In one sense, this was just another protest, one of many in which I have participated. But, the protest Sunday in Bow, NH, was different for me. Let me describe it.
First of all, two years ago, this was where I was arrested. Well, not exactly here, but across the street at the coal-powered plant, not at the ball field. The day I was arrested, we’d started the protest at the ball field with a rally for the hundreds of people who were in support of our cause (closing the final coal-powered plant in New England), but who did not want to get arrested. Then, the dozens of us willing to put ourselves at risk of arrest, all dressed in white Tyvek suits and carrying large white buckets, left the field, walked across the street to the gated plant entrance, singing and chanting, “We do what must be done!”
This time, as two years ago, those deeply involved had spent the weekend camping nearby, getting to know each other better, making new friends, participating in non-violence training, and preparing themselves mentally and emotionally for this action. I hadn’t been among them this time, recognizing my more recent physical and emotional limits. I had arrived at noon for this single part of the weekend, the protest rally.
I’d driven the seventy miles from home, arriving just before noon. As I approached the location, state police cars were posted about every quarter mile for a mile and a half. This was along a quiet road, not the highway. When I saw the first one, I slowed down to thirty miles an hour, not wanting to give the police any reason to stop me. Also, my heart moved into my throat, remembering that, still out on bail until my trial next year, I had been alerted by my attorney that police would be looking for any of us who had been previously arrested.
One of the conditions of my bail was to not be within 500 feet of the plant. Driving past it and the parked police cars on my way to the ball field made my heart race. There were new “No Parking” signs placed along the road approaching and beyond the field. Although our organizers had secured a permit to rally at the field, clearly the police were setting up obstacles and were not going to make it easy for us. About a quarter mile beyond the field, was a section without signs, so I parked there and walked back to the field, hoping my car would not be towed.
Arriving, my fear lifted as I saw fellow protester friends from Massachusetts, Rob, Jim, Amanda, and Carolyn; and others from Maine and Vermont, some of whom I had not seen in person since I was released from jail, the day of my arrest. Additionally, there were many more young people present than I remembered from previous events. The speakers were each wonderful. Included among them were some of the leaders I had worked with before, plus some local residents who had been called to join us after learning of the dangers to their health and to the Merrimac River, located directly behind the plant.
Other protesters planned to follow up this part of our gathering by canoeing and kayaking in the river. That morning, police had told our leaders that we would not be allowed to use the public entrance to the river. Fortunately, they were able to make other arrangements, and were successful.
Some local Bow speakers impressed me the most, including a young mom, present with her three children, one of them in her dad’s arms. Another speaker made me cry with her words. She was nineteen, a college student. She described being present two years ago, being advised, because of her age, that she should not risk being arrested, and watching with admiration as those of us in our white Tyvek suits marched, chanting, to the gates, ready to trespass and be arrested. She described her frustration, because she wanted to be more involved. Now, she planned to be totally involved, inspired by us from two years past, saying, “What kind of a future will there be for me if our planet is destroyed?”
This time we sang a new song, “They’ve tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”
I was gone for only six hours and came home with a new NoCoalNoGas tee shirt, reading, “Do what must be done.” I was not arrested; I saw the seeds growing and drove home with satisfaction.
Copyright © 2021