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6 arrested after blocking Fairfield train tracks during protest of fracked oil

Posted June 27, 2013, at 6:39 p.m.
Last modified June 28, 2013, at 12:55 p.m.
Meg Gilmartin of Belgrade (left) holds a sign in protest of fracked oil traveling through Maine during a demonstration on Lawrence Avenue on Thursday, June 27, 2013. Six protesters were arrested.
Meg Gilmartin of Belgrade (left) holds a sign in protest of fracked oil traveling through Maine during a demonstration on Lawrence Avenue on Thursday, June 27, 2013. Six protesters were arrested. Buy Photo
Protesters gather in Fairfield Thursday awaiting a train they say is carrying crude oil to New Brunswick, Canada. The group planned to blockade the tracks in protest of transporting fossil fuels across Maine that contribute to global warming.
Protesters gather in Fairfield Thursday awaiting a train they say is carrying crude oil to New Brunswick, Canada. The group planned to blockade the tracks in protest of transporting fossil fuels across Maine that contribute to global warming. Buy Photo
Tom Kemp of Sangerville was one of more than two dozen protesters demonstrating against the railway transportation of crude oil through Maine on Thursday, June 27, 2013. The protesters blocked a railroad crossing on Lawrence Avenue in Fairfield, resulting in the arrest of six protesters.
Tom Kemp of Sangerville was one of more than two dozen protesters demonstrating against the railway transportation of crude oil through Maine on Thursday, June 27, 2013. The protesters blocked a railroad crossing on Lawrence Avenue in Fairfield, resulting in the arrest of six protesters. Buy Photo
Protesters gather on the railroad tracks near Lawrence Avenue in Fairfield in an attempt to stop a train carrying crude oil on Thursday, June 27, 2013. The train never came and six protesters were arrested for criminal trespassing.
Protesters gather on the railroad tracks near Lawrence Avenue in Fairfield in an attempt to stop a train carrying crude oil on Thursday, June 27, 2013. The train never came and six protesters were arrested for criminal trespassing. Buy Photo
Signs made by a group planning to protest against the railroad carrying crude oil through Maine to New Brunswick Thursday evening. The group known as 350 Maine planned to blockade tracks in Fairfield to prevent a train from passing through.
Signs made by a group planning to protest against the railroad carrying crude oil through Maine to New Brunswick Thursday evening. The group known as 350 Maine planned to blockade tracks in Fairfield to prevent a train from passing through. Buy Photo

FAIRFIELD, Maine — Six people protesting the transportation of crude oil passing through the state were arrested late Thursday night.

Members of 350 Maine — a statewide group whose stated goal is addressing the climate crisis — erected a large wooden frame to hold a sign that read “Stop Fracked Oil” across the railroad tracks along Lawrence Avenue.

About 20 police vehicles from six departments responded to the protest, including Fairfield, Waterville, Winslow and Oakland police departments, Maine State Police and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department.

“We got a call that a group of people had blocked off the intersection of Lawrence and Main,” said interim Fairfield Police Chief Joe Massey. “When the officers got on scene, there were 20-25-30 people in the intersection. They had out cones across Lawrence Avenue. We told them they had to move them and they complied. It really wasn’t much of a problem.

“They walked a short distance up here to the railroad tracks where they erected a large sign over the tracks,” he said. “We let them protest as long as we could.”

Massey told the crowd at about 9:30 p.m. that it had 10 minutes to disperse, and those who didn’t would be arrested. The six people who were arrested were charged with criminal trespassing and taken to Somerset County Jail in Madison.

Arrested were: Elizabeth Catlin, 23, of Brunswick; James Freeman, 64, of Verona Island; Sarah Linneken, 35, of Brunswick; Read Brugger, 63, of Freedom; Douglas Bowen, 67, of Porter; and Robert Shaw, 66, of Belfast.

Meaghan LaSala, an organizer with 350 Maine, said the group was trying to stop a train heading to Canada. The train was supposedly hauling crude oil that was fracked from the Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota.

She said the way the oil is extracted is dangerous to the environment, and there was a great risk of the train derailing and spilling oil into nearby water.

The group’s mission was to bring the public’s attention to the practice of fracking. A group of nearly 100 stopped to watch the protesters before being asked to disperse by police. Some supported the protesters, while others cheered when some were arrested.

Read Brugger of Freedom was one of the protesters who was arrested.

“We feel there has not been enough awareness about the millions of gallons of crude shell oil that shipped across Maine each month,” said Brugger. “We feel need to move beyond fossil fuels and get away from the poisonous ways oil is being extracted.”

Many onlookers were curious and stopped to see why so many police vehicles were on scene.

“I thought the [gas station] got robbed,” said Greg Bernatchez of Fairfield. “So I thought I’d stop by and see what’s going on.”

Many interviewed said they did not know that fracked oil was being transported through Maine.

“Our concern is the rails aren’t safe,” said Jim Freeman of Verona Island, who was also arrested.

The group points to two derailments in a less than a year as to why they believe the rails aren’t safe.

After the protesters were arrested and the crowd was dispersed, the group’s sign was dismantled with a chainsaw.

PanAm Railways was notified immediately of the protest, according to Massey, and a train never traveled through the intersection.

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