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Greenpeace Activists Who Climbed Smokestack Released On Bail

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Fisk Power Plant

The Fisk Generating Station, 1111 W. Cermak Rd. before its shutdown in 2012. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (STMW) — Eight Greenpeace activists who perched high above the city on a smokestack for more than 24 hours before being charged with felonies after they climbed down were released on bail from the Cook County Jail on Thursday evening.

The anti-coal activists began climbing a smokestack at the Fisk power plant at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. about dawn Tuesday, spokeswoman Molly Dorozenski said. They had planned to stay up there indefinitely.

But as the rains came down Wednesday morning, so did the protesters, police said. All eight were charged with felony criminal damage to property and misdemeanor criminal trespass to land, according to police.

Bond was set at $30,000 for John Allen Watterberg, 32, of South Carolina; and $20,000 for Gabriel Roy Gerow, 29, of Poway, Calif.; according to Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Andy Conklin.

Judge Donald Paraese also set bonds of $15,000 each for John William Rosenwinkel, 22, of west suburban Wheaton; Julie Ann Farris, 31, of Portland, Ore.; Kathryn Michelle Ogden, 27, of Washington, D.C.; Kelly Elizabeth Mitchell, 26, of Van Nuys, Calif.;  Benjamin McDonald Smith, 31, of San Francisco; and Cy Wagoner, 34, of Winslow, Ariz., he said.

Dorozenski said  bail was posted Thursday evening for all eight. A preliminary hearing is set for June 4, Conklin said.

Mitchell said the protesters brought warm weather gear, snack bars and water with them, and vowed to stay atop the smokestack “until Edison International and the city understand we can’t continue to have old, dirty coal plants in the city of Chicago.”

On Tuesday afternoon, they left their perch on a catwalk about 450 feet above the ground and rappelled down to paint “quit coal” in bright yellow paint on the smokestack.

But by Wednesday morning, high winds and lightning forced the plans to change and the protesters made the slow descent down a ladder to the ground, where they were immediately arrested, Dorozenski said.

While the protesters were painting, eight others rappelled from the Pulaski Street Bridge and dangled above the Chicago River to prevent a coal barge from passing, Dorozenski said.

Those who attempted to stop the barge — six women and two men — were arrested at the bridge at 3900 S. Pulaski Rd. late Tuesday and charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct and performing an aerial exhibition without a net, according to police.

Charged were: Jeanne Kirshon, 23, of Rockville, Md.;  Kaitlin Finneran, 24, of Norwalk, Conn.; Daniel Strandquist, 28, of New York City;  Shea Schachameyer, 27, of Milwaukee; Harmony Lambert, 22, of Shasta, Calif.; Carolyn Auwaerter, 25, of Melbourn, Pa.; Laila Williams, 24, of Rockville,  Mass.; and  Michael Alilionis, 21, of Floral Park, New York, police said.

They were released early Wednesday and are scheduled to appear in Misdemeanor Court, (Br. 43) on July 1, police said.

Both protests were set to coincide with a U.S. EPA public hearing on increased pollution controls from coal-burning plants.

The protesters were taking action to draw attention to the health issues created by the Fisk and Crawford coal plants in the Pilsen and Little Village areas, respectively.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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