Six climate activists and community residents were arrested in East Boston Tuesday morning after blocking the entrance to a highly controversial electrical substation construction site.
Four men and two women were arrested around 7 a.m. at 300 East Eagle St., according to Boston police. Three were charged with trespassing and three with disorderly conduct.
The six people arrested were identified as Alex Defronzo, Gregg Housh, Gregory Mangan, Alexander Chambers, Sandra Nijjar, and Siobhan Senier, said Officer Michael Torigian, a Boston police spokesman, in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
They were taken to East Boston District Court. Arraignment information was not immediately available Tuesday night.
The East Eagle substation, which would convert high-voltage electricity to lower voltages in order to distribute it to households, was proposed by New England energy company Eversource in 2014.
Eversource broke ground on the project this month after the Massachusetts’ Energy Facilities Siting Board granted the utility company a certificate in November allowing them to bypass the final 14 permits needed by state and local governments to move forward with construction.
In a statement, Eversource said the substation is essential to supplying enough electricity to customers in the East Boston and Chelsea area.
The company noted that construction at the site began last week, which consisted mostly of “site preparations, as well as the delivery of equipment and materials.”
“East Boston is the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood and demand for electricity continues to rise, making it necessary to build the new substation to support that growth and help the City of Boston achieve its aggressive carbon-reduction goals by supporting electrification and clean energy opportunities,” said the statement issued by spokesman Chris McKinnon.
“Throughout this robust public process, we have worked diligently to demonstrate that the project exceeds safety and environmental standards and have provided the community with access to information regarding this project,” the statement continued. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the City of Boston and community partners on this essential electric reliability project, and we remain committed to sustainably serving our environmental justice communities and maximizing the benefits of a clean energy future for all customers.”
BREAKING! Six Eastie residents and activists, including members of @XRBoston and prominent Eastie leaders Sandra Nijjar and Alex DeFronzo were arrested for protesting the construction of the Eversource substation. #NoEastieSubstation pic.twitter.com/6ctYNUhf3g— GreenRoots (@GreenRootsEJ) January 17, 2023
Extinction Rebellion Boston, a local chapter of a global environmental group, organized the protest, and in a press release Tuesday, called on Governor Maura Healey to “stop building dangerous infrastructure in low-income and communities of color,” calling the Eversource substation “an egregious act of environmental racism.”
“We’ve tried everything else,” Susan Lemont, an organizer with the Extinction Rebellion, said in an interview with the Globe. “Working with the legislature, letters to the editor, rallies, and all the rest of it. And so our theory of change is only nonviolent direct action can move the window over to … start talking about the climate crisis and in this case, social climate justice for these people.”
In a statement, Governor Maura Healey said that she is “disappointed in the process, timing and siting of the East Eagle Substation.”
“Our administration is reviewing the situation and listening to the concerns raised by the community,” Healey said. “We are committed to reforming the siting approval process and working with communities and stakeholders to ensure that environmental justice communities are no longer disproportionately burdened by these facilities.”
According to Lemont, police officers began making arrests minutes before the demonstration was set to begin at 7 a.m. Other activists continued to peacefully protest while arrests were made, she said.
“They used their bodies to protest Eversource’s construction of this electric substation and to call on Governor Healey to move this project to Logan airport,” read the press release. “Together, they sang, chanted, and held colorful banners with the messages “No Eastie Substation” and “Pull the Plug on Eversource.”
UPDATE: Arrested activists are still in custody awaiting transfer to the East Boston District Court. This morning's protest at the East Boston substation was covered by WBZ TV's Anna Meiler: https://t.co/2Ld5cUkhhy #Neversource #NoEastieSubstation— Extinction Rebellion Boston 🐝⌛🦋 (@XRBoston) January 17, 2023