*A busy Crestwood protest day: 9 arrests, a rally, 16 court cases and 3
SCHUYLER COUNTY, Nov. 20 — The number of arrestees protesting the
Crestwood energy firm’s gas storage plans climbed to 52 Wednesday with the
arrest of nine people at two Crestwood gates along Route 14 north of
It was a busy day for the protest community — one that also saw a rally
and two court sessions involving 16 defendants, three of whom chose jail
over a fine.
The day started with a gathering of 30 protesters in Seneca Harbor Park at
7 a.m., followed by carpooling to the two Crestwood gates. The
gate-blocking went on for seven hours in bitter cold temperatures before
police arrested seven men and two women. Three other men had been in one or
the other of the two blockade lines for hours, but departed before police
The rally occurred outside the Reading Town Hall, with almost 100
supporters braving the bracing temperatures and gusting winds to hear
speeches strongly urging that protesters continue their civil disobedience.
The two court sessions were both in Reading Town Court, where three of the
16 defendants — including 86-year-old Roland Micklem — opted for jail as
an extended form of protest. Many of the other defendants pled guilty to
Trespass and paid fines, with money provided by funds collected from
supporters of the protest effort. A handful of cases were adjourned
following not-guilty pleas.
*The day’s highlights:*
*1. The nine arrests.*
The group taken into custody included several area business figures.
Arrestees, according to organizers, included:
–Will Ouweleen, Conesus, Livingston County, owner, Eagle Crest and
–Peggy Aker, 57, Trumansburg, owner and founder, Marco Mama’s;
–Stefan Senders, 56, Hector, owner, Wide Awake Bakery;
–Julia Uticone, 40, Cayutaville, Swamp Road Baskets;
–Asa Redmond, 40, Ithaca, Regional Access, a natural food distributor.
Redmond is also the drummer for The Sim Redmond Band.
–And: Anna Redmond, Trumansburg; Jessica Thorpe, Hector; John Dennis,
Lansing; and Chuck Geisler, Ithaca. Geisler had also been arrested on Oct.
Protesting for several hours, organizers said, but not present at the time
of the arrests:
–Phil Davis, 62, Hector, owner, Damiani Wine Cellars;
–Scott Signori, 47, Hector, owner and executive chef, Stonecat Cafe;
–Chris Tate, 52, Hector.
*2. The rally.* Scores gathered outside the Reading Town Hall despite
bone-chilling temperatures to hear a rousing speech from key protester
Sandra Steingraber, who would later plead guilty to trespass, refuse to pay
the fine, and be sentenced to 15 days in jail. She criticized Schuyler
County Sheriff Bill Yessman for remarks he made on TV and online
complaining about the cost of housing protest inmates, and about a fatal
heart attack victim who could not be treated by an EMT-trained deputy
because the deputy had been dispatched to Crestwood.
Steingraber said a 911 call should always take precedence over Crestwood
protesters, and that they didn’t mind being “the bottom rung” on the ladder
of Yessman’s concerns. “He has no obligation to prioritize Crestwood over a
911 call,” she said, adding that if the county personnel “is stretched so
thin, how can they deal with a catastrophic accident?” should one occur at
Crestwood — something protestors and a risk analysis by a former area
hospital CEO say has a good chance of happening over the next 25 years.
She also suggested cutting the 15-day sentences handed down to protesters
to something closer to an overnight stay. “That would reduce the cost,” she
In any event, she added, “We will not give up.” She told the supporters
that she was likely going to jail that night, but didn’t want any
candlelight vigils or communications while she was incarcerated. “Just take
my place” on the protest lines, she said.
Joseph Campbell *(pictured at right)*, president of Gas Free Seneca, said
Yessman’s remarks were “disturbing" because he “more than implied … that
some peaceful protesters, from young mothers to local business owners to
grandmothers and grandfathers, are a threat and are putting the residents
of Schuyler County at risk. While we understand that Sheriff Yessman is
frustrated, perhaps he should realize that those who are risking arrest are
also frustrated, at the utter lack of representation they are getting from
their elected representatives and the agencies that regulate these
projects. People are being arrested for trespassing, but it is a Houston,
Texas-based oil and gas corporation which is the true trespasser here.”
*3. The 5 p.m. court session.* It saw nine cases handled by Town Justice
Raymond Berry that had been held over from court two weeks before. The big
hang-up on Nov. 5 had been an assertion by defendants that they were being
charged unreasonably with Disorderly Conduct in addition to Trespass. The
two charges had been lodged against 7 of 10 arrestees on Oct. 29 — the
starting date for the current wave of 52 arrests. Their argument was that
Disorderly Conduct applies to public property, and Trespass to private
property, and that therefore the two should not reasonably co-exist in
these cases. The District Attorney’s office, represented Wednesday by
Assistant DA John Tunney, concurred, and permitted the DisCon to be dropped
if a defendant pled guilty to Trespass.
Five of the seven jointly charged defendants followed that route, pleading
guilty to Trespass, with three of them — Steingraber, Micklem and Colleen
Boland — refusing to pay the $250 fine and $125 surcharge. They were each
sentenced to 15 days in jail, the Micklem case prompting some catcalls from
the audience and a question from one woman.
“Why can’t you give him community service?” she said, obviously concerned
by the man’s age and health. But the woman got a look from Tunney and a
terse: “You’re not a party to this.”
After they were sentenced, the three were held in the town hall until just
before the start of the 7 p.m. session, when they were led by deputies to a
transport van that had just arrived. Steingraber and Boland walked through
a gauntlet of supporters, cuffed hands held high, while Micklem shuffled
along well behind, walking as always with a cane. A deputy was at his
elbow. Unfortunately, Micklem fell as he tried to descend from curbing to
the parking lot, prompting cries throughout the crowd of “Roland's down!”
After being helped to his feet, he complained of an injured knee and was
seated for comfort in the passenger seat of an adjacent van. Asked if he
wanted medical attention, he said yes, and an ambulance was called.
According to a protest participant who witnessed the ambulance’s arrival,
Micklem decided not to submit to treatment after all, opting for jail, and
was taken there in a squad car.
Among other defendants at that first hearing, Patrick Judson and his mother
Jeanne — originally charged with both Trespass and Disorderly Conduct –
pled guilty to Trespass and paid the fine and surcharge, with funds
provided by supporters. Charles Geisler and Rev. Nancy Kasper, each charged
only with Trespass, pled not guilty, as did Patricia Heckart and Catherine
Rossiter, both charged with Trespass and Disorderly Conduct. The Geisler,
Heckart and Rossiter cases were adjourned to Jan. 21, while Kasper,
requesting a public defender, was told to return on Dec. 7.
*4. The 7 p.m. court session.* Seven cases dating from the arrest Nov. 3rd
of 15 people were handled, with most of the defendants pleading guilty to
Trespass and paying the $250 fine and $125 surcharge from donated funds.
They included Darlene Bordwell, Jodi Dean of Geneva, Lindsay Clark of the
Rochester area, Mariah Plumlee of Interlaken, and Stephanie Redmond, a
mother of three from Ithaca whose husband, Asa, was arrested in Wednesday’s
protest. One defendant, Kenneth Fogarty, 75, of Chenango County, opted to
pay the fine himself over 30 days, while another, 88-year-old Robert Henrie
of Wolcott, Wayne County, asked for a delay in his plea until after he
undergoes surgery for an aneurysm on Dec. 1. He was given a sheet of paper
with instructions to call the court for rescheduling his case, and he said
he would “if I don’t die.”
*5. The statements.* Defendants were generally given the opportunity to
make brief statements, and asked if they wanted anyone notified about their
situation. One woman, Mariah Plumlee, said yes, she would like to have
someone notified about her charges: “Governor Cuomo.” Responded Justice
Berry: “I doubt he’d take my call.” Answered Plumlee: “He hasn’t been
Another defendant, Stephanie Redmond, said she wanted Sheriff Yessman
notified, with information given him as to “who the actual trespassers are
on Seneca Lake.”
Among the statements, there was Plumlee’s: “I’m really sad and angry to be
here. I don’t like to break the rules; I usually try to follow them. But I
also have principles and children” who, she said, are endangered by the
Crestwood storage projects.
Or that of Kenneth Fogarty, who was one of several defendants requesting a
lighter fine, only to be told by Judge Berry that his hands are tied by New
York regulations. He cannot reduce fines for trespass or the jail sentence,
15 days, for those who refuse to pay the fine. “Justice,” said Fogarty, “is
served best when tempered with compassion. I know you sent a man in his 80s
to jail with great misgivings. I plan to study this further” with an eye
toward mounting a campaign to get the state rules altered.
Or the statement of Jodi Dean, who said: “The (Assistant) DA was saying
‘The People say this’ and ‘the People say that’” when referring to his
office. “But history will show that *we *are the people.”
Or that of Redmond, who said she was participating in the protest because
“I have children, and the laws of motherhood supercede the laws bought and
paid for by large corporations.” She deemed the Crestwood projects “a
direct threat to my family,” adding: “Our sustainable economy” based on
wineries and tourism “should not be undermined by this insanity.”