U student’s protest inspiring

Students looking for inspiration should look no further than a guy in their economics class.

Living proof that one person can make a difference, U economics major Tim DeChristopher was a thorn in the side of the Bureau of Land Management by bidding $1.8 million he didn’t have to win 22,000 acres of land in Southern Utah recently opened for drilling.

The land was rushed through the system under the Bush administration in an effort to auction it off before President-elect Barack Obama takes office Tuesday. Frustrated with the situation and his fruitless efforts to protest through legal and political channels, DeChristopher went to the Dec. 19 auction with a disruptive purpose but no planned course of action.

“They said, “Are you here for the auction?'” DeChristopher said. “I said, “Yes I am.’ They said, “Are you here as a bidder?’ and I said, “Why, yes I am.'”

DeChristopher said that after gaining access to the auction and attaining bidding paddle No. 70, “I thought I could make a speech, or throw a shoe…then I realized I could have a major effect just by bidding.”

In an effort to drive up auction prices and possibly win some land, DeChristopher attained 13 lease parcels before he was escorted out of the room by BLM agents.

DeChristopher’s actions might not be strictly legal, but surely the backhanded government that justified ramming land through an auction for oil extraction before Bush leaves office can’t fault him for using a little deception. In fact, the hope that the bogus bidding might at least stall the land from being auctioned off until Obama takes office is almost the same strategy the BLM used.

DeChristopher didn’t chain himself to the doors, start a car fire or riot in the streets. His action is a perfect example of peaceful civil disobedience and one can’t help but admire his courage. The Sugar House resident now faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine, or both.

“It would have been harder living with the guilt…than going to jail,” he said.

If officials throw the book at him, DeChristopher will become a political prisoner and a martyr. DeChristopher is right when he says methods of protest haven’t been working. They certainly weren’t affecting the BLM auction, which was pulling lands that have been protected for a century out from under Utahns before they knew what hit them. The law might not justify DeChristopher, but if the law doesn’t, then morality and conscience do.

Today’s hometown hero might have sat in the seat next to you, but one hopes DeChristopher’s protest has inspired U students to fill his seat tomorrow.

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