BANGOR — Opponents of Plum Creek, including several of the protestors arrested last year at the Land Use Regulation Commission’s meeting where it approved the firm’s development plan, rallied this morning for the Appleton man still facing charges.
About 30 people gathered outside the Penobscot Judicial Center at 8 a.m. today, approximately 90 minutes before the jury trial of Christian “Will” Neils, 33, was scheduled to begin in a second-floor courtroom on charges of refusing to submit to arrest, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon, a knife.
Protestors gathered across Exchange Street from the courthouse. Many held handmade signs that said, “Plum Creek is the real criminal” and “Drop the charges. Drop the plan.”
Author Carolyn Chute read a handwritten statement criticizing corporate America and questioning why a man carrying a common “jackknife” had been charged with carrying a dangerous weapon.
“If every Mainer who carries a jacknife were arrested,” she said, “we’d have to build more prisons.”
Members of the group put the focus on Plum Creek and LURC rather than on Neils’ trial, scheduled to last two days.
Neils declined to speak to the press until after the trial.
In opening arguments, Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, told the jury that Neils was loud and disruptive, refused to submit to arrest and had a knife in his pocket on Sept. 23 at LURC’s meeting at the Ramada Inn in Bangor. The prosecutor said Bangor police acted properly in arresting him.
Defense attorney Leonard Sharon of Auburn said the police went too far in arresting his client who was exercising his constitutional rights.
Bangor police Lt. Thomas Reagan testified Monday morning that he and other officers tried to remove protesters from the meeting after they “received a signal” from Assistant Attorney General Jerry Reed, who represented LURC at the meeting. Reagan said he had met before the meeting with Reed and knew Reed would let him know “when the commissioners had had enough.”
Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy announced on April 30 in a press release that charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct had been dismissed against Jessica Dowling, 28, of Searsmont; Megan Gilmartin, 26, of Corinth; James Freeman, 61, of Verona Island; Emily Posner, 28, of Montville; and Ryan Clarke, 28, of East Corinth.
The six were arrested on Sept. 23 at Ramada Inn on Odlin Road just as commissioners were preparing to approve Plum Creek’s controversial housing and resort plan for the Moosehead Lake region. The vote capped an intense, four-year public debate about economic development and land preservation in Maine’s North Woods.
If convicted, Neils faces up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.