Pastor arrested during protest

Published 11:37 am Monday, October 10, 2016

A 63-year-old Buckingham County pastor and found- ing member of a group opposed to a 600-mile natural gas pipeline was arrested and charged with trespass- ing last week after protesting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and compressor station.

Paul Wilson, pastor of Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist churches — near where a 53,515 horsepower, gas-fired compressor station could be located should the pipeline project be approved — was among 23 people arrested after protesting without a permit at the governor’s mansion at Capitol Square.

Wilson said he was one of about 60 protesters.

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“It was a protest without permis- sion,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have any march permit, or protest permit … We marched downtown, and then we went back into the Capitol Square … We lined up across the street … to the entranceway to the governor’s mansion.”

When police asked the protesters to leave, Wilson said, they refused.

“They told us we were breaking the law … They read us the charge,” Wilson said.

If approved by federal regulators, the pipeline, being proposed by a joint venture of energy companies, led by Dominion, would span Buck- ingham County. The project includes a compressor station for which Dominion is seeking a special use permit from county supervisors. Dur- ing a planning commission hearing last month, several members of the two churches spoke out against the station, citing concerns about health, land values, quality of life and water. The hearing before planners will continue at 6 p.m. Monday.

“No one wants to be arrested, especially when they’re doing some- thing that they know is right. But … it was a necessary inconvenience,” Wilson said, adding that politicians weren’t listening to the people and their minds were already made up. “They’ve already committed them- selves. Everybody listens to Domin- ion … They don’t listen to the other side of the coin.”

Capitol Police Department Capt. Ray Goodloe confirmed Wilson’s arrest, saying protesters picketed at the entrance of the governor’s mansion.

“They had a permit earlier (for) down at the Bell Tower,” Goodloe said, adding that the later protest was not permitted.

He said police knew ahead of time that arrests would be made.

“No one wants to be arrested, especially when they’re doing something that they know is right. But … it was a necessary inconvenience. They’ve already committed themselves. Everybody listens to Dominion … They don’t listen to the other side of the coin.”

The 23 arrested, including Wilson, were released on summonses with a Nov. 4 court date in Richmond City General District Criminal Court.

The proposed compressor station would be in the vicinity of the two churches.

Chad Oba, chair of Friends of Buckingham (FOB), a group op- posed to the pipeline, said Wilson “stood up to the lack of public pro- cess as citizens’ concerns have been so largely ignored or even eliminat- ed at so many levels of government.”

Oba said those impacted by the pipeline would experience “the loss of our health, our property values, our economic investments and our overall welfare as we are sacrificed for this deadly pipeline and com- pressor station.”

She said FOB is “so proud of Pas- tor Paul for standing as witness to our governor’s lack of compassion for rural constituents most impacted.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is a supporter of the pipeline.