20 LNG Project Protestors Argue Their Defense in Court

Cove Point protestors outside the Calvert County Courthouse.
Cove Point protestors outside the Calvert County Courthouse.
Most receive 3 years unsupervised probation

By Andrea Frazier, Calvert Recorder

In multiple court proceedings involving 20 defendants accused of minor charges stemming from late-2014 protests, Calvert residents as well as out-of-state advocates defended their actions they claimed were necessary to protect public health and safety.

During three separate incidents during November and December 2014, protestors who vehemently oppose the export project at the Dominion Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Lusby faced charges for their roles in staged protests at Offsite Area B in Solomons as well as at the offices of a contractor involved in the construction of the project.

The self-proclaimed Cove Point “protectors” were charged with various combinations of trespassing on private property, failure to obey a lawful order and disorderly conduct.

The protesters — whose crimes included climbing a dirt mound at a Dominion construction site and chaining themselves to the entrance of construction offices — asserted before the court Monday in Calvert that their offenses were necessary to stop Dominion’s project.

On Dec. 1, protesters displayed banners and signs and created a walking picket line outside Offsite Area B in Solomons and, eventually, sat down in front of a gate there, at which time they were accused of trespassing.

Judge Michelle R. Saunders repeatedly rejected the argument, questioning the relevancy of the Dominion Cove Point project to the protesters’ actions.

According to a press release from the anti-export project group We Are Cove Point shared with the press before the proceedings, the group planned to “show that Dominion’s terminal is the first one of its kind in the world to be placed in a densely-populated residential area [and] that it endangers the public in many ways including the emission of cancerous and toxic air pollutants and the risk of a catastrophic event such as a chemical spill, fire, explosion or terrorist attack.”

The group opposes the $3.8 billion liquefied natural gas export project currently under construction at Dominion Cove Point in Lusby on the grounds of environmental, public health and safety risks.

The defendants displayed an unwavering solidarity and dedication to their cause, all sporting strips of red fabric on their persons and, in many cases, expressing the desire for jail time rather than probation or a fine.

“I will be back in front of you,” North Carolina resident Gregory Blake Yost, who traveled to Calvert to participate in a Dec. 1 protest at Offsite Area B, told the court before being sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation for trespassing.

Yost, a public school teacher, said he felt a responsibility to his students to address climate change and that he did not intend to feign that he was done participating in similar events.

Deborah Louise Wagner of Brookeville received the same sentence, and said she feels for the people of Cove Point and believes they have not been heard.

“I’m really afraid for future generations, and I can’t not be here,” she said.

Charles Chandler walked to court Monday morning--after walking 360 miles from Ithaca, NY to raise awareness about Cove Point LNG.
Charles Chandler walked to court Monday morning–after walking 360 miles from Ithaca, NY to raise awareness about Cove Point LNG.

Tracey Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community, a We Are Cove Point member whose case related to her involvement in the Dec. 1 protest was placed on the inactive stet docket, said she lives just a mile and a half from the Dominion Cove Point facility in Lusby. Conversely, Charles Chandler, who also appeared in court, walked from Ithaca, N.Y., to attend his trial, calling himself a full-time professional activist and “peace walker.”

Chandler assured the judge she would see him in court again, as he plans to continue participating in “unlawful, peaceful struggles” and getting arrested again.

“We’re condemning our children … to a garbage planet,” Chandler said, before also being sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation.

Barbara Leni Southworth of Alexandria, Va., Berenice Lucy Tomkins of Hastings on Hudson, N.Y., Elias Westin-Farber of Baltimore, James Weber Betts of Ames, Iowa, Michael J. Clark of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Elizabeth Gail Conover of Middletown, Pa., Kelsey K. Erickson of Carlisle, Mass., Margaret Ann Flowers of Baltimore, Sean F. Glenn of West Simsbury, Conn., Mackenzie McDonald of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Ellen Taylor Roznowski of Washington, D.C., all received sentences of three years of unsupervised probation.

Along with those of Eno, the charges for Leslie Ann Garcia of Lusby and Martine Leila Zundmanis of Silver Spring were relegated to the inactive stet docket.

Steve Norris u-locked himself to the doors of a Dominion contractor.
Steve Norris u-locked himself to the doors of a Dominion contractor.

Steven Dodge Norris of Fairview, N.C., and Clarke Richardson Herbert of Alexandria, Va., were both charged with trespassing, failure to obey a lawful order and disorderly conduct for chaining themselves to the entrance of IHI/Kiewit, a Dominion contractor, Dec. 3.

Both were found guilty of trespassing on private property; Herbert received three years of unsupervised probation.

Norris, who had similar previous charges in other jurisdictions, was the only one who was sentenced to incarceration, and will spend four days in jail.

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