© 2023 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Maine Oil Train Protesters' Trial Gets Underway

Susan Sharon

AUBURN, Maine - The trial of two Maine residents charged with criminal trespass in connection with a protest over oil trains last August got underway in Androscoggin Superior Court this morning.  

Jessica Dowling, of Unit,y and Doug Bowen, of Porter, were trying to raise awareness of the dangers of trains carrying Bakken crude oil one month after the Lac Megantic train disaster in Quebec that  leveled a downtown and killed 47 people.  

The two were arrested after an Auburn police officer asked them to stop sitting on train tracks not far from the Auburn court house.   

"And he'd tell them that they needed to leave.  Nobody would move," said Andrew Matulis, an attorney for the state. "He'd then tell them that they were criminally trespassing.  Nobody would move.  He would then tell them 'You're going to be arrested if you don't move.'  And nobody moved, so they were arrested.' "

Protestors, who include members of the groups 350 Maine, Earth First and Seeds for Justice, say they felt they couldn't wait for regulatory change to address what they view as an imminent threat, and so several of them chose to sit on the tracks.  

Read Brugger is a spokesperson for the group, which came to the courthouse this morning in support of the defendants.

"To indict two people for raising an alarm about a situation that is real and endangers our communities is nonsensical," he said. "It should be the oil companies that are on trial today, not us."

Both defendants are being tried separately.  In an unusual move, both defendants have separate juries in the courtroom that are hearing most of the witnesses at the same time.