Guilty verdict for disorderly conduct for four protesters to be appealed
READING, NEW YORK — In a decision likely to have broad implications for hundreds of We Are Seneca Lake defenders, Judge David Brockway dismissed trespassing charges against six local business owners due to insufficient evidence. The 12-hour trial took place in the Town of Reading Court on September 30.
In addition, four of the business owners were found guilty of disorderly conduct for preventing a vehicle from passing through the gates of Crestwood’s gas storage complex on Route 14 in Reading, NY. Attorney Gibson will appeal that decision.
“We saw in the testimony that the officers arrested these people without any direct knowledge that they actually were on private property,” said Sujata Gibson, defense attorney. “We are considering a federal lawsuit to ensure that this type of apparently politically motivated mass arrest and prosecution cannot continue to take place. The kind of behavior we saw here between law enforcement, the company, now recused members of the local justice courts and the prosecution has no place in a free democracy.”
The group of business owners included Anna Redmond and Asa Redmond of Regional Access, Julia Abernathy-Uticone of Swamp Road Baskets and Bluebird Botanicals, Jessica Thorpe of Glen Mountain Bakery, and Peggy Aker of Macro Mamas, who had formed a human blockade on November 19, 2014, at Crestwood’s gates. Asa Redmond and Peggy Aker were charged with trespassing, while the other four were charged with both trespassing and disorderly conduct.
They were protesting Crestwood’s plans to store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the western shore of Seneca Lake. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) green-lighted the plan in 2014, but to date, construction has not begun. Opponents say the storage plan threatens drinking water for 100,000 people, and the regional economy based on farming, wineries and ecotourism. Thirty-two municipalities around Seneca Lake have passed resolutions denouncing Crestwood’s plans because of overwhelming public opposition citing grave geological and public health concerns. To date, there have been 657 arrests at peaceful protests. On Sept. 1, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer requested that FERC withdraw the permit.
Defendant Julia Abernathy-Uticone of Cayutaville pointed out that “people don’t plan vacations to look at a gas flare or swim in a polluted lake. We have been given this beautiful gift of where we live, the Finger Lakes. It is our job to protect it.”
Peggy Aker of Trumansburg added, “We should be focusing on clean, sustainable energy practices that will be supportive of the life-stream of this planet and all the recipients of its natural resources. Without an economy based on clean energy, the economic vitality of this area will greatly diminish.”
Asa Redmond of Trumansburg stated, “My sister Anna and I are owners of Regional Access, a local, organic and natural food distributor/ food hub. I know from first-hand experience how important the local food and wine economies are to this area. That is why I am standing up against the proposed expansion of gas storage.”
“What will happen when they have ruined our water?” asked Anna Redmond of Trumansburg. “What will the farmers do when there is no water to irrigate their crops? How will the wineries continue to attract tourism to our area when it becomes the next scene of a natural disaster?”
Contact: Stephanie Redmond (607) 592-0131, stephanieredmond@gmail or Mariah Plumlee (607) 592-2741, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit We Are Seneca Lake’s website: http://www.wearesenecalake.com