Professor Hastings:  Yes. Reverend Taylor acted as a -- in a classic sense of the nonviolent civil resistor. Everything that he did was calm. He was peaceful. He was open, transparent, cared for everybody's physical and psychological well-being, submitted to arrest peacefully, and --

MS. MACRAE: Objection; speculation. I don't believe that the witness was at the protest in question.

MS. OSBORN: That is correct.
THE COURT: Which part of the answer are you objecting to?
MS. MACRAE: He's describing the Defendant's behavior at the protest. He's speculating since he was not there. He doesn't have personal knowledge.

THE COURT: Okay. So as to --
MS. OSBORN: May I ask the witness a couple of questions?
THE COURT: Yes. I'm going to hold that for a moment and you're going to help clarify what's going on; right?

MS. OSBORN: Thank you.

Q. Can you tell us how you knew what happened with respect to the arrest of the Defendant?

Professor Hastings:  Talking to the Defendant and reading the newspaper articles.

THE COURT: Ms. MacRae?
MS. MACRAE: No objection to testifying to his understanding based on that information.
THE COURT: Okay. So the objection then is overruled as to those two types of communication or something that he's reviewed personally.
MS. OSBORN: All right. Thank you.

Q. So to complete your response, (inaudible) to the question were the actions of the Defendant what you would call civil resistance?

Professor Hastings:  Yes, because part of that classic nonviolent resistance campaign goes to outreach to the media to try to help educate fellow citizens because that is the way ultimately the public policy will be changed.

Q. What are examples of the use of civil resistance in the United States?

Professor Hastings:  They're innumerable, but just the short list would actually begin in Colonial America, beginning, let's say, with the Boston Tea Party with boycotts of British goods. Going forward, women attempted to be able to vote from the beginning of the creation of the United States of America and it was not until they engaged in nonviolent civil resistance that women's suffrage resulted in the vote and getting women to vote. In the 1910s, '20s, and '30s were many labor actions that ultimately resulted in gaining collective bargaining rights and the creation of units. The most iconic example, obviously, is the civil rights moment in the United States. That was a movement full of different campaigns, each one of which was waged with nonviolence, each one of which would up with public policy change that had been waiting since really the late 19th Century at least to occur, and it was not until nonviolent resistance was put into play that those changes began. Then we also had the Native American treaty rights. We see victory after victory when nonviolent resistance has been used. Same thing for environmental protection, in many cases. Same thing for rights of LGBTQ people and migrant workers. So we have innumerable examples in America of the success of nonviolent resistance producing those changes and institutional and corporate and public policy changes.

Q. Thank you. What do you conclude from all of these examples of successful civil resistance campaigns?

Professor Hastings:  Well, my conclusion is that there is hope that when a longstanding and really (inaudible) social issue exists, that quite often that's the only hope is to continue into the realm of nonviolent resistance.

Q. What is the purpose of nonviolent resistance?

Professor Hastings: To basically to come into the courts, to approach -- to go beyond the other means that had been exhausted. To go beyond dealing with, for example, the other two branches of government. To go beyond what the Defendant and his allies have done, which is to lobby, which is to write letters to the editor, write letters to their senators, to their representatives. To visit the offices of the elected representatives. Also, to stage public events to educate fellow citizens and to continue these activities which unfortunately have failed.

Q. How does the judicial branch of government fit in?

Professor Hastings:  It is the last best hope in most cases. That's why nonviolent resistance turns to the judicial branch for relief.

Q. Can you give examples?

Professor Hastings:  Well, probably the iconic example is Brown v. Board of Education. So very brave African-American families, for example, would bring their children to the (inaudible) public segregated school, attempt to enroll them, and the NAACP would carry that case forward for them. Ultimately, that resulted in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, but other examples from the Civil Rights Movement include the case that preceded or rather than followed -- the Rosa Parks 1955 action, sitting on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and there was a nonviolent campaign that went on all that year while the case wound its way up to the United States Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court ruling, which upheld the desegregation of public transport.

Q. Okay. You've been here this morning listening to the testimony of Dr. Running. Do you think that the (inaudible) climate change is conducive to a civil resistance campaign?

Professor Hastings:  I do. I do because the -- the information that Dr. Running very credibly gave us would really indicate how imminent this -- and gathering this threat is. It also showed that it is (inaudible). And especially when considered in the sense of our new administration basically removing a lot of the protections, so yes. I think that it's amenable to this kind of action. It's true that there's no end to opportunities to write more letters to the editor, and those letters to the editor, for example, simply have not succeeded so far. The next step needs to be taken.

Q. Has the Defendant attempted reasonable legal alternatives to civil resistance?

Professor Hastings: I'm sorry; can you repeat?

Q. Has Reverend Taylor attempted reasonable legal alternatives to civil resistance?

Professor Hastings:  Yes. Reverend Taylor and the couple he's associated with have attempted innumerable activities to try to deal with this problem that, as we've heard from Dr. Running, has been in the public eye since at least 1988. So almost 30 years. And when they -- his colleagues and he have been attempting for a long time to seek progress on this.

Q. Do you think that civil resistance will resolve the problem with climate change?

Professor Hastings:  It's our last best hope at this point, yes. I mean, I study social movements and what I tell students is you show me a social movement that wins and I will show you a multi-prong approach. It is not to say that Reverend Taylor just decided one day to march out on the railroad tracks. This is something that, you know, doesn't come first. It comes later. But it comes in coordination with many other things.

MS. OSBORN: All right. Thank you. That's all we have.

THE COURT: Ms. MacRae, cross-exam?
MS. MACRAE: Yes, Your Honor.


Q. You mentioned the Boston Tea Party as potentially the first act of civil resistance in the United States.

Professor Hastings:  One of the first, yes.

Q. Yes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't private property destroyed in the Boston Tea Party?

Professor Hastings:  Probably.

Q. In fact, the act of civil resistance in that case was to, again, going back to my elementary school history classes, dump a bunch of tea into the Boston Harbor.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. So while it may have been nonviolent in the sense that no person was harmed, it was -- property was destroyed, wasn't it?

Professor Hastings:  Correct.

Q. Okay. And to look at another example you gave, in the case of Rosa Parks, and not getting into the fact that the law she broke was certainly unconscionable, but correct me if I'm wrong, she did, in fact, break a law in that case.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. And I believe she was either convicted or plead guilty to breaking that law.

Professor Hastings:  Yes, she was given a $14 fine.

Q. And again, I'm not defending the nature of the law itself, but I'm trying to understand, in cases of nonviolence, the law may be broken.

Professor Hastings:  The attempt is usually to bring the local, state, or even sometimes federal law into residence with the Constitution. So that is the basis of much of nonviolent civil resistance. I take your point in the Boston Tea Party. That's a very good point, but as Gandhi said, later in his life, that nonviolence at his stage, he said it's like when Edison invented the light bulb. We're still in the experimental stage. So that -- the model continues to improve. We continue to learn how to be more transparent, how to be more accountable, and how to work basically within the system.

Q. That makes sense to me. It's a practice it sounds like is what you're saying. In the case of the Boston Tea Party, the protest was as to the tariff on tea.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. Yes. And again, in the case of Rosa Parks it was to the segregation of the bus -- the Montgomery bus system.

Professor Hastings:  Yes. So it was the complete disassociation of local law with the Constitution.

Q. And you used Brown v. Board of Education again. Again, the -- not only -- the civil act -- the acts of nonviolence that led to that case were, of course, protesting laws that segregated children in public schools.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. And you're aware that Reverend Taylor is charged with two misdemeanors in this case.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. One is Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and the other is blocking the trains.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. As to the Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree, are you contesting that he somehow didn't break that law?

Professor Hastings: No.

MS. OSBORN: Objection, Your Honor. I'm not sure this witness is the correct person to have the prosecutor determine whether the elements of the crime have been met.
THE COURT: Okay. Your response?
MS. MACRAE: Let me back up.
THE COURT: Okay. So are you withdrawing that question?
MS. MACRAE: I'll withdraw the question. Yes.
THE COURT: Okay. So the prosecutor just withdrew that question and is going to ask a different question.

BY MS. MACRAE: Q. So you spoke with the Reverend about his actions in question here. And so you understood that he entered private property.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. Without permission to be there.

Professor Hastings:  Correct.

Q. That he stayed after he was told to leave.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. And was subsequently charged with a criminal act.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. What I -- I'm struggling to understand is it seems that the foundation of these acts of nonviolence do frequently break the law.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. I'm correct that --

Professor Hastings:  That's what resistance means. Before that is protest. Then when you break a law, Dr. King framed it as you're either breaking a bad law or you're breaking a good law for a good reason.

Q. I mean, I guess in the case of Rosa Parks we'd be talking about a bad law for a good reason.

Professor Hastings:  Right.

Q. Yeah. And the Boston Tea Party, who knows if it was a bad law or a good law. I don't know what the tariff was.

Professor Hastings:  Sorry, right, I'm with you there.

Q. Yeah. But regardless if you're breaking a bad law for a good reason or a good law for a good reason, you're still breaking the law.

Professor Hastings:  You're breaking a law.

Q. A law.

Professor Hastings: You may be upholding a different one.

Q. When you say upholding a different one, are you referencing sort of -- what do you mean? I'm sorry.

Professor Hastings: So -- so when Rosa Parks sat down on the bus, she was upholding the Constitution. She was upholding a much higher law than the local Jim Crow segregation law. And when the Reverend sat down on the tracks to block the train, then he was breaking the law that you referred to and he was upholding, I would say, his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But not just for himself. This is very altruistic. Like him, I'm a senior citizen. We don't do these things because we're afraid of the weather in 2050 or the year 2100. We do it for, and the Reverend did it for children and grandchildren and future generations and their life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Q. I take your point, but fundamentally, it doesn't change that the Reverend intentionally broke a law in this case.

Professor Hastings:  All nonviolent resisters stipulate to that, yes.

Q. Okay.

Professor Hastings:  Historically and currently.

MR. CHRISTIANSON: Your Honor, I'm not sure if it will help, but Mr. Taylor will admit that he went to the tracks out there. He will make those admissions.
THE COURT: Thank you.

BY MS. MACRAE: Q. You mentioned when discussing civil resistance, I believe sort as a larger theory, that it's a multi-pronged approach.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. And it requires certain actions and coordination.

Professor Hastings:  Hopefully.

Q. And based on your testimony, correct me if I am wrong on this, but I'm thinking that you thought that some of those acts are letters to the editor.

Professor Hastings:  Sure.

Q. A public protest.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. Writing letters to your legislator.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. Going to your legislator's office.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. So these are --

Professor Hastings:  And excuse me, but also attending the public hearings that those governing bodies are holding so that you weigh in on the EIS, the environmental impact statement, permit hearings, et cetera, all of which the Reverend has done.

Q. Yes. And just to clarify, all of those are legal actions.

Professor Hastings: Absolutely.

Q. Legally valid actions.

Professor Hastings:  Yeah.

Q. They're -- he's not breaking a law when he does any of them.

Professor Hastings:  Correct.

Q. And it sounds like, if I'm correctly understanding nonviolent resistance, that as you proceed through the process you make a conscious decision to break the law at some point.

Professor Hastings:  Well, breaking a law, yes. And again, maybe uphold a higher law. That's the -- that's not the first thing that happens. In actual, what I would call civil resistance, but it is at some point down the road when you see that the threat is now imminent and everything else has not achieved the policy and remedy that you seek.

Q. And you're acknowledging that part of this progression through sort of the hierarchy of civil resistance acts, I don't know how to put it better, is that those other acts have not led to the outcome you want.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. And okay. It doesn't mean that those acts aren't still available to a person who's participating in some type of nonviolent resistance.

Professor Hastings:  Yes. And you know, if somebody is stuck in the snow in the ditch, they can spin their wheels forever or they can figure out a way to get out of that ditch. And this is what nonviolent resistance is meant to do at some point. One of the things that nonviolent resistance does is to do exactly what you're getting at, is to show to the general public, and to the court even, that this (inaudible) that yes, I'm willing to take the risk of the consequences involved. It's not a desire to suffer, but it is a statement of the seriousness of this issue, saying that the risk is worth the chance that this will have some effect. Maybe I'll go to jail, maybe I'll go to prison, but maybe I will inspire some others to get involved at the level that they can get involved. That's a really common supposition that I've heard for decades from nonviolent resistors. It seems to work.

Q. I don't disagree with the value and long-term effect of civil resistance. I think what I'm trying to get at and you reference here is that ultimately it's an action that people choose to do, that they understand may have serious repercussions, that they are choosing those repercussions because of the potential ability to cause change.

Professor Hastings: Yes. And sometimes they go to court and the court will rule that, in fact, what they've done is legal. Sometimes not and that's the risk that the resisters take. I do want to take one little point though that you just said that the sort of long run of resistance, actually, there are many, many cases where, as I indicated with women's suffrage, for example, and with Plessy v. Ferguson all the way to Brown v. Board of Education, you have decades and decades of protest and other activities, and all of a sudden when a nonviolent resistance kicks in, the timeline speeds up dramatically. This happened -- and this happens globally as well. I can give -- I will not do my professorial thing and bore you for hours with this but it is quite common, that that is -- that's the sprint to the goal line.

Q. So in the case of women's suffrage, so to speak, the difference between say Susan B. Anthony and what was a largely basis of lobbying legislatures, it varies from say the work of the suffragettes in the post-World War I area when they were doing sit-ins and protesting by refusing to eat.

Professor Hastings: Yeah.

Q. You're saying that that's what was effective?

Professor Hastings: Yeah. Actually, and that's not to denigrate earlier efforts at all. That was the foundation of everything. But then it was actually during World War I.
The women were out every single day in front of the White House with signs like "What about democracy at home, Mr. Wilson."

Q. Well, and didn't, and correct me if I'm wrong, it's been a while since my Women's Studies classes. But didn't those efforts arise out of an anti-war protest as well, just in the same way that the initial first wage of suffragism arose out of protest of the Civil War and slavery?

Professor Hastings: Actually, no. I'm sorry to part company with you on this, but the women's movement actually split over that issue. That the women who said, no, we cannot go out and do resistance and protest during a war because we have to be -- we have to be loyal during the war. And then there was Alice Paul and other women who said, no, we need these rights. You know, this is the time to press them even more. And the anti-war position of the suffragettes was kind of a secondary thing. It did play a big part in it but it was actually to diminish the movement for -- at least for the duration of the war.

Q. And I see the point you're making, but the reality is there was numerous other issues going around in the -- when you talk about Alice Paul and protesting, she was protesting obviously nonviolent acts for a woman's right to vote. But we're also assessing the United States was in World War I; correct?

Professor Hastings:  She was a peace activist, too, yes.

Q. Yes.

Professor Hastings:  She did -- she refused to back out of the movement, out of what she regarded as a false loyalty. So yeah, but her first issue was always the women's vote until that succeeded.

Q. And I'm probably getting into the weeds here.
THE COURT: I think you are.

BY MS. MACRAE: Q. Yeah. Ultimately, my point is it comes back to you're talking about these acts of protest as having gone through a progression of other -- of other legal efforts.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. Before they break off into an action that breaks the law. But nowhere in any of these other previous examples of nonviolent resistance did the nonviolent resister refuse to admit that they broke the law.

Professor Hastings:  Well, I guess if they would say in many cases that they broke a lesser law to uphold a greater law. That's actually pretty common.

Q. And I get the point you're making, but they're still breaking a law; correct?

Professor Hastings:  Yes. Yes.

Q. And they still accept the repercussions of that decision.

Professor Hastings:  Yes.

Q. And that is in part, in fact, part of the action and why they have broken the law.

Professor Hastings: Yes.

MS. MACRAE: I have no further questions.

THE COURT: Okay, thank you. Any redirect?
MS. OSBORN: No redirect. Thank you.