MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) — Twelve activists who blocked a North Carolina chemical plant were arrested in a protest against the company's sale of products used in the natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Morganton Public Safety Chief Mark Tolbert said the protesters faced a variety of charges, including trespassing, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Croatan Earth First! spokeswoman Maria Rowan said sheriff's deputies and police began warning dozens of activists at the Momentive resin plant on Monday afternoon that they had a half hour to disperse — or risk arrest.
She said the environmental activists, who had been protesting at the plant for hours, were starting to leave when police moved in. "It seemed they were randomly grabbing people as the crowd was actually moving. I'm not sure why," Rowan added.
Tolbert said protesters ignored the warnings to leave.
"They were interrupting the flow of business for the company," he said. "The company was already late delivering a load of product to a destination and had not left yet. The company said they had to get the truck on the road. When some of the protesters continued to speak and disrupt the flow of things ... we tried to break it up. But it kind of escalated," Tolbert said.
"We didn't want it to go that way and the company didn't want it to go that way either. We really wanted it just to be peaceful. We wanted it to be like, 'OK, if you're not going to leave we'll just put you in these flex cuffs and take you down and post your bond and go on your way.' It didn't exactly go that smooth. But it wasn't a bad situation, either," he said.
Between six and 10 police officers and Burke County sheriff's deputies had been watching the protesters at the plant in Morganton, about 60 miles northwest of Charlotte. Protesters had erected wooden barriers at each of the plant's two gates before 8 a.m.
The blockade began after the plant's employees had arrived for work, and production was able to continue during the protest. However, a tanker truck was stopped from leaving to deliver a shipment, Tolbert said.