FARMINGTON – Four people arrested during the Earth First! protest of the Kibby Wind Power Project in July 2010 will have their day in court, with a jury trial scheduled to begin Monday.
Three of the four defendants: Willow Cordes-Eklund, 27, Erik Gillard, 27, and Ana Rodriguez, 30, have been charged with failure to disperse, a Class D misdemeanor. A fourth defendant, Courtney Butcher, 26, has been charged with criminal trespass, a Class E misdemeanor. The charges stem from an incident which occurred on July 6, 2010 on the Gold Brook Road in Kibby Township.
Roughly 50 people, many attendees of the national Earth First! summer meeting at a camp in Coplin Plantation, assembled on Route 27 at the entrance of the Gold Brook Road in the early morning hours of July 6. The Kibby Project used the road to move turbine blades and other equipment to the site, still under construction at that time. Roughly 30 police officers from a number of local and state agencies strung do-not-cross tape across the entrance and waited on the other side.
At 1 p.m., protesters allegedly ran onto Route 27 from the nearby rest area they’d assembled at, blocking the road and halting a caravan of two state police cruisers, a tractor-trailer carrying a turbine blade and two traffic warning trucks. All traffic on Route 27 came to a halt as law enforcement officers quickly converged on the scene.
According to witnesses at the scene and a recent release from Earth First! members, Cordes-Eklund went under the tractor trailer truck and used a U-shaped bike lock to affix herself beneath the vehicle. Other members of the crowd were witnessed rushing the semi, with officers working to keep them away from the cab and cargo. Eventually, officers lined up shoulder to shoulder, telling the protesters to get off the travel portion of the roadway and stay on the road’s shoulder.
Some minutes later, a bolt cutter was found and two officers asked Cordes-Eklund if she would leave voluntarily. She reportedly told them no, and they responded by telling her she would be arrested. Then the bike lock was cut and Cordes-Eklund was handcuffed and charged with failing to disperse. Gilllard and Rodrigues were arrested at the tractor trailer blockade scene. Butcher was arrested after he reportedly refused to stop sitting in the middle of the Gold Brook Road’s entrance. All four were taken to the Franklin County jail.
The four will be tried by a jury. An attorney representing Gilllard, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, said her client’s participation in the incident was protected by his first amendment right to free speech. Calling roads and streets a “traditional open forum,” Williams termed the incident a protest, pointing out that there was no violence.
“Our position is that this is protected activity, under the first amendment, and we hope for acquittal,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney James Andrews declined to comment at this point in the proceedings.
A statement released by Earth First! members today, which included an account of the events of July 6, said that those protesting were concerned with wind development’s impact on alpine ecosystems and Kibby Project developer TransCanada’s “involvement in the practice of tar-sands oil extraction in Alberta, Canada.”
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