Photo Essay: Pipeline Protests Escalate to Civil Disobedience in Montpelier, Vermont

Photo: Climate justice activists call for an anti-colonial energy policy that doesn’t victimize indigenous communities around the world.

All photos by Dylan Kelley

Hundreds of protests from 350 Vermont and Rising Tide Vermont stepped up their years-long campaign against the Vermont Gas Pipeline over the weekend by occupying State Street in Montpelier, VT and erecting a 25 foot tall “fracking rig” in front of the Public Service Board’s (PSB) building on Saturday afternoon, October 24th.

The escalation began midday Saturday when a large parade wound its way through downtown Montpelier to emphatically call for the PSB to rescind the pipeline’s Certificate of Public Good and effectively kill the massively over-budget natural gas infrastructure project. When the crowd, some 300 strong, arrived in front of the Public Service building they quickly erected a tall derrick upon the street’s center line to great applause from fellow marchers and onlookers. Climbing atop the wooden structure, one dapper protester began to mockingly impersonate PSB Commissioner Chris Recchia and begged the gathered crowd to look favorably on the bitterly resisted pipeline.

Before a bit of street theater and mural-making, Rising Tide VT and 350 Vermont took a moment to remember longtime Vermont Social Justice champion Nina Swaim who died of a stroke on October 15th, just weeks after participating in a blockade of the Vermont Gas pipe-yard in Williston in September. In honor of Swaim, the demonstrators vowed to hold their location on State Street at least until the upcoming PSB meeting on Monday and beyond if the pipeline project is not canceled.

Holding their position through Saturday and Sunday nights, the protests ramped up to a conclusion on Monday morning as they blockaded any entry into the Public Service Building, ultimately resulting in the arrest of three demonstrators: Crystal Zevon of West Barnett, David Przepioski of Craftsbury Commons, and Johann Kulsic of Burlington. They were later charged with disorderly conduct are scheduled to appear in a Barre court on December 3rd.

Pipeline opponents kick off their march on Saturday morning in Montpelier.

Protesters carried hand-painted banners and signs demanding clean water and fresh air for future generations.

Climate justice activists demand an energy policy mindful of climate change and access to clean water and air.

Protesters with Rising Tide VT and 350 Vermont prepare to erect a “fracking rig” on State Street, shutting off traffic in front of the State Capitol.

350 Vermont and Rising Tide VT move a “fracking rig” into position in front of the Public Service building on State Street in Montpelier.

Senowa Mize-Fox of Burlington speaks to the gathering crowd about the importance of climate justice activism within U.E. Local 203 in Burlington.

A defiant protester sits atop the “fracking derrick” on State Street as organizers refuse to leave until the VGS pipeline is cancelled.

Among the many novel forms of protest was a plate of “anti-pipe” ginger snaps.

A protester with Rising Tide VT conducts a puppet show featuring Canadian energy giant Gaz Metro, VT Gas, and the Vermont State Government.


Dylan Kelley is a freelance journalist, photographer, and radio producer living in Burlington who specializes in covering issues surrounding human rights and climate justice. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.