Eight People and a Coffin Block Construction of Pipeline in Otis State Forest

Brought together by the Sugar Shack Alliance, people gathered on June 24th in Otis State Forest to hold a whimsical funeral march for the Fossil Fuel Age. With 98 year-old peace activist Frances Crowe leading the way, eight people from the Sugar Shack Alliance capped off their Funeral for the  Age of Fossil Fuels by carrying the coffin out onto Kinder Morgan’s easement to obstruct construction of the $93 million pipeline. Within half an hour, all eight were arrested, including Crowe.

Earlier in the day, the activists gathered at Lower Spectacle Pond in Otis State Forest with a singing group called the Casquettes, a bicycle hearse, coffin, and a man in nine foot polar bear costume to gleefully bid farewell to the Age of Fossil Fuels. The funeral service, which began and ended with a procession down Cold Spring Road, was officiated by Northampton resident Linda Putnam. Taking suggestions from the crowd, Putnam cast into the coffin such phenomena as “individual and corporate greed,” “colonialsm,” and “oil spills.”

Crowe, who became a peace activist during World War II and who has been arrested numerous times, most recently protesting the Vermont Yankee Power Plant, addressed the crowd:

“And this is where energy lies,” she said from her wheel chair, “in people power, wind, and solar.”

After the final procession, eight activists including Crowe – Elizabeth Caretti-Ramirez of Holyoke, Dennis Carr of Cummington, Eric Burcroff of Plainfield, Priscilla Lynch of Conway, Ellen Graves of West Springfield, Connie Harvard of Northampton, and Laura Simon of Wilder, Vermont – carried the casket onto the easement and set it down in the path of construction vehicles. They were arrested, charged with Trespassing, and have been released on their own recognizance with hearings next Tuesday at the Southern Berkshire District Court House. They join 23 others from the Alliance who have been arrested in the past two months resisting the Connecticut Expansion Project in Otis State Forest.

“I chose to be arrested today to show respect for our elders (especially Francis Crowe), our resolve to resist, and to stop this pipeline from being finished,” said Dennis Carr. “The police chose to arrest me today because I was standing in the way of the construction of an illegal pipeline. There has been no evacuation plan provided for the people, the thinnest pipes possible are being used, and it was my civic duty to do everything in my power to stop this dangerous, unnecessary pipeline.”

The Sugar Shack Alliance is a coalition of activists from around the region that is firmly rooted in the principles of non-violent direct action and peaceful resistance to fossil fuels. The gas slated to run through this 4-mile stretch of pipeline comes from fracked gas wells and is planned for use in Connecticut, though, as activists point out, current usage rates by customers in that state indicate that the gas is not needed. Sugar Shack Alliance is calling on Governor Baker to make Massachusetts a leader in clean energy and block the construction of any new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in the commonwealth.

As the song they sang walking the coffin down Cold Spring Road proclaims, “The tide is rising, and so are we.”