At Least 130 Vermont Yankee Protesters Arrested

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(Host) As many as a thousand demonstrators gathered in Brattleboro on Thursday to protest the continued operation of the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

And more than 100 of those protesters were arrested for trespassing at Entergy headquarters after what they described as nonviolent civil disobedience.

VPR’s Susan Keese was at the protest.

(Leader) "How many people from northern Vermont?"

(Yell) "How about from the great liberated territory of western Massachusetts? You poor people must be downwind."

(Keese) The mood seemed almost jubilant on the Brattleboro common as protestors from at least three states gathered on the Brattleboro Common for the 3-mile march to Entergy headquarters.

The Yankee plant is in Vernon, but the company’s offices are in Brattleboro.

There were string bands and brass bands, paper mached puppets and flowing banners, people in costumes and on stilts:  But the message was serious:

(Dorsey) "We come peacefully to Entergy headquarters today with this message: Your time is up"

(Keese) Cort Dorsey is with the Sage Alliance, which organized the march. The group, whose letters stand for Safe and Green Energy, worked with law enforcement officers to keep it peaceful and respectful.

Yankee’s initial 40-year license expired Wednesday. The plant is still running, under a 20-year extension from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission – despite a vote by the state senate not to allow the plant to continue operating in Vermont.

Many people wore T-shirts from the Occupy Wall Street movement. Dorsey called Entergy a rogue corporation.

(Dorsey) "Entergy’s attempt to keep its aged leaking accident plagued reactor operating in defiance of the expressed will of the Vermont Legislature and the people of Vermont and tri state area is an unacceptable affront to democracy and the right of the people to safeguard their own well-being and determine their own energy future."

(Keese) Betsey Williams of Westminster said that when she’s demonstrated in the past, she’s been in opposition to the state. But not this time.

(Williams) "We have a common cause, which is to have Vermont Yankee shut down and start decommissioning and Entergy’s not listening to Vermont and is continuing to do what’s in their best interest, which is I suppose to keep making a lot of money whether we want them here or not."

(Keese) The demonstrators marched in single file along Route 5 to the Entergy headquarters north of town.

Ed Anthes of Dummerston planned to be among the first arrested, and later in the day he got his wish. He said Entergy agreed not to store nuclear waste on the Vernon site after its original license expired.

(Anthes) "They agreed when they bought the place ten years ago that they wouldn’t store any nuclear waste here that was made after yesterday. But they’re still making nuclear waste today, they’re still storing it on the banks of the Connecticut River. That’s New England‘s largest and longest River. Forty years of nuclear waste right on the banks of that. They have to stop."

(Keese) Yankee officials issued a statement saying they respected protesters’ right to demonstrate. But they say Yankee workers couldn’t be distracted from their jobs.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Brattleboro.

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