September 17, 2019
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Climate change inspired 25 protesters who were arrested at Bath Iron Works

Courtesy of Peter Robbins
Courtesy of Peter Robbins
Protesters block a bus carrying attendees to Bath Iron Works for Saturday's christening of the USS Lyndon B. Johnson. Police arrested 25 people on misdemeanor charges related to the protest.

Twenty-five protesters, including an 87-year-old Nobleboro woman, were arrested Saturday morning outside Bath Iron Works after allegedly blocking traffic during a christening ceremony for the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson.

The protesters, placed in plastic handcuffs and arrested by Bath police, Sagadahoc County sheriff’s deputies and Maine state troopers, were charged with the Class E misdemeanor of obstructing a public way.

Fifty to 75 members of Maine Veterans for Peace, Durham Quaker Meeting, Midcoast Peace and Justice Group, Pax Christi Maine, Peace Action Maine and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space lined the sidewalks on Washington Street early Saturday morning before stepping into the roadway and blocking traffic for approximately an hour.

The group said their act of civil resistance was to protest the destroyer’s christening and demand that Bath Iron Works convert its mission to working to halt climate change.

At approximately 9 a.m., the group walked into Washington Street and blocked traffic, according to Bath police Deputy Chief Robert Savary.

Protesters allegedly stood at the front and back of a bus carrying people to the christening ceremony, preventing it from moving. Eight protesters at the rear of the bus were arrested after refusing to move, Savary said.

Police then blocked that section of Washington Street with police vehicles, as a large group of protesters remained on Washington Street.

At about 9:30 a.m., another group of protesters allegedly blocked King Street — some lying in the street — and were arrested after refusing to leave the road, Savary said.

A group of protesters remained on Washington Street until police ordered them to leave. All roads were opened to traffic at approximately 10 a.m.

Suzanne Hedrick, 87, of Nobleboro said in a statement that she spoke with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, in Augusta last week during a Youth Day of Action on Climate Crisis.

“I told Chellie that many in the peace community were upset with her inability to address the massive defense budget,” Hedrick wrote in an email.

“The United States has become the world’s military monster,” Hedrick wrote Monday in an email. “Saturday’s ‘christening’ of a weapon of war is a sacrilege. It is a sin to worship a warship … there are many reasons I chose to be arrested. My conscience could not live otherwise.”

“Endorsing the Conversion Campaign addresses these truths and provides a rational ‘lens’ through which to ‘see’ an apocalyptic reality,” Dudley Hendrick, 77, of Deer Isle, a past president of Maine Veterans for Peace, said in a statement. “The absolute imperative of ‘conversion’ is all the more undeniable to us in Maine, having the longest coastline in the nation.”

Hendrick, who has previously protested at BIW, wrote Monday that as a veteran of the Vietnam War, “the christening of the LBJ was particularly disturbing in as much as such sanctification further enables the perpetuation of our endless wars. The lies of the Johnson administration justified the escalation of that tragic war.”

“It is the welfare of our very planet that has us so alarmed,” Hendrick wrote in an email.

In addition to Hendrick and Hedrick, police arrested Ellen Barfield, 62, of Baltimore, Maryland; Meredith Bruskin, 71, of Swanville; Carolyn Coe, 71, of Freeport; Donald Cunning, 72, of New Jersey; Michael Donnelly, 82, of Brunswick; Daniel Ellis, 71, of Brunswick; James Freeman, 70, of Verona Island; Sophia Ridgely Fuller, 72, of Belfast; Mary Garvey-Donnelly, 80, of Brunswick; Ethan Hughes, 48, of Belfast; Constance Jenkins, 71, of East Blue Hill; Natasha Mayers, 72, of Whitefield; Julius Orkin, 80, of New Jersey; Roy Pingel, 71, of Queens, New York; Jason Rawn, 45, of Lincolnville; Judith Robbins, 70, of Sedgwick; Mark Roman, 77, of Solon; Lisa Savage, 62, of Solon; Virginia Schneider, 60, of South Portland; Dixie Searway, 81, of Parsonsfield; Robert Shetterly, 72, of Brooksville; and Russell Wray, 64, of Hancock.

All were booked and bailed from the Bath Police Department. They are scheduled to appear at West Bath District Court on June 18.

In June 2016, a dozen people — including Hendrick, Jenkins, Rawn and Wray — were arrested outside BIW while protesting the christening of the future USS Michael Monsoor.

Ten of the 12 pleaded not guilty to the same misdemeanor charge they were arrested for Saturday. Two had previously accepted plea agreements, one due to health issues and one due to travel.

Following a jury trial in February 2017, the 10 were found guilty and sentenced to 30 hours of community service.

But Bruce Gagnon, one of the 10, said the following month that the group would continue to protest future events.

In April 2017, nine anti-war activists — including Mayers, Rawn, Roman and Wray — were arrested outside BIW during the christening of the future USS Thomas Hudner and charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass — charges subsequently dismissed by Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings.

The maximum sentence for a Class E misdemeanor is six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Sagadahoc County District Attorney Natasha Irving did not immediately respond to messages asking if she plans to prosecute.

Related: Vietnam war veteran talks conversion to ‘peacenik’ protester

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