There's a wind chill advisory in the Finger Lakes today and tomorrow. Tonight the temperature is supposed to drop to four degrees. Arctic winds will make the wind chill around nineteen degrees below zero.
32 civil disobedients from We Are Seneca Lake will be arraigned this evening at the Town Court in Reading, NY. They were arrested for blockading the gates of Texas-based Crestwood-Midstream, a company that wants to store methane, propane, and butane in salt caverns next to the water supply of 100,000 people. These arraignments could take a while.
If tonight is anything like December 17, a lot of us are going to be left out in the cold. On December 17, apparently under orders from the Sheriff, supporters and press were barred from the court room for the 5:00 hearing. After well-known activist Sandra Steingraber negotiated with police, the court was opened for the 7:00 hearing. Fire code was strictly enforced, so the total number of people in the court was limited to 49. Those allowed in were not allowed to bring in bags or cell-phones (even turned off). The rest of us were barred from the building, made to stand out in the cold rather than assemble in the large waiting area inside the building yet outside the courtoom.
There is plenty of room in the building for supporters to assemble. Presumably the room is large because central New York has frigid winters and the building was designed with the people in mind. The Town Hall is supposed to be a public building. Yet We Are Seneca Lake is being singled out for exclusion from this space. Local officials -- from the District Attorney to the Town Board -- are trying to suppress free speech and assembly, specifically of those fighting against Crestwood. Not only have police barred people from entering the building, but they've blocked off nearby parking, requiring cars to park long distances away from the Town Hall, along dark, unlit, rural roads, some of which also restrict parking. When the will chill is 19 below, as it will be tonight, the trek from car to court will be brutal.
In a show of the deep solidarity that the community has with We Are Seneca Lake, a local resident has offered to provide parking and to shuttle people to the Town Hall. Local officials have not received us so warmly. They want to freeze us out, to block expressions of legitimate protest, and to let the court continue with its arbitrary proceedings. Rather than overseeing fair judicial hearings, the officials associated with the Town Court of Reading, NY are using low-level tactics designed to stifle political dissent.