18 pipeline protesters arrested after blocking access to Otis State Forest

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

SANDISFIELD — A demonstration at the entrance to Otis State Forest early Tuesday led to the arrest of 18 protesters who had blocked two access roads in opposition to a Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. project.

The protesters were among a group of more than 50 who arrived on the site to oppose an easement that allows the company to widen its right of way through the forest.

“We are doing what our state has not done to protect Article 97,” said Ron Coler, a member of the Sugar Shack Alliance, referring to the article of the state constitution designed to protect state lands.

And after one state trooper told a group they would be arrested for trespassing on state property, one activist asked, “Even if it’s our state property?”

Protesters began arriving at 6:30 a.m., congregating at Lower Spectacle Pond across the street from the main access road. The group crossed into land now closed to the public, singing “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Another group split off and occupied a second access road.

One group of nine protesters stood side by side behind a chain they strung across the road and attached to trees.

State police details arrived shortly afterward, as well as workers contracted by Kinder Morgan, parent company of Tennessee Gas, ready to start their shift.

In a prepared statement released early Tuesday, state police said they “will seek to ensure that the rights of all parties are protected, including the rights of the contractors to complete this legally authorized project, the rights of nearby residents to safety and privacy, and the constitutionally-protected rights of demonstrators to have a safe environment to lawfully assemble, speak and protest.”

Shortly before 10 a.m., police began arresting demonstrators for trespassing at two separate locations. In all, two groups of nine protesters, with each group blocking a different access, were arrested, according to a statement by state police. The blocked locations were approximately one-half mile apart.

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Activists arrested:
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
Kevin A. Young, 32, of Northampton

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