Sheriff’s deputies arrested two Sterling College students Wednesday morning for refusing to leave a safety zone during blasting at the Green Mountain Power wind project in Lowell.
This is the first time that anyone has been arrested protesting the construction of wind turbines on the Lowell ridgeline.
Trevor D. Ring, 21, and David Martorana, 19, who attend the college in Craftsbury Common, were cited to appear in court Tuesday on charges of criminal contempt of court, according to a statement by deputy Jonathan MacFarlane.
The students were found at 9:56 a.m. inside a blast safety zone, contrary to a court order – on property owned by Don and Shirley Nelson, adjacent to the ridgeline wind project land, MacFarlane said.
“Ring and Martorana were found inside the 1,000-foot blasting boundary within the specified two-hour period prior to a blast,” MacFarlane said.
“Ring and Martorana were read and given copies of the court injunction on Nov. 9,” the deputy said, indicating the students knew about the need to leave the area.
They were then arrested, he said.
If found guilty of criminal contempt, they could face fines or jail time or both.
Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin said the pair was taken by sheriff’s cruiser to Vermont State Police barracks in Derby where they were processed, fingerprinted and released.
They did not fight the arrest and there were no injuries he said.
The students were arrested, moved out of the blast safety zone and then transported. They have been involved in the protest in the past, Martin said.
Sheriff’s deputies from three counties have been on the mountain daily since Nov. 4, carrying out Judge Martin Maley’s preliminary injunction, ordering everyone out of the blast safety zone in a two-hour warning window, even if they are standing on the Nelson property.
State troopers and police dogs were also on the mountain until last week.
VSP spokeswoman Stephanie Desaro said this week that state police are no longer going to the mountain daily unless requested by the Orleans County sheriff. The policing operation is now in Martin’s hands, she said.
Martin confirmed that this week.
Protesters have been on the ridgeline since October, standing on property near the wind project. Before the court order was enforced by law enforcement, they stood in the blast safety zone and hindered blasting.
However, they stopped doing that once law enforcement began showing up at the Lowell wind project as of Nov. 4. Law enforcement officers had encountered no direct challenge to the court order until Wednesday, Martin said.
Protesters have also shared photographs and videos taken of the wind project construction online at their website, lowellmountainnews, where they have posted a daily blog by anonymous protesters.
On Sunday, protesters had an open house at their campsite near the ridgeline. They said 90 people climbed the steep trail to see the site and look at what can be seen of the construction.
Protesters have complained that the pace of blasting had increased since law enforcement officers arrived. They said they had to move out of the campsite early in the morning each day and could not bear witness to the operation until after dark.
“Yesterday, there was blasting scheduled for 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, and 4:30 – meaning that we could expect cops blocking the trail all day,” said one writer on the blog Tuesday.
“We have no way of verifying when actual blasting took place – because no one could be on site to do so. Thus, the preliminary injunction [with its excessively long two-hour window in which each blast may take place] is being abused to prevent the occupiers from exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest injustice at this site; which has become a focal point of the fight for renewable, local, Vermont-scale energy.”
They said that hunters and other hikers are providing photographs and videos to help monitor the construction.
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