Earth First! encampment brings 'terrorist' taunts

COPLIN PLANTATION — Tensions are high in northern Franklin County as hundreds of members of Earth First! assemble this week for an encampment on Basil and Harriet Powers land on the banks of Dead River.

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Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

While volunteer Earth First! activists Erik Wackernagel, left, of Burlington, Vt., Joe Stevens of New York City, and Kaitlyn Leigh of Rochester, N. Y., man the welcome station on Wednesday at the Maine Earth First!'s Round River Rendezvous on Basil and Harriet Powers' land in Coplin Plantation, Ryan Clarke of Corinth (standing at center) and Will Neil of Appleton joke around as Liam Burnell of Union watches. The gathering, which is expected to attract a few hundred activists from around the nation and world, is being held from now through Tuesday, July 6, to connect with local activists, jumpstart discussions around wilderness movement-building, re-wilding damaged lands, and effective strategies for eco-defense, according to its newsletter.

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Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Environmental activists attending Maine Earth First!'s week-long Round River Rendezvous on Basil and Harriet Powers' land in Coplin Plantation, will learn a variety of things, like how to safely do a tree-sit protest using climbing ropes. This one, which uses a picnic table secured into place with ropes and straps, was set up so participants could practice their climbing skills to hang banners like the one pictured or hold a "tree sit," Ryan Clarke of Maine Earth First! said on Wednesday. He said Earth First! activists trying to stop or hinder cutting of old growth forests will use this tactic, as was done years ago in Massachusets, "but probably usually not with picnic tables, but it does look kind of neat."

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Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

While preparing food for Wednesday evening's meal at this week's Maine Earth First! Round River Rendezvous in Coplin Plantation, volunteer Tuesday Gilliam of Lakeworth, Fla., watches 8-year-old participant Emily Douglas of Augusta make herself a sandwich. Gilliam of Everglades Earth First!, said she came up to share issues like what she sees as Florida Power and Light destroying the Everglades and her group's efforts to stop them. "We have a lot of issues going on, so this was a chance to come up and see what they're doing," Gilliam said. "It's very inspiring to know you're not the only one. When you come up here, you feel a little bit bigger."

They've already been branded “terrorists” by many locals in Stratton, Harriet Powers said Wednesday. Some even called her a terrorist for inviting them.

“My God, they've been stirred up in town for two weeks, mad because we didn't ask everybody and tell them we were going to have them on our property,” she said.

“We had people spinning up and down the road, and one kid last Sunday yelling at me in the garden, 'Terrorist!' I could have called the cops on him, but I didn't. That's what they've called these people. Everybody in town says they're terrorists.”

Henry Harris of Brooklyn, N.Y., brought his 6-year-old up to camp for the weekend.

“I like it because both of us get to be around people with an attitude that wild places are more important than quarterly profits for the shareholders,” Harris said. “I'm not a radical. ... I'm just working class like the rest of these guys.”

“I'm here because I want to live in a culture where people are less dependent on heavy industry and where people are more concerned about the integrity of the land we live off of than for the profit of shareholders and CEOs,” Liam Burnell of Union said.

Harriet Powers blames police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for riling people up about Earth First!.

“It looks to me like the sheriffs and the cops want to start something, and I guess that the FBI is the one that we found out started everything in town, telling everybody they were terrorists and everything,” she said.

She said she's noticed a greater police presence along Route 16.

Ryan Clarke of Corinth and Maine Earth First! said state police stopped by their welcome station just off the Kennebago Road bridge over the South Branch of the Dead River on Tuesday “out of curiosity.”

Maine State Police Lt. Don Pomelow in Skowhegan acknowledged Wednesday they are aware of the Earth First! gathering. He said he added a couple of troopers to patrol the Stratton/Coplin Plantation area due to “an increase in traffic and concerns from the town.”

Clarke wasn't fazed by it or even rumors that the FBI had agents in the woods checking them out at one point.

He was, however, concerned about debunking rumors about the group and assuring locals they're not in town to cause trouble.

“We want to get our message out and to demystify us,” Clarke said. “We're really just a bunch of normal folks who care about the future of our planet.

“Earth First! is an international movement dedicated to defending our last wild places and also fighting corporate resource extraction where we feel it's being done irresponsibly.

“We advocate for a diversity of tactics. If it's not enough for us to lobby and go through the regulatory route, we will do nonviolent civil disobedience. That means putting our bodies in the way of the destruction,” he said.

Four of them — Clarke included — did that last fall, protesting the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission's approval of Plum Creek's development plan in Bangor. Criminal charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespass against all but one protester were dismissed on April 30, which Clarke sees as a success.

During the weeklong Round River Rendezvous, Earth First members plan to network with other community and national activists to share ideas. They may take a trip to Trans Canada's wind farm on Kibby Mountain to show participants what it looks like, Clarke said.

“There's no better teaching tool than having it right in front of you,” Logan Perkins of Earth First! said of the rendezvous, which she likened to a large outdoor conference.

On Saturday, the group will hold a rally on-stage in a big field beside an in-ground campfire ring.

“It's a place for us to inspire each other through words, music and poetry,” Clarke said.

He said the site was chosen to show people what Maine's North Woods look like and what current industrial logging practices are doing to it.

They oppose commercial water extraction and biomass waste burning, but that doesn't mean they're not welcome on the Powers' land.

“We see no reason for them not to be here,” Harriet Powers said. “We protested the damn wind mills here ... so, we're protesters, too.

“These people aren't going out into the woods to start something. They're just in camp to have a good time and share their ideas. We're happy to have them here."

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

See it for yourself...

Go to youtube and do a search for "Elliot Free State Logging Blockade`" to see the "innocent protest" these people did after their little annual convention in Oregon last year. How much money did that cost the taxpayers and employers???

Better yet, go to youtube.com and search "Plum Creek Protest in Bangor" and see what their idea of "peaceful protest" looks at as they assualt Bangor police officers and scream obscenities at a public meeting.

I hope they have a great campout here in Vacationland, but if they do anything illegal, they should get arrested and hauled off to jail.

 's picture

Northwoods and nmcssc have

Northwoods and nmcssc have got it right. These guys qualify as terrorists. They've been killing workers by spiking trees for years. I do remember the time when in their anger with all things industrial, they vandalized an airplane. The only problem was that it was an air ambulance based on the Navajo reservation.

We've known all about these nuts out west for the past 30 years. It's nothing an ax handle or lead pipe to the kneecaps won't fix.

Security

So, rather then the reservations or the workers being protected by their respective companies or even OSHA and others it boils down to their spiking trees which cause accidents even though companies know full well that different trees will be spiked and still send their workers out there? Rather, then send a security team of the National Guard to insure the airplanes safety knowing full well the consequences of what actions they will have it was ignored? Tell me something if you worked for companies like that and sent workers out full well knowing a tree had been spiked and still ordered it cut down that makes it ignorance and places the company at fault. Due to the Navajo reservation you cry foul did you vote against using National Guard for a security contingency purpose? This all seems like pretty established documented work and should have been more investigated and invested into company research for security purposes rather then ignoring it. Not supporting them but this would be basic by the book information and knowledge which the companies should have worked upon to make sure and monitor to insure workers safety. The companies could have paid for security to pull the spikes instead of waiting for accidents. The excuses should cut straight through to the companies bottom lines of cost cutting but not for the moronic excuses of endangering human lives.

Pat Meek's picture

Oh really

I would be willing to bet that some of the people at the Earth First campout have participated in some more serious activities. Just ask the people out west what they think of this group and most of them will tell you they are exactly the opposite of what the name implies.

Terrorist

If you ever saw first hand what these people do, it would make you sick. They do not have a clue. Mr Powers should really be ashamed for hosting this bunch because he knows what they have done.

Michael McLeod 's picture

Head back to your concrete

Head back to your concrete trees in the big cities, our trees will grow back yours will not

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