Largest number of arrests at a U.S. anti-nuclear power demonstration in more than 20 years

Police arrest the first protesters to cross the line onto Entergy property in Brattleboro. Photo by Alan Panebaker


On March 22, the day after the original operating license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant expired, nearly 150 people in three states were arrested at protests demanding that the reactor be shut down now.

Civil resistance actions organized by the Safe and Green Energy Alliance took place at reactor owner Entergy Nuclear’s local office in Brattleboro, as well as corporate offices in White Plains, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana.

It was the largest single-day tally of arrests for opposing nuclear energy in the United States since October 14, 1989, when 475 people were cited for trespass when they went over the fence at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.

The day’s biggest demonstration took place in Brattleboro. When Entergy purchased the aged reactor, it agreed to state approval for continued operation after the original license expired. After the state withheld that consent over safety and contamination issues, Entergy went to court and won approval to continue because the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sole authority to license and relicense nuclear reactors. The NRC announced the relicensing of Vermont Yankee in March 2011.

A morning rally in the town commons by 1,500 people was followed by a colorful, 3.5 mile march to the Entergy office.

There, successive waves of affinity groups crossed the line until 136 people had been arrested, cited for trespass, and released either at the site or later from the police station. Among those arrested was Vermont state Sen. Phillip Baruth of Burlington.

Also arrested Thursday was Frances Crowe, 93-years-old and a member of the Shut it Down affinity group who has been arrested repeatedly over the last three years demanding an end to reactor operations. When a reporter asked Crowe how many times she had been arrested, she replied, “Not enough!”

Sixteen-year-old Jono Schiff was arrested with his parents, Leo Schiff and Joy Hammond.  He said, “We don’t want another Fukushima”.

In New Orleans, seven members of the Natural Guard affinity group – six from New Hampshire, one from Vermont and another from Washington, D.C. – hung banners and taped off a “crime scene” inside Entergy’s corporate office, demanding a meeting with its CEO.

“I come with the message from Vermont and from New England, that we stand united to oppose nuclear tyranny over our state’s right to self determine a safe and green energy future,” said Nancy Braus, a Vermont bookseller. “Our simple trespass is our statement of resistance to Entergy’s corporate trespass with the continued illegal operation of this nuclear waste factory.”

Five members of the Green Mountain Delegation affinity group attempted to occupy Entergy Nuclear’s White Plains headquarters in solidarity with the Vermont and Louisiana demonstrations. They were arrested for trespass on the twelfth floor, cited and released.

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[4/2/2012: The number arrested in Vermont has been corrected from the original post]