Hampshire County residents among 18 arrested in pipeline protest in Otis State Forest

  • Tuesday's Sugar Shack Alliance protest at Otis State Forest. submitted phtoto

  • Tuesday's Sugar Shack Alliance protest at Otis State Forest. submitted phtoto

  • Vivienne Simon of Northampton holds up her cuffed hands after she and 17 others were arrested for trespassing during a protest against the cutting of trees by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. Below, Bri Elizabeth at Tuesday’s protest. The protestors did not leave their posts until state police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department gave them notice and arrested 18 people. Stephanie Zollshan/The Berkshire Eagle via AP

  • Bri Elizabeth and other protesters block one of the main access points for workers on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. The protestors did not leave their posts until State police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department gave them notice and arrested nine people. (Stephanie Zollshan/The Berkshire Eagle via AP) Stephanie Zollshan

  • Protestors run a chain across one of the main access points for workers on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. The protestors did not leave their posts until State police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department gave them notice and arrested nine people. Stephanie Zollshan, The Berkshire Eagle via AP./The Berkshire Eagle via AP) Stephanie Zollshan

  • Protestors run a chain across one of the main access points for workers on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. The protestors did not leave their posts until State police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department gave them notice and arrested nine people. Stephanie Zollshan, The Berkshire Eagle via AP./The Berkshire Eagle via AP) Stephanie Zollshan

  • Protestors run a chain across one of the main access points for workers on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. The protestors did not leave their posts until State police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department gave them notice and arrested nine people. Stephanie Zollshan, The Berkshire Eagle via AP./The Berkshire Eagle via AP) Stephanie Zollshan

  • State Police Capt. James Penniman issues a notice of trespassing to protestors who have run a chain across one of the main access points for workers on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline project Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, Mass. The protestors did not leave their posts until State police officers and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department gave them notice and arrested nine people. Stephanie Zollshan, The Berkshire Eagle via AP./The Berkshire Eagle via AP) Stephanie Zollshan

For the Gazette
Published: 5/2/2017 5:27:30 PM

SANDISFIELD — Eighteen protesters, including 12 from Hampshire County, were arrested Tuesday morning at the entrance to Otis State Forest after they blocked a pipeline project access road.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. contractors were attempting to begin work on the Connecticut Expansion Project. The company is a subsidary of Kinder Morgan.

An estimated 60 to 75 people began picketing at Lower Spectacle Pond and moved onto state forest land that had been closed off to the public. They were protesting the government allowing the private company to build its pipeline through protected public lands.

Several protesters, members of the Sugar Shack Alliance Affinity Group, crossed into land now closed to the public. Another group split off and blocked a second access road.

Both actions were to oppose the company’s widening of its right-of-way through the forest by cutting trees — work that began Sunday.

James Perkins, 78, of Leverett, said by phone he chose to risk arrest to register his “outrage” at the project, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“For the company to just barge in here with the authority of the federal government behind it — it just enrages me,” he said.

The protesters were arrested by state police shortly after 10 a.m., according to Cate Woolner, a spokeswoman for the affinity group, whose members had undergone training to prevent violence.

Ronald Coler, an Ashfield Select Board member, was one of the protesters arrested. In a statement issued after his release Tuesday afternoon, he said state and federal officials have been “too slow to move (to stop) … utility and fossil fuel companies with their hands on the controls.”

He added, “Here at the municipal level of governance we can wait no longer … It is time to cross the line. Because of their lack of serious commitment and much-needed leadership to the real threat of global warming, I feel compelled to answer the call myself … and engage in this grassroots, non-violent, direct action here today.”

Coler also was arrested a year ago in front of FERC’s Washington headquarters.

Coler, along with Steve Stoia of Northfield, Susan Triolo of Sunderland, Rema Nestel of Athol, John Cohen of Northampton, Martin Urbel of Northampton, Ben Van Arnem of Easthampton, Rema Loeb of Plainfield and Vivienne Simon of Florence, were released without bail.

They were arrested on Access Road 3 and charged with trespass and disorderly conduct.

Police arrested nine other protesters who blocked Access Road 2: Perkins and Asaph Murfin of Leverett, Diane Sibley of Ashfield, Russell and Lydia Vernon-Jones of Amherst, Micky McKinly of Montague, Amy Tulley of Cummington, Joan Levy of Pelham, and Kevin Young of Northampton. Their charges and disposition were not available at press time.

State police said in a statement it “will seek to ensure that the rights of all parties are protected,” including the rights of the contractors, nearby residents, and the constitutionally protected rights of demonstrators to have a safe environment to assemble, speak and protest.

Perkins described the police as “well-behaved” and said their interactions with the protesters were “cordial.”

“We felt very well treated,” he said. Overall, Perkins said, the action was a success, saying the group was able to stall traffic to the worksite for several hours.

For the Earth’s survival, Perkins said, humans must leave fossil fuels in the ground.

“I’m just trying to do the little bit that I can to stand in its way,” he said. “This is my local Standing Rock.”

Levy, 64, of Pelham, said she was not frightened at the possibility of getting arrested.

“I felt pretty resolute in purpose and why I was there,” she said, adding she not only was protesting this pipeline but fossil fuel use in general.

“If we don’t act individually and in local ways, we won’t make an impact,” Levy said. “We have to do what we can.”

Those arrested were taken to Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction for processing and were being arraigned in Southern Berkshire District Court in Great Barrington.

Woolner, the Sugar Shack Alliance spokeswoman, said, “They’re going to be building this pipeline for the next six months. We’re going to be resisting all the way.”

Simon, of Florence, added, “This land belongs to the people of Massachusetts and on behalf of all life on planet Earth, we are proud to stand here.”

Activists have pledged to continue their resistance to the pipeline until the project is stopped.

Pipeline Awareness Network-Massachusetts filed last week in court to halt tree clearing on the roughly 6-acre easement area in preparation for four miles of natural gas storage loop in Sandisfield connecting Connecticut and New York State. The group said the “real tragedy in all of this is that no state actors have been willing to stand firmly and say that Connecticut does not need this pipeline.”

Jack Suntrup of the Gazette contributed to this report.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy