• Eleven arrested in latest protest over Vermont Yankee
     | January 17,2006

    BRATTLEBORO — Eleven people were arrested for trespassing Monday morning at the front door of Entergy Nuclear, while 100 anti-nuclear supporters cheered their acts of civil disobedience in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    The five Vermonters and six Massachusetts residents included a registered nurse, a Gulf War veteran, retired teachers and a handful of grandmothers in snow pants.

    The large group of protesters sang Martin Luther King's signature song, "We Shall Overcome," but with some additional anti-nuclear lyrics "We Shall Shut It Down," as the arrests were being made.

    Monday's demonstration at the offices of the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was the third and largest of the most recent string of protests organized by the anti-nuclear group Citizens Awareness Network and the Traprock Peace Center, both Massachusetts-based organizations.

    The protesters, many of whom carried signs denouncing Vermont Yankee, were bundled up against the biting cold.

    Deb Katz, executive director of CAN, said the increasing numbers of protesters and the people willing to risk arrest were proof that the region remained deeply concerned about the safety of the 33-year-old reactor in Vernon.

    "More and more people are outraged by the government's official support," Katz said.

    Protests are already planned for February and March, she said.

    "I am here because I have family — children and grandchildren — and I am doing this because I simply don't know what else to do any more," said Jane Newton, 74, of South Londonderry. "Entergy's uprate is like war against our human community."

    The 11 protesters who were arrested were put into Brattleboro police vehicles and taken to the downtown police station. They received criminal citations for trespassing and were released, according to Brattleboro Police Chief John Martin.

    Entergy spokesman Robert Williams declined to comment about the protest.

    "Our focus is on safely operating the plant," he said.

    One woman who was arrested, 78-year-old Sylvia Pigors of Putney, was loudly cheered when she said that instead of increasing power by 20 percent, Vermont Yankee should be cutting power by 20 percent.

    Brattleboro Police Capt. Eugene Wrinn and two other officers led the protesters away in handcuffs — until they ran out of handcuffs or restraints.

    Wrinn appeared frustrated with the continuing protests — and the fact that so far none of the arrested protesters have faced criminal charges after their arrests. Entergy security personnel kept a much lower profile than in the previous protests. In fact, at one point, the Brattleboro police drove off until they were called back by Entergy.

    "This is a great use of resources," Wrinn said wryly, as he put one protester into the department's large sport utility vehicle and returned to the Entergy front door for three elderly women.

    Martin, contacted after the protest, said that the protests were beginning to be a burden on the small-town police department.

    During the morning protest, the chief said, the department had three accidents, one 911 emergency call, and an ambulance call — with only one officer to cover those emergencies while three officers were at Entergy.

    The prosecutor dismissed charges stemming from the first protest in November. Martin said a snafu had resulted in the paperwork on the second protest in December not being filed on time with Brattleboro District Court.

    He said he was still waiting to hear back from Windham County State's Attorney Dan Davis to know what to do.

    Davis, working on the state holiday preparing for two upcoming murder trials, said his office was too swamped with high-priority cases to worry about anti-nuclear activists.

    "I've not seen any paperwork from the second or third group, so I can't comment," the prosecutor said Monday. "I dismissed the first group for several reasons: the workload in this office and the court. Secondly, the protesters are looking for an avenue to get their political message in the media and the courts aren't really designed to be the place for people to make their political statements."

    The police chief added his own view:

    "The entire system is overburdened because it allows people to commit criminal behavior and there's no accountability," Martin said.

    The Vermonters arrested Monday were Mary Alice Herbert, 69, of Putney; Jane Newton, 73, of South Londonderry; Sylvia Pigors, 78, of Putney; Chris Williams, 51, of Hancock; and Eesha Williams, 31, of Dummerston.

    The arrested Massachusetts residents included Cory Mathews, 18; Jacquie Dauphinais, 23; Terry Caldwell, 44; Harvey Schaktman, 62; David Detmould, 47; and Eric Wasileski, 32.

    Contact Susan Smallheer at susan.smallheer@rutlandherald.com.

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