Protest near Geprags Park over gas pipeline prompts arrests

Protestors marched across Shelburne Falls Road to the Vermont Gas pipline worksite and six were arrested when they refused to allow employees to leave. Photo by Jim Mendell
Protestors marched across Shelburne Falls Road to the Vermont Gas pipline worksite and six were arrested when they refused to allow employees to leave. Photo by Jim Mendell

A protest at a Vermont Gas pipeline project across the street from Hinesburg’s Geprags Park led to six arrests by police last Thursday.

The people arrested were charged with unlawful restraint, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct. They were taken to the Hinesburg Community Police station, where they were cited and released, Community Police Chief Frank Koss stated in a press release.

Last Thursday saw more than 100 people from across the country gather for a public protest at the park. According to Koss’s press release, protestors left the area, moving to Shelburne Falls Road, and marched to a Vermont Gas pipeline worksite.

Police warned protestors multiple times to leave the work site, according to Koss’ press statement. Those arrested came from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

“At one point, despite multiple warnings, several people refused to allow the employees to leave, which resulted in the arrests,” Koss wrote.
The Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department, Shelburne police, and Vermont State Police assisted the Hinesburg force.

Beth Parent, communications manager for Vermont Gas Systems, said the utility has grown accustomed to protests at their job sites.
“This event was more of the same from the same group of individuals,” Parent wrote in an email. “There will be added costs associated with delay. The work that was taking place at the site is important work necessary to ensure pipeline integrity. Thankfully it ended safely and we were able to move crews around to other clean up areas.”

Rachel Smolker of Hinesburg is a member of the concerned citizens’ group represented by Bristol attorney James Dumont, one of a group of local residents who were granted legal status to challenge the pipeline. She said she is pleased that activists are challenging the pipeline.
“Protest is important because it shows Hinesburg, VGS, state agencies and beyond, that we are MANY,” Smolker said. “It is very often repeated by VGS reps that there are ‘just a handful’ of people who are opposing the pipeline and making it difficult for others, and preventing VGS from delivering ‘clean and cheap’ fuel to poor folks. This is just not the case. There are pipeline opponents all over this state.”

Smolker noted that opponents of the pipeline will continue to oppose the project. “We are going to continue fighting this thing with everything we’ve got because we simply must do so for the sake of our future and our kids,” she said. “The strong showing…at Geprags on Thursday is indication of the support that residents here have from all around the state.”