Jessica Reznicek is a 40 year old land and water defender who has worked with and lived in the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community for the last 10 years. Jessica grew up in a small town in rural Iowa. In her own words, she describes how from early on she grew close with the earth:
“To escape the dysfunction of my childhood, I survived by finding peace at the river. I fell in love with the water of the Raccoon River and came to regard her as a Mother. She nourished, nurtured, and sustained me. As I grew up, I would always go back to the Raccoon. But as time passed and industry expanded, I saw the river change. In less than 20 years, I saw her struggle and suffocate as foam and oil sheen covered her surface.
In 2021 the city of Des Moines declared its water system was on the verge of collapse due to the industrial and agricultural pollution in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. The water department has scrambled to find solutions, and announced it is planning to spend 30 million dollars digging deep wells into the aquifer under Des Moines to have a source of clean water to mix with the polluted river water. Hydrologists for the city are skeptical this plan will work. Jessica still visits the Raccoon, but says “I might never be able to swim in that river again. They took a Mother from me and from all the children that came after me. I feel that grief when I look at her.”
In 2016, Jessica took a stand against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa. Jessica attended public comment hearings, gathered signatures for valid requests for Environmental Impact Statements, and participated in civil disobedience, hunger strikes, marches and rallies, boycotts and encampments.
When the process failed, she concluded the system was broken, and it was up to individuals to take action and protect the water. She and a fellow Catholic Worker then spent the next couple months disabling construction machinery along the pipeline route. No one was injured by their actions, and the land was protected from the flow of oil for an additional six months.
Over the last 10 years, Jessica has worked with the Catholic Worker and the homeless populations of Duluth and Des Moines. She has worked on third-party accompaniment work in Palestine, as an organizer during Occupy Wall Street, both at Zuccoti and in Des Moines. She has campaigned against weapons contractor Northrup Grumman in Omaha and protested the drone base in Des Moines. She also protested the construction of a U.S. Naval base on Jeju island, South Korea so as to save the sacred Gureombi Rock in the village of Gangjeon.
On February 6, 2021, Jessica pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Damage an Energy Facility and on June 30, 2021 was designated a domestic terrorist by the court and sentenced to 8 years in prison, followed by 3 years supervised probation, and a restitution of $3,198,512.70 paid to Energy Transfer LLC.
She reported to federal prison on August 11, 2021 and has been working with her legal team to appeal her sentence and the use of the terrorism enhancement in her case. If her appeal is successful the enhancement would be removed she would be re-sentenced. Jessica has a deep love for nature, camping, swimming, hiking, theology, music, gardening, laughter and eco-sustainability, as well as a commitment to self-discovery through deep relationships cultivated in intentional faith-based community living.