Police remove tank opponent from public hearingPublic walks out in protest
Searsport — After police removed a Searsport man from a public hearing on a proposed liquid propane gas (LPG) tank at Mack Point, opponents of the project walked out en masse Wednesday evening, Nov. 28.
Ben Crimaudo was escorted out of the meeting, held by the Searsport Planning Board, shortly before 9 p.m., after police said he was warned several times to stop talking. Crimaudo was not warned by the Board, nor did it order his removal, said Chair Bruce Probert immediately after the incident.
According to an email from Ken Agabian of Thanks But No Tank, Crimaudo was in a discussion about Neal Frangesh of LGA Engineering, Searsport's independent consultant. On several occasions Frangesh began to answer questions posed to the representatives of DCP Searsport LLC, which Crimaudo objected to. DCP is the applicant proposing to construct a 22.7-million-gallon LPG Tank in Searsport.
"This was not about the loudness of the comment, it was about the content," TBNT attorney Steve Hitchman said as Crimaudo was being removed. "This is flat-out censorship."
Police Chief Richard LaHaye helped escort Crimaudo from the auditorium with Officer Ryan Nickerson. LaHaye said he witnessed the incident and Crimaudo was warned three times by police to stop talking.
"It was an unfortunate set of circumstances," LaHaye said. "All I've asked is for everyone to be respectful. People are allowed to speak and to congregate, but they must be respectful."
LaHaye noted that signs had been prohibited from the meeting, and Probert began the meeting by asking the audience to remain silent and refrain from booing, laughing or causing a disturbance.
The members of the public who walked out following the incident gathered in the hallway behind the auditorium, giving witness statements to the police, offering words of support for Crimaudo and waving signs that read "we will not be silenced." Some present were in tears, while others chanted "shame, shame" at the officers.
Crimaudo said he was told by police that he would be arrested if he re-entered the auditorium. Police told the crowd to disperse and ordered a reporter videotaping the incident to turn her camera off.
Crimaudo was asked by LaHaye to visit him Thursday to discuss the incident. Crimaudo said he would file a complaint over the incident with LaHaye's boss, Town Manager James Gilway.