Protest leaders, police both say Brayton Point demonstration a success
Herald News Photo | Dave Souza
An anti-coal protester is led away from a protest to the lockup by a Somerset police officer outside Brayton Point Power Station on Sunday.
While protest leaders said they achieved their aim when hundreds marched and dozens were arrested to demonstrate opposition to Brayton Point Power Station and other fossil fuel power plants, police said they took the right steps to protect citizen safety during Sunday’s event.
“We used every single person on the department, and rightfully so,” Police Chief Joseph Ferreira said of his 29-person force and 17 auxiliary officers.
He estimated the cost in overtime would be in the range of $10,000 to the town, and at least $50,000 overall.
Ferreira said the march, by an estimated 300 to 400 demonstrators organized by the state 350.org affiliate and Better Future Project to Brayton Point, was respectful. However, “there were a lot of unknowns.”
Ferreira said their intelligence in conjunction with state, county and other law enforcement reported that “there might be a radical group” joining in to “commit disturbances and commit vandalism.”
That did not happen, but Ferreira said their law enforcement complement was in the range of 100 officers and “was just the right number” along the three-quarter-mile route. The officers later booked 44 red-shirted protesters voluntarily arrested for trespassing at the power plant, which is owned by Dominion Energy since 2005.
“I would say everything went extremely well. I’m pleased no one was injured,” Ferreira said.
The arrested protesters were released after magistrate hearings in Fall River and each posted $40 fees to the magistrate, according to both Ferreira and Eli Gerzon of 350 Massachusetts.
Gerzon said those arrested paid the fees; they’ll be arraigned Wednesday and Thursday and likely face probation terms.
The opponents of coal-fired and other fossil fuel power plants were clearly bolstered by their planned actions with authorities, their message and the reactions.
“It was successful in every single way,” said Gerzon, 29, of Arlington. “We feel like we really made a splash, got a lot of notice and we think Gov. (Deval) Patrick will take notice.”
The group’s overall goal is to see Patrick take action under the Global Warming Solutions Act “to transition Massachusetts beyond coal towards renewables like solar and wind,” according to Craig Altemose, head of the Better Future Project.
Dominion has a sales agreement with Energy Capital Partners to buy the 1,528-megawatt plant, which is powered mostly by coal, to convert it to natural gas. Gerzon said his group believes companies should be forced to use energy “that doesn’t kill people” by affecting global climate change.
The plant can supply power to an estimated 1.6 million homes a year.
Asked if they believe alternative energies could supply the country with needed power, he said, “Of course not. That’s why we’re talking about a transition. But I do think we could exist tomorrow without Brayton Point. We have to start taking bold steps now.