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15 climate change protesters arrested around Boston during demonstration aimed at disrupting commute

“Locations were selected to clog the Central Artery of Boston to prevent employees from getting into the financial district and Seaport.”

Demonstrators laid down on the Evelyn Moakley Bridge. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

State and Boston police arrested 15 climate change activists Wednesday who participated in a protest against fossil fuels, blocking and disrupting traffic during the morning commute.

State police arrested five protesters on the on-ramp from Leverett Circle to Interstate 93 in Boston. Boston police arrested 10 individuals in connection with the protest at “multiple locations” downtown, according to a department spokesperson. 

The group behind the protests, Extinction Rebellion Boston, called on demonstrators to “meet rush hour commuters to make some noise and demand ‘Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry, Now!’” 

In a press release, the group said more than 40 participants planned to engage in “mass civil disobedience to disrupt business as usual in the City of Boston,” with demonstrators planning to blockade several of the city’s major traffic routes in order to raise awareness about the climate crisis and to put pressure on officials to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure. 

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The group said it planned specifically to target four sites across the city between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. in a coordinated manner, including the I-90 off-ramp at the the intersection of Kneeland Street and Atlantic Avenue and the Seaport Boulevard bridge. 

“Locations were selected to clog the Central Artery of Boston to prevent employees from getting into the financial district and Seaport,” the group said. 

The group said protesters were going to lock themselves to large pink, metal barrels and read messages of their demands.

The group also said other demonstrators would meet at Post Office Square at 7 a.m. and then march through Downtown Boston to the Seaport bridge, joining more than 20 protesters already blocking traffic.  

At about 8:30 a.m., police warned that traffic at Seaport Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue was being diverted because of demonstrators blocking one side of the bridge.

“Please seek an alternate route,” Boston police said.

By 10 a.m., police said the detour had been cleared.

State police said the five individuals arrested by troopers were in the middle of the roadway of the Leverett Circle Connector. The protesters — 55-year-old Joseph Rogers of Lyndeborough, New Hampshire; 64-year-old Grant Rockett of Jamaica Plain; 54-year-old Mark Dugan of Newton; 48-year-old Jennifer Smith of Watertown; and 67-year-old Mary Hansen of Jamaica Plain — were all charged with trespassing on state property, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy to commit a crime. 

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State police said two vehicles parked by the protesters to block travel lanes were seized. One of the vehicles was carrying four steel drum barrels; three were hooked up with a device known as a “sleeping dragon,” police said, which is used by protesters to secure themselves together, their arms fed through the tubes and linked together inside the barrel.

“Generally, a protester’s hands are then locked to the hands of those next to them inside the barrels, to form a roadblock consisting of a connected series of protestors and barrels,” police said. 

Police said the seizure of the “sleeping dragons” prevented the protesters at Leverett Circle from being able to chain themselves together in the intersection. 

“Within minutes after Troopers cleared the trespassers and prevented them from blocking the road, at least two ambulances drove through the area that would have otherwise been gridlocked, underscoring the importance of not allowing protestors to block roadways,” police said. 

Details about the protesters arrested by Boston police were not immediately available Wednesday afternoon.

Alex Chambers, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Boston, said in a statement that the group was blocking roads and disrupting traffic Wednesday morning “out of desperation.”

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“No other form of protest has had an effect on getting the state to take the climate emergency seriously,” Chambers said. “It is insanity that the state is still permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure in the midst of a climate emergency. We have three years to peak global carbon emissions. After that, we need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. 

“We are appealing to the governor and the Massachusetts State Legislature,” Chambers continued. “Do the right thing. Commit to a moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

On Facebook, protest organizers wrote about Wednesday’s traffic disruptions: “We’re sorry. This is an emergency and we need your attention.”

“Our demand today is simple: Massachusetts must stop installing new fossil fuel infrastructure,” the group said. “New Natural gas plants (e.g. Peabody Peaker), pipelines, and hookups hurt frontline communities. They cost the taxpayer, as the infrastructure is designed to last many decades, well beyond the mandatory carbon zero timeline of 2050.”

The group said it was turning toward “nonviolent disruptive action” after trying petitions, letters to Congress, and other venues of raising their concerns. 

“We understand that we have interrupted your life today, and we know that your life is important,” they wrote. “That is why we are fighting to protect it, and all lives, before we run out of time.”

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