SIX GRANDMOTHERS FOUND GUILTY OF TRESPASSING TO SAVE THE PLANET
By William Boardman Email address removed
The Vermont justice system may have wanted just another routine jury trial on charges of criminal trespass, but for the accused six grandmothers the day-long trial was also an opportunity to bear witness, each in her own polite way, that they had acted out of conscience to protect themselves and others against the dangers of an aging nuclear power plant in particular and against the general danger of nuclear power to the planet.
That's the rather strange context for a day-long trial in Windham County Superior Court in Brattleboro on November 27, when six Massachusetts women, aged 64-93, faced possible jail time and fines up to $500, if convicted, for padlocking shut the gate to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and then chaining themselves to that gate on August 30, 2011. The women, who have been arrested often in at least 21 other protests against Vermont Yankee since 2006, freely admitted these alleged acts, denied they were trespass, and welcomed the opportunity to explain why they acted.
Superior Judge John Wesley interpreted the women's position to be an assertion of the "necessity defense" (see below) and ruled that that defense was not allowed. But he also took notice that the women were representing themselves, without attorneys, and that as pro se parties they would have unusual leeway in their testimony.
The resulting courtroom scene was only part legal proceeding. It was also part political theatre, part group therapy, and part something of a spiritual teach-in, with an audience of dozens of supporters for the women who are part of the Shut It Down Affinity Group, a bi-state association of activists focused on Vermont Yankee. One of the supporters, Dusty Miller, described her response to the trial of what she called "actions motivated by conscience":
Yesterday, I spent the day in a Brattleboro courtroom, witnessing the trial of six white-haired grandmothers who were charged with trespassing at the gates of Vermont Yankee".
Yesterday, I was repeatedly moved to tears. I was inspired and challenged by the actions and the courage of the women I was there to support.
Most important, I felt hope again, hope that ordinary citizens can take a stand against corporate powers who pollute our earth and water with impunity.