Six environmental activists were arrested early Tuesday morning while protesting the construction of a controversial electrical substation in East Boston.
Jule Manitz of Extinction Rebellion, the group that organized the demonstration, said the group got to the site around 6:45 a.m., and within a few minutes, several Boston police officers arrived.
“We were attempting to unfurl two banners and were barely able to do that [before] a lot of cops showed up,” she said. “People were arrested right away.”
Manitz lives in Chelsea, about a mile away from the substation site, and has taken part in several protests over the years. She said she was surprised to see people arrested on the sidewalk and in a nearby parking lot — two areas where people have protested peacefully in the past.
Boston Police Department spokesman Det. Sgt. John Boyle said they face charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct. They're expected in court for initial arraignments on Tuesday.
A statement from Extinction Rebellion said the group was trying to physically block two entrances to the fenced-off construction site on East Eagle Street, and thereby prevent the utility Eversource from continuing work on the facility. The activists hoped to send a strong message to the state's new governor and her climate chief.
“This is an environmental injustice," Manitz said. "And we want Gov. Maura Healey to take action. We want her to bring Eversource and Massport to the table to talk about putting [the substation] at the airport. It doesn’t need to be in a flood zone, across the street from a playground and near fossil fuel tanks. It could be in a safe place.”
Eversource, which first proposed the electrical substation in 2014, has repeatedly said that siting the facility on the airport property was never a viable option. The company also maintains that the substation does not pose a safety risk to nearby residents and that it’s being built with sea-level rise in mind.
Construction began on the substation last week following a contentious eight-year state approval process. The $103 million facility will take about two years to build, and, when complete, will convert high voltage electricity to a lower voltage so it can be used in nearby homes and businesses.