Shut It Down group pays fines, then protests
BRATTLEBORO -- When Hattie Nestel's cell phone rang Wednesday afternoon, she told the caller she was busy at the moment.
"I'm sorry," she said. "We're being arrested now at Vermont Yankee."
In fact, she and other protesters from the Shut It Down Affinity Group weren't at the Vernon nuclear plant. Instead, they had blocked the entrance to plant owner Entergy's Brattleboro office.
And they were not arrested by Brattleboro police, though they still could face charges.
But the group's latest encounter with law enforcement demonstrated members' willingness to continue to face prosecution for their belief that Vermont Yankee is dangerous and must close.
"If there is a law that says you can't shut that place down, we must ignore it," Nestel told cheering supporters earlier at a rally at Windham Superior Court in downtown Brattleboro. "You must trespass. You must shut it down."
One reason for the rally was to deliver what the affinity group calls a "people's payment." That satisfied a combined $3,264 in fines and court costs imposed when six members of the organization were convicted in November for trespassing at Yankee in August 2011.
Nestel and five other women -- all from Massachusetts -- refused to pay the fines. The matter eventually would have been referred to a collection agency.
But Shut It Down members say unsolicited donations quickly arrived from supporters in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York.
"There were over 60 individuals and eight organizations," said Susan Lantz, who headed the affinity group's newly formed fine committee.
Lantz said that, in one day's mail delivery, she received a $5 check and a $500 check.
On Wednesday, that cash was delivered to the clerk's office in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division. Lantz took care to say that the six convicted women did not hand over the money.
"The people just went in to pay the fines," Lantz said. "The defendants did not pay the fines."
A rally followed outside the Brattleboro courthouse. More than 30 people attended on a raw, gray afternoon, holding signs with slogans such as "Entergy = Fukushima" and "Carbon Free, Nuclear Free."
A black coffin leaned nearby, bearing the words "fuel rods R.I.P."
The event featured music from The Raging Grannies, a group that inserts an anti-nuclear message in well-known tunes. An example: "There's no business like nuke business, the worst business we know."
Before the group marched down Main Street, organizers said they need more support for Vermont Yankee protests.
"We must put our bodies on the line," Shut It Down Affinity member Marcia Gagliardi told the audience. "We must stand in the way of the government, the NRC, the corporations."
Afterward, 14 women demonstrated that principle by driving to Entergy's corporate office on Old Ferry Road and lining up at the front door. They held the Fukushima sign as well as a banner that read, "VY Poisons All, Shut it Down."
Brattleboro police showed up soon afterward, advising the women that they were trespassing on private property. Gagliardi responded by arguing that "Entergy is trespassing right here, right now."
Police took down the protesters' information but did not arrest them, and the group soon dispersed.
Police Lt. Robert Kirkpatrick said officers issued trespass orders but must consult with the Windham County State's Attorney's Office to determine whether the women would be cited.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.