Concern Over Coal Burning Power Plants Fuels Protests
BOSTON - Four protesters bound themselves with chains, wire mesh fencing, and a bicycle lock this morning, in order to block the front entrance of the Bank of America branch in Boston’s Copley Square.
One woman, who declined to giver her name to reporters, put a U-shaped bicycle lock around her neck and locked herself to the building’s glass door.
Following about two hours blockading the building and preventing bank business as usual, police used an electric saw to cut the women free. Because the protesters were completely surrounded by police officers and members of the Special Operations Unit, it was difficult to see the procedure, but activists reported that one of the women was burned when the severed bicycle lock made contact with her skin. Boston Emergency Medical Service technicians were on the scene and administered first aid.
A spokesperson with the Boston Police Media Relations Department, Julie Fratalia, said the protesters were brought to the D-4 precinct on Harrison Avenue and charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace. She said the four women would most likely be released on bail and arraigned in District Court on Wednesday. When asked later on Tuesday afternoon whether or not the four women were cooperating with police, Ms. Fratalia said she couldn’t answer that question until a police report had been issued.
Activists with Rainforest Action Network and Rising Tide North America said the blockade was intended to draw attention to the Bank’s investment in facilities that produce energy from coal burning power plants and companies that mine for coal using destructive strip mining techniques. Coal burning plants are seen widely as major contributors to global climate change.
Across the U.S., environmental groups used April Fools Day as a launching pad for civil disobedience actions such as the one in Boston. According to the website fossilfoolsdayofaction.org, eight people were arrested trying to stop construction of Duke Energy’s Cliffside power plant, located 50 miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina. In New York City, according to the website, members of the group “Billionaires for Dirty Energy” blocked the entrance to a Citibank corporate office.
Colleen Cronin, who spoke on behalf of the approximately 35 people participating in the Boston Fossil Fools action, including the four women locked to the bank’s front door, said emissions from coal fired power plants make up forty percent of carbon pollution in the U.S.
But Ernesto Anguillar, a spokesperson for Bank of America, said environmental groups such as Rainforest Action Network were “unfortunately ignoring some economic realities, including that as a country, more than 50 percent of our electricity comes from coal.”
Human rights activists also have charged mining companies working in Appalachia and near American Indian reservations in the western United States with abuses leading to the destruction of local communities and economies. Groups such as Rising Tide North America have established themselves in recent years, in part, to bring civil disobedience type tactics to the growing movement concerned with global climate change and its impacts.
[Updated Wed. April 2, 2008 - According to Jake Wark, Press Secretary for the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, the four women were arraigned today and released on their own recognizance's. Their next court date will be April 24, 2008 for a pre-trial hearing]