18 Arrested Protesting Natural Gas Pipeline

May 2, 2017

Eighteen demonstrators were arrested Tuesday in southern Berkshire County at the construction site of a natural gas pipeline in Otis State Forest.

State police say the protesters blocked access roads to the job site in an effort to keep construction workers away. Police spokesperson Dave Procopio said those arrested will be charged with trespassing.

"Their intention as communicated to us was that they wanted to be arrested," Procopio said. "We ordered them to disperse and clear the roads, which they did not do. The interactions were peaceful and respectful."

Many of those arrested include members of the Sugar Shack Alliance, an anti-pipeline group. In a statement, a spokesperson for the group said they will continue to use non-violent tactics as they protest the project.

Those arrested are due in court next Monday. A list provided by the state police indicates that none of the 18 live in Berkshire County, with most residing in Hampshire County.

Both state police and protesters seem like they are settling in for the long haul when it comes to the pipeline project.

The Sugar Shack Alliance said they set up a staging area on private land near the construction site. This will be used as a "home base" for protesters, giving them a place to eat and rest.

As for the state police, Procopio said they will remain on the scene for the duration of the project, with the main goal of protecting everyone's rights, including those of the contractors working on the pipeline.

"[Also] the rights of demonstrators to have a safe environment and a safe location to express their views and their protests," Procopio said. "And those of nearby residents to safety and privacy."

Procopio said plans are in place in the event of larger protests or other critical incidents. As for who is paying to police the site, that will be up to the state. Procopio said he expects a combination of regular-duty troopers, plus those on overtime to be used.

Site work began last week on the New York-to-Connecticut natural gas pipeline. It has been the source of a legal and regulatory battle between the company Kinder Morgan and environmental activists, along with the state.