Eighteen protesters were detained at Berkshire County Jail on May 2 after blocking access roads to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s easement where construction of a $93 million 3.8-mile Connecticut expansion gas pipeline project at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield is planned for construction.
The Massachusetts State Police released the names of the 18 individuals arrested for blocking two access roads, stating in a press release that the protesters are scheduled to appear in Great Barrington District Court on May 8.
Those arrested include:
- JOHN K. COHEN, 79, of Northampton;
- RONALD R. COLER, 61, of Ashfield;
- JOAN L. LEVY, 64, of Pelham;
- REMA LOEB, 84, of Plainfield;
- MICKY McKINLEY, 72, of Montague;
- ASAPH MURFIN, 74, of Leverett;
- HARRIET NESTEL, 78, of Athol;
- JAMES PERKINS, 78, of Leverett;
- AMY PULLEY, 61, of Cummington;
- DIANE SIBLEY, 68, of Ashfield;
- VIVIENNE L. SIMON, 66, of Northampton;
- STEPHEN J. STOIA, 69, of Northfield;
- SUSAN L. TRIOLO, 67, of Sunderland;
- BENJAMIN JAMES VANARNAM, 30, of Easthampton;
- LYDIA VERNON-JONES, 68, of Amherst;
- RUSSELL VERNON-JONES, 70, of Amherst;
- MARTIN H. URBEL, 74, of Northampton; and
- KEVIN A. YOUNG, 32, of Northampton.
More than 50 protesters affiliated with The Sugar Shack Alliance, a Northeast coalition that aims to disrupt the fossil fuel industry, began protesting at 7 a.m. and by 11 a.m. 18 protesters were handcuffed by state police officers and brought to the county jail for processing, Donna Elwell, press release coordinator for the Sugar Shack Alliance, said.
Dan Sheridan, assistant superintendent at the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, said nine men and nine women were arrested at Otis State Forest for trespassing. They have been booked at the county jail and were arraigned at the Southern Berkshire District Court.
Tennessee Gas was given an okay by a Berkshire Superior Court judge on May 9, 2016, to access the easement to build the pipeline, which demonstrators protested outside the courthouse. Questions about whether Tennessee Gas would harm Native American sacred sites on the edge of the forest were also brought up in a letter from a Narragansett Indian Tribal official Doug Harris to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January. At the time of publication, it was unclear if the regulatory commission had responded to the letter. Tennessee Gas representatives said in a letter to Harris they will install protective fencing around the sites, according to the Berkshire Eagle.
Two groups of protesters have been arrested thus far, Elwell said. The first began a protest march at Lower Spectacle Pond in Sandisfield and nine activists created a chain barricade and blocked Access Road #3. At 8 a.m. a caravan of 12 work vehicles, two state police cruisers, and two private security cars arrived at the access road and by 8:15 the protestors had refused to let private security personnel access to the site. Those nine people were arrested at around 9:30 a.m, according to the press release.
Ashfield Selectman Ron Coler was one of the nine people arrested in the blockade. Coler was also one of seven people arrested in an anti-pipeline protest in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2016.
“We have every right to be here, as per the consent decree of the Massachusetts Attorney General, the public has full access to Otis State Forest,” he said in the press statement.
The additional protesters at another access road were arrested at about 11 a.m., Elwell said.
She said all members of the Sugar Shack Alliance have completed eight hours of non-violent direct action training and were prepared to be arrested. Each made sure to carry $40 to pay for a processing fee and a valid ID for their arrest.
“We are committed to using all the non-violent tactics at our disposal in our ongoing opposition to the CT Expansion Project in Otis State Forest,” Irvine Sobleman, a Northampton resident who participated in the protest, said in the press statement. “In the face of ongoing Climate Change, it is crystal clear that [our] responsibility [to protect the earth] requires us to reject all fossil fuel infrastructure construction, no matter how small or large the project may be.”
The Sugar Shack Alliance is planning to protest the pipeline for the long-haul, according to the press statement. A staging ground on private land abutting the state forest and pipeline easement is the home base for protesters with tents and informational tables already set up.