Quakers arrested at Vermont Yankee protest
VERNON -- A group of 10 Quakers was arrested in front of the gates of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant Sunday in protest of the reactor's continued operation.
More than 50 members of the religious group, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and throughout Vermont, gathered at the Vernon town offices and walked the half-mile to the gates of Vermont Yankee in silence before holding their service in front of the plant.
Organized by Jane Van Landingham, a Quaker from Burlington, the group was calling for the plant's owners, Entergy, to be true to their word and close the facility following the expiration of its original 40-year operating license.
Van Landingham, one of the 10 arrested for trespassing, said she felt led to bring people together about three years ago when she moved to Vermont.
"I believe all of the Earth is holy land. I believe that God is in each person and calls us to care for other people, as well as the Earth," Van Landingham said. "I felt like I wanted to do something so my grandchildren in Vermont don't face the dangers of this plant and we don't have another Chernobyl."
Once at the plant's gates, the group formed a circle in silence to pray.
"We are here today because that part of God in each of us has called us here," Van Landingham said. "We pray that our presence serves as a reminder that the Earth is too precious to poison."
Eric Wasileski, a Quaker minister from Dartmouth, Mass., also led the group in prayer.
"We come together to stand on your creation and say we want peaceful energy," Wasileski said. "For all the employees here, this town, God we ask you to use us as an instrument of your peace."
As if his prayer were the cue, members of the circle walked silently underneath the roped-off section of the plant's gates and awaited to be arrested by Vernon Police officers.
Eighty-five-year-old Paul Hood, of Burlington, was among those arrested.
"I decided to stand-up because I think we're at a critical point in our nation's history," he said of why he chose to get arrested. "My days are numbered and I want to spend them to act for what's just and humane. This nuclear plant is a danger to all the residents here, the workers, and people in this area."
How long the plant will be allowed to operate is still being decided in federal court after Entergy sued the state of Vermont last year claiming legislation passed was done so in an effort to regulate radiological safety.
In January, a judge ruled that the laws were indeed preempted, a decision that has been appealed by the state.
Van Landingham said she thought Sunday's event was a huge success and is considering hosting additional religious protest in the future.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.
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