WEST BATH, Maine — A dozen people arrested outside Bath Iron Works in June while protesting the christening of the latest Zumwalt-class “stealth” destroyer pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of obstructing a public way Tuesday in West Bath District Court.
Attorney Lynne Williams, who represents seven of the 12, entered the pleas on behalf of three of her clients, Bruce Gagnon, 63, of Bath, Dudley Hendrick, 74, of Deer Isle and Tarak Kuff, 74, of Woodstock, New York, all of whom she said were unavailable on Tuesday.
Protesters blocked traffic on Washington Street, outside the shipyard’s south gate, shortly before 9:30 a.m. June 18, as people stood in line to enter the event and the crew of the future USS Michael Monsoor marched into the yard, Gagnon said that day.
“Our goal was to interrupt the celebration of endless war and corporate profit,” Gagnon said. “On top of that, we’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. There was a feeling that we had to do more to speak out against this in our own community, our own state.”
He added that those arrested came from all over the state and elsewhere to protest “because there’s just a growing frustration with the enormous waste of $4 billion for one ship and the provocative nature of these deployments going into the South Pacific.”
Gagnon and Hendrick are Vietnam-era war veterans who have spent decades advocating against war and against the escalation of U.S. government spending on the military. Both have held leadership roles in Veterans for Peace.
Gagnon also has led protests during past appearances of the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team in Brunswick, arguing that the shows are recruiting tools that waste taxpayer dollars.
In addition to Gagnon, Hendrick and Kuff, not guilty pleas were entered by Cynthia Howard, 69, of Biddeford; Constance Jenkins, 68, of Orono; Richard Lethem, 79, of Bath; John Morris, 79, of New Gloucester; George Ostensen, 61, of Hope; Joan Peck, 69, of Brunswick; John Peck, 75, of Brunswick; Jason Rawn, 41, of Lincolnville; and Russell Wray, 61, of Hancock.
“They do this not so much to inconvenience police or people going to the BIW christenings … it’s more to get the story out,” Williams said.
All 12 defendants are scheduled to appear in West Bath District Court on Sept. 7. If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.