Ira Powsner spent part of his 26th birthday in the back of a police cruiser today after a protest at the construction site of a 21-turbine wind installation in Lowell sparked an exercise in civil disobedience.
Powsner, 26, of Ira, Vt., (pictured in red hat) was among dozens of protestors at Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind project who stepped onto Route 100 this morning to physically block a tractor trailer carrying a section of a massive wind turbine onto the construction site. The protest held up traffic along the highway for two hours, backing up cars between two and five miles in either direction. Photos from the day's action are up on the Lowell Mountain Talk blog.
Protestor Steve Wright of Craftsbury Commons says demonstrators had planned a roadside rally — similar to one that took place last October — to draw attention to what Wright calls "the bad energy policy that ends up blowing up Vermont mountains."
By 9 a.m., more than 100 protestors had flocked to the roadside. And when the truck showed up, Powsner says, a murmur went through the crowd. Wright was among the first to step out into the road, carrying a Vermont state flag, and he was quickly followed by Powsner and his younger brother, 21-year-old Jacob Powsner.
"I was feeling frustration and anger, and that I was left with nothing else to do but a symbolic act," Wright says.
As an organizer with Energize Vermont, Ira Powsner had been leading the chants that echoed from the crowd, and felt compelled to join the movement into the road. When a law enforcement officer told Wright to move from the road, he moved — but the Powsner brothers stood their ground. Both brothers were arrested and issued citations for disorderly conduct, with a summons to appear in court in September.
All in all, between 20 and 25 law enforcement officials responded to the scene — including officers from the Lamoille and Orleans county sheriffs' offices, the Vermont State Police, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies. "All of whom came in separate vehicles, so they need their own climate change consultant to work with them," quips Wright.
Despite the arrests, protestors are calling today's action a success, and say the large turnout is proof that dissatisfaction with industrial-scale wind power is mounting in Vermont.
"I think this is what the decision makers, who continue to try to cram these things down local folks' throats — this is what they’re going to see," says Wright.
Dorothy Schnure, a spokesperson with project developer Green Mountain Power, called the protestors' decision to disrupt traffic "unfortunate," adding that the Lowell wind project has been reviewed in great detail and was ultimately granted state approval. Despite the disruption, she says that GMP is on budget and on schedule to finish the ridgeline wind project by the end of the year.
As for the birthday boy? Powsner says he "felt like (he) needed to step up," and he's glad he did. "My feelings are immediately that if you have 50 to 100 people in the road blocking the truck, you have to revisit the policy that created this wind power industry," says Powsner, who works with a group that encourages "community-scale" energy projects in Vermont while fighting industrial developments. He's grateful the protest was peaceful. As for spending his birthday in a police cruiser? "It couldn't have been any better," Powsner says.
Photo of Powsner from the Lowell Mountain Talk blog.