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Police halt fracking demonstration

By Fritz Mayer
June 7, 2012

MIDDLETOWN, NY — May 30 was a perfect day for a protest: sunny and bright with a light breeze. Among the first to show up was Tannis Kowalchuk, who came dressed in a doctor’s uniform with an oversized stethoscope and who stood tall on stilts. The outfit dovetailed nicely with the message of the day, which was to call for a health impact assessment regarding hydraulic fracturing.

Before long, about 25 protestors had gathered. The group was comprised of members of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy (CCSE) and others from Sullivan County and also a couple of people who are fighting the installation of a compressor station in Minisink. But shortly before Sullivan County Legislator Cindy Geiger was to deliver her remarks to the group, two Middletown police officers showed up and told the group they were on private property and had to leave.

The mini-mall on Dolson Avenue, where Senator John Bonacic has an office, is privately owned. The officer said the company that manages the property, Levin Management Corporation, wanted the protestors to leave, so everyone would have to go. At that point about a dozen protestors walked into Bonacic’s office, and the officer followed them in, again telling them they had to leave.

Because the officer followed them into the office, a couple of the protesters felt that someone on Bonacic’s staff must have been aware of the call to the police, but Bonacic said his office was not involved. His office issued a statement that said, “Senator Bonacic was in Albany at the time of the demonstration. His staff did not call the police. His staff was aware the police were called when the police showed up. The office is in a mini-mall with other businesses/offices, including a day care center so we know public safety is of pre-eminent concern. We appreciate the general professionalism of both those who came to express their viewpoints and the professionalism of the police.”

A spokesman from Levin Management Corporation confirmed that they summoned the police.