VY protesters to pay fines
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 23,2013
BRATTLEBORO — The fines for the six members of the Shut It Down Affinity Support Group convicted in November for trespassing at Vermont Yankee nuclear plant will be paid after all.
The six women, ranging in age from 64 to 93, were convicted Nov. 27 of trespassing at the Vernon reactor. Shortly after their conviction, the women vowed not to pay their fines, saying they preferred a jail sentence instead.
Marcia Gagliardi of Athol, Mass., a member of the group, said the group was planning a celebration, dubbed “The People’s Payment,” on Jan. 30, to pay the $3,264 in fines and court fees levied against the women. Each woman was fined $350, plus court costs of $194, a total of $544 each.
Gagliardi, who was not one of the six women convicted, said there had been a spontaneous outpouring of financial support for the women after the conviction.
“I walked into a restaurant in Athol two days after the trial, and one of my competitors — I’m in the antiques business — stood up and said ‘I want to help with the fine.’” said Gagliardi.
The man handed her $50, and another person handed her $25, she said, and in the past six weeks donations have come in to cover the fines and fees.
Hattie Nestel, 73, also of Athol, and one of the protesters convicted, said the entire Shut It Down Affinity Support Group supported the idea of other supporters paying the fine. Nestel, who had been outspoken that she wouldn’t pay a fine, said she reluctantly went along with the decision.
“It was a hard call, not an easy call, it was a hard call for several of us,” said Nestel, who said the group had been prepared to spend time in jail if they were convicted for their civil disobedience. The group plans more demonstrations in the future.
But when Judge John Wesley ruled that out, “we were definitely caught by surprise.” Wesley had not allowed the women to use the so-called necessity defense as well.
A noontime rally is planned for the Wells Fountain Park, which is in front of the Vermont Superior courthouse in Brattleboro, and Gagliardi said there would be music, as well as a performance by The Raging Grannies, a singing group.
Gagliardi said the group’s own guidelines state that members who are convicted in civil disobedience should not pay fines, and should serve time in jail instead.
The six women are all residents of western Massachusetts.
They include Frances Crowe, 93, Nancy First, 82, Patricia Wieland, 68, all of Northampton, Mass., Hattie Nestel, 73, of Athol, Ellen Graves, 69, of West Springfield and Mary Kehler, 64, of Colrain.