Medea Benjamin Arrested With Shut It Downers

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VERNON, Vermont—In pouring rain, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin joined the Shut It Down Affinity Group Friday to block the gate at Entergy Corporation’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant here before police arrested twelve women for unlawful trespass. No court date has been set.

Code Pink is a women’s peace and justice organization dedicated to ending war and injustice aound the world. With others, Benjamin founded Code Pink.

Before blocking the Vermont Yankee gate, the women stood with balloons and banners across from nearby Vernon Elementary School to urge love for mother earth as Mother’s Day approached.

Vernon police officer Albrey Crowley single-handedly transported the arrestees by threes and fours to the nearby Vernon Police Station. Vernon townspeople voted Monday to terminate its police department as of July 1.

“We are nonviolent and come with the expressed purpose of shutting down Vermont Yankee,” said Hattie Nestel, 75, of Athol, Massachusetts, one of the women arrested Friday. “What if we were intent on using weapons to invade Vermont Yankee in order to obtain nuclear material or, worse, create an explosion that would devastate an area for a radius of fifty or a hundred or more miles?

“Entergy says there is no reason to maintain an evacuation zone,” Nestel continued, “and Vernon thinks it’s fine to have no police department even though enough nuclear material to blow up all of New England will be stored at the site for years to come even if Entergy decides to clean up the place as expediently as possible. Which it doesn’t.”

While blocking the gate before police arrived to arrest them, the women read a statement entitled, “Don’t Believe a Word Entergy Says.”

Benjamin blocked the Vermont Yankee gate with Shut It Downers in keeping with her tireless high profile reformist endeavors that include citing the manufacturers Nike and Gap for sweatshop abuse, urging closing the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba where she lived for four years, addressing indignities visited on Palestinians in Gaza, and countless actions on behalf of those oppressed by corporations, food insecurity, and injustice in many guises.

In March, Benjamin was arrested in Egypt while attempting to enter Gaza for humanitarian purposes. Transported to Turkey after experiencing violence from her Egyptian captors, Benjamin was returned to the United States.  A year ago, Benjamin attained national prominence when she interrupted a speech by President Barack Obama about Guantanamo.

Said Obama, “I’m going off-script, as you might have expected. The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn’t listening to me and much of what I said. But these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.

Arrested Friday at Vermont Yankee were, from Vermont, Linda Pon Owen, 74, of Brattleboro; from Massachusetts, from Athol, Hattie Nestel, 75,  and Marcia Gagliardi, 66; from Conway, Priscilla Lynch, 62; from Florence, Anneke Corbett, 71; from Northampton, Frances Crowe, 95; Nancy First, 84; Susan Lantz, 73; from South Hadley, Jean Grossholtz, 85; from West Springfield, Ellen Graves, 73; from Washington, DC, Benjamin, 61.