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Oberlin College students arrested at fracking protest

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Five Oberlin College students and a former student were arrested Wednesday in Youngstown while protesting hydrofracturing, also known as fracking, the injection of water and chemicals deep into rock formations to release natural gas.

Among those cited with disorderly conduct was former Oberlin College student Benjamin Shapiro of Cleveland, a 26-year-old organic farmer.

Shapiro said he is concerned about a series of earthquakes in the Youngstown area after companies began the fracking process in the area, and he wanted to make a stand.

“As citizens, we don’t want toxic water causing earthquakes in Youngstown or any other area,” he said Friday.

Also arrested were Oberlin College students Anne Lukins, 21, of West Virginia; Lindsey Schwartz, 20, of Pennsylvania; Benjamin Marks, 19, of California; Jackson Kusiak, 19, of Massachusetts; Jeremy Bingham, 20, of Massachusetts, as well as Warren resident Sean O’Toole, 61.

Their attorney, Sean Buchanan of Kent, declined to discuss the case except to say “my clients were peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Shapiro said he was among about 20 protesters outside D&L Energy Inc., a company that works in the brine injection industry, while a larger group of about 200 protesters rallied outside the Covelli Centre where the Ohio Utica & Natural Gas 2011 Conference & Expo was taking place.

Shapiro said he and other protesters were bumped by a truck entering the business.

“I personally was pushed by a vehicle and had to get out of the way or I would have been crushed under it,” he said. “We were very, very lucky.”

Those charged pleaded not guilty Thursday in Youngstown Municipal Court.

Oberlin student Jake Holtzman said he took part in the larger protest at the Covelli Centre, and he met people who felt their health was being compromised near fracking sites.

“I’m seriously against fracking,” said Holtzman, a double major in piano and environmental studies. “It’s not only dirty for environmental reasons, but it poses a serious threat to human health, and it’s really unfair people have to be exposed to dangerous fumes.”

According to news reports, police said the protesters blocked industrial trucks from entering D&L and they refused requests to move.

Shapiro said some of the police officers told him they, too, were concerned about the effects of fracking on the land and water tables.

Nicholas Paparodis, vice president of land leasing operations, said Friday the company did not mind “a peaceful demonstration,” but protesters were standing in the way of the driveway where trucks were.

Shapiro said a video of the protest will be posted on www.ohiofracktion.com.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.

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