LOWELL, VT - Seven people were arrested on Lowell Mountain Monday morning including a local newspaper publisher, a doctor and a college professor.
A group of protesters opposed to the construction of 21 industrial wind turbines on Lowell Mountain planned the civil disobedience event Monday morning. The group of approximately 11 gathered on the crane path on the ridge line and stopped construction vehicles from advancing to their work sites. The land that protesters stood on is disputed property.
Doug and Shirley Nelson, adjacent landowners, say the land is theirs, but Trip Wileman, the land owner leasing to Green Mountain Power (GMP), who is developing the wind turbine project, says its his.
Six protesters refused to move when asked and were arrested for unlawful trespass.
Dr. Ron Holland of Irasburg said he was in communications with a public relations person from Green Mountain Power and had made known to GMP how many protesters were likely to refuse to leave.
Police told protesters that they were trespassing and gave them the option to leave.
Chris Braithwaite, publisher of the Barton Chronicle, who was covering the protest as a journalist, also refused to move. He said in an interview that he wanted to cover the arrest to make sure it was done properly. He was warned that he would be arrested if he didn't leave, he said.
Deputy Sheriff Phil Brooks, with the Orleans County Sheriff's Department, told Braithwaite that he had no special status as a reporter to be there.
Braithwaite said that he couldn't do his job properly if he left and he was charged with unlawful trespass.
The protesters who gathered Monday morning on the ridge line to stop construction vehicles held large signs that read “Road Closed: Due to Environmental Destruction” and other messages. The protesters engaged in friendly conversation with the workers, they said. Construction was stopped for about two hours.
Meanwhile, a bulldozer created a new road for construction vehicles.
Protesters did not block the new road as it was off the disputed land.
Protesters sang the Vermont State song, “These Green Mountains,” as they held their ground and raised their voices for the line, “We live to protect their beauty.”
Those arrested were brought down the mountain in small groups due to the rough terrain and ended up at the Vermont State Police barracks in Derby for processing.
More than 20 people stood outside the police barracks along US RT 5 holding signs Monday afternoon. Vehicles drove by and honked and shouted in support.
Protesters have advanced onto the disputed property before.
On a recent Sunday morning, they moved the boundary line and planted trees in a symbolic gesture. The following day they were back on the disputed property, asked to leave by police, and they did. Protesters reported smelling trees burning in their campfire as they walked away.
The temporary injunction issued by a judge expired Friday. The injunction did not allow protesters near construction during blasting.
Dr. Ron Holland was one of those arrested. He said that the wind project only benefits Gaz Metro, GMP's parent company.
“Green Mountain Power and the State of Vermont have not been honest with citizens about the impacts of this project, and it is now time that Vermonters demand a honest reassessment of our energy policy," he said.
Holland also expressed concern that the state did not consider environmental destruction that he says is occurring with the project.
Anne Morse of Craftsbury was also arrested. “Today marks a new path for Vermont’s energy future – one towards small-scale, community oriented solutions that protect natural resources and unite communities, not blast away mountains and create division," she was quoted as saying in a statement made public by Steve Wright of Craftbury.
Eric Wallace-Senft, from West Woodbury, who identified himself as a father, husband, and carpenter, said he was taking a stand for his daughters. “We can no longer let the corporations make energy decisions for us. Green Mountain Power has taken our property and constitutional rights and is blasting away our mountains. It’s time the power returns to the people.”
Protesters say that there is more to come but have no specific plans yet.
Those arrested were: Dr. Ron Holland of Irasburg, Chris Braithwaite of Glover, David Rodgers of Craftsbury, Ryan Gillard of Plainfield, Suzanna Jones of Walden, Eric Wallace-Senft of Wolcott, and Anne Norse of Craftsbury Common. All were cited for unlawful trespass and released.