Quakers End 24-Hour Blockade at Bow, NH Coal Plant

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Quakers gathered at Merrimack Station at Bow

News release from Katherine Fisher, Jay O’Hara

Bow, NH – After blockading the railroad tracks that bring coal to the power plant in Bow for over twenty-four hours, a group of New England Quakers and fellow travelers gathered in prayer Sunday afternoon before breaking down their encampment around 2 p.m.

The group was part of a pilgrimage that journeyed over 60 miles by foot between New Hampshire’s two coal fired power plants. Beginning at the Schiller station in Portsmouth, the group slept on church floors, and concluded Saturday with a worship service, sponsored by Concord Friends Meeting, of over fifty people at the gates of the Merrimack station in Bow. The encampment was established following the group’s worship.

Thirteen ended up spending the night on the tracks in quiet solitude, with the looming lights of the plant beyond them and a star-studded sky above. In the morning, a faint trail of smoke wafted from the smoke stack and a column of steam emanated from the plant. Noting the smoke, Marla Marcum, a Methodist from Arlington, Massachusetts who served as the group’s police liaison said, “It might not seem like we accomplished what we came here to do – to shut down this plant.”

Marcum continued, “No doubt the money-changers quickly cleaned up and went back to their business after Jesus had flipped over their tables and driven them from the temple. But that’s not the point: what matters is that by example Jesus showed those around him the appropriate response to a system of injustice that is sanctioned by law – just like this power plant is legally allowed to keep burning coal despite its known hazard to the future of humanity and those who suffer its pollution.”

The encampment was visited by multiple employees of Eversource, owners of the Bow plant, and a Railroad Police officer from the Boston and Maine Railroad. While the group was informed they were trespassing on private property, they were never asked to leave.

“It seems like Eversource didn’t want to create more of a public stir by having us arrested, maybe they were worried it would scare off buyers at next month’s auction. That’s a shame, because if nobody buys it, this plant will be decommissioned. No matter what happens at auction, though, the workers need to be supported in this transition. Workers and their community shouldn’t bear the brunt of this change, we are all responsible. ” said John Humphries, a Quaker from Hartford, Connecticut who spent the night on the tracks.

On the tracks, the group had erected multiple tents and a set of scaffolding festooned with tarps and banners, one of which proclaimed, “our witness is rooted in reverence.” After singing a verse to a song about pilgrimage and gathering in a circle in silent prayer, the group began dismantling the structure.

Kathleen Wooten, a Quaker from Amesbury, Massachusets, drove up for the the final worship service Sunday morning. “This is another important step in our spiritual renewal as a people, and in our work to make the world anew. We have strengthened our community, and felt the power of the spirit flowing through us as we undertake this labor of love and truth. Like the prophet Isaiah revealed God saying, ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness.’ We may be starting to find our way in the wilderness.”

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