Audio of Chris Braithwaite on Vermont Public Radio this morning talking about being arrested yesterday.
Green Mountain Daily‘s blog post about Chris’s arrest
December 5 Crane Path Blockade
It was cloudy and cool at 6:45 when we met below the mountain to prepare for the day. A band of bright orange rimmed the eastern horizon, and we sang “This Little Light of Mine” to help us focus on our shared purpose and finalize our plans. The walk up was extra slippery from the tracks of over a hundred guests at the Open House yesterday and we were approaching the edge of the crane path at about 8:30.
About two and a half months ago I stood at this boundary and gazed into a misty glade of cherry and yellow birch. Autumn leaves were showing yellow and orange and squirrels were chattering while a jay made a racket nearby. It was a magically beautiful spot, like many I have seen along this ridgeline, and knowing that the property line was disputed made me unaccountably hopeful that there might be time to prevent this place from being leveled for wind towers. So I was surprised to find, when I came back just a week later, that the glade and surrounding areas along the crane path had been clear cut. Of course I now know that this was only one corner that was cut, one problem that was overlooked, by GMP in their haste to lay low this mountain range for industrial scale wind towers. In the weeks that followed, it became harder and harder for me to stand by, and later to retreat, while the layers of the mountain were blasted away. Every passing day made me more convinced that this is not what “renewable” energy looks like.
Today, however, was the day when we were not going to retreat. The six of us planning to risk arrest, along with our support team, quickly approached the crane path with our giant STOP and DANGER signs, our banner from the Rt 100 rally, and the Vermont and US flags. Anxious not to be stopped by security or police before achieving our goal of stopping the construction vehicles along the roadway, and also anxious not to get run down, we hastily surveyed the scene and saw two megaton trucks hauling rock down from the north end of the crane path. They were approaching rapidly, but we were well positioned to get into the roadway first. We looked at each other, shared a quick nod and ducked under the tape. We ran out our spool of twine that marked our distance from the disputed property line, and spread out across the road. The trucks slowed, and began to aim toward the opening on the far edge of the road. David stood firm with the STOP sign, and Eric casually stepped just a bit farther out so that there was not enough room for the truck to pass. The trucks ground to a halt. Other vehicles began to approach from the south, and sat idling. We had stopped the construction, for the time being.
Our friend Dave with GMP greeted us and we confirmed that we were not planning to leave of our own accord, so he called the sheriff. It was about 8:40. Dave said he wasn’t sure how soon the sheriff would be able to come, so we settled in to our blockade. It took about an hour for somebody to decide that they could bulldoze the road a bit wider, toward the west, and send traffic through that way. We stood with our signs, sang the Vermont State Song as well as other energizing songs, conversed with contractors and GMP security staff, shared snacks, and at one point moved just a little bit in order to allow an 18-wheeler by simply because we were asked very nicely if we please would move, and we felt bad for him because his wheels were spinning on the loose wet gravel on an uphill grade. Relations were cordial, and Dave, our GMP security friend, was happy to call the sheriff periodically and share an update about when we could anticipate law enforcement arriving. Meanwhile, there was some traffic passing us to the west of where our blockade ended, but we gathered that work on the site had been largely moved to other locations because of our presence.
It was around noon when two sheriffs arrived and informed us that we were under arrest. They were cordial and professional, but not happy about Chris trying to photograph the arrest from a vantage point right on the edge of the crane path, and since he was persistent, they arrested him, too. We were happy to have him join us. The truck that had brought the sheriffs up could only take three of us at a time, so we were shuttled off the mountain in threes and pairs. This meant that some of us enjoyed a pleasant social hour or so standing on the edge of the roadway with the sheriffs. Conversation was relaxed, and we were able to express our views about the amount of destruction this project was causing. I pointed to where my t-shirt said “once you’ve destroyed it you can’t put it back”, and we agreed Ryan and I were the last to leave. We were pleasantly surprised to be ushered into the patrol car with no handcuffs on.
I was unprepared for how shocking the ride down the side of the mountain would be. The roadway cuts across steep terrain, and there are large tracts of forest cleared on either side in a number of places. Naked soil and torn up stumps, a sad little hollow with some smooth mounds and oval, muddy pools labeled “wetland”. My frame of mind was depressed as we traversed familiar roads, crossed the Black River then the Clyde River and came by back roads to the State Police barracks in Derby; but my mood suddenly lightened when I recognized a friendly face and a car with a sign about Ridgelines not being renewable as we turned in toward the barracks!
It turns out that seven people is a crowd for Derby. It had taken some time, when the first of our crew arrived, to clear out the regular traffic and make space available for us. Ryan and I were brought to a little cell full of our friends, where we compared notes about the ride down, talked about fundraising, politics, next actions to take, the importance of acting on conscience, the capture of politicians by corporate interests, how awkward it would be if one had to go to the bathroom in this little room with a window in the door, and so forth. One by one we were taken out of the cell, fingerprinted, and issued our citations. I shook the arresting sheriff’s hand and thanked him for enjoyable conversation and for his cordial approach; he wished us luck and expressed the hope that we would find our efforts successful. He directed me down a hallway toward the main entrance, and I was struck by the sensation of freedom as I walked out the door into the fresh air. What I was totally unprepared for was the welcoming committee! What a great surprise to find ten or more people lining the road with our signs and banners, to hear cheering as I walked out, to be warmly welcomed by familiar smiling faces and warm hugs!
Our arraignment is on December 20 at 8:30 in Newport; we will meet early to sing the Vermont State Song on the steps of the courthouse, we’ll invite all our friends to stand outside with signs, and we will continue to fight to protect Vermont’s mountains, and to seek sensible, well thought out, human-scaled clean energy solutions instead of corporate profiteering at our expense. Today was inspiring because we faced down megaton trucks filled with blasted mountain-rock; yesterday was inspiring because we brought over 100 people up to the ridgeline to see what ridgeline wind development looks like; but we’re only just beginning the work of showing Vermonters that these projects are not the answer. We need to fundraise, get people to our upcoming court events, hold more open houses, plan larger blockade actions, and keep the pressure on. Stay tuned!