Pipeline opponent arrested at public meeting in Lancaster County
An opponent of a controversial natural gas pipeline project was arrested Tuesday night and charged with disorderly conduct for speaking out at a public meeting in Lancaster County.
Conestoga Township supervisor Craig Eshleman says resident Kim Kann was removed by police because she violated the rules of the meeting. He says the gathering was not an official board meeting, but rather an educational forum about home rule– an effort to gain more local control by residents.
Eshleman circulated special rules for the meeting, which stated that residents could only ask questions. They were not allowed to make statements or give opinions. Discussion of the pipeline was also off-limits.
“I said, ‘Kim, do you have a question?’ I said that several times,” says Eshleman. “She proceeded to say she had the right to speak. But it was not a public board of supervisors meeting. We can make the rules and enforce the rules.”
Kann was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Her attorney, Larry Otter, says she was attempting to clarify what she viewed as inaccurate statements from the forum’s panel.
“For a citizen to get up at a public meeting and get arrested for trying to clarify misstatements is appalling,” says Otter. “If it wasn’t an official supervisors meeting, what the hell was it?”
He plans to file a lawsuit against the township and police department for violating her First Amendment rights.
Southern Regional Police Department Chief John Fiorill says he spent about two minutes trying to get Kann to stop talking and sit down before she was taken out of the building and charged with disorderly conduct.
“If she had been willing to sit down and not create a disturbance, I wouldn’t have had a problem,” says Fiorill. “She refused to accept that offer and continued to talk.”
If approved by federal regulators, the Atlantic Sunrise interstate gas pipeline would go through 10 Pennsylvania counties. The project has been particularly controversial in Lancaster County. The proposed route cuts through Kann’s property, and she has joined a group of residents to push for home rule, in an effort to pass an anti-pipeline ordinance.