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Entries in Burlington (2)

Saturday
Nov122011

Occupy Deaths Force Cities to Close Camps

Scott Eells/Bloomberg(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- With an Occupy demonstrator in Salt Lake City dead from what police said was a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and drug use, a 35-year-old's suicide at Occupy Burlington, Vt., and a shooting death within or near Occupy's Oakland, Calif. site, officials in all three cities are pressing to close those operations.

Eviction notices were handed out Friday night to Occupiers in Oakland, where the Oakland Police Officers Association argues that monitoring Occupy is unfairly cutting into worker hours that should be spent patrolling the rest of the city.

The man, who so far has not been identified, was gunned down Thursday near the Occupy Oakland encampment, and Friday Mayor Jean Quan asked the hundreds of demostrators camped in Frank Ogawa Plaza to leave voluntarily.

"It is an example of why we need to peacefully close the encampment at City Hall," Quan said. "We are asking everyone at the plaza to leave. We're going to give another official notice today."

The Oakland Police Officers' Association (OPOA) said the connection between the Occupy protest and the killing is clear.

"I don't see too many broad daylight murders in Downtown Oakland," Dom Arotzarena with OPOA said. "What's happened in Oakland is that this Occupy Oakland (movement) has created an environment that is conducive to crime."

But protesters told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco that there was no link between Occupy Oakland and the murder.

"They were not occupiers," protester Maxwell Pryde said. "It happened in an area where kids come hang out after school anyway."

Clashes between Oakland police and Occupiers have been intermittent, with police on Oct. 25 tear-gassing that encampment and arresting 85 Occupiers. The next day, Occupiers were allowed to return to their makeshift headquarters.

In Salt Lake City -- where, thus far, police said, the 91 arrests of Occupiers more or less equals the total arrests in 2010 for the area around the encampment -- protesters countered officials' complaints.

In Vermont, 35-year-old transient Joshua Pfenning's shooting suicide, using what police said was a stolen gun, Police Chief Mike Schirling to question the prudence of allowing the camp to remain, the Burlington Free Press reported.

Pfenning, police said, aimed the gun one of three other people inside his tent before his self-inflicted shot, about which he had forewarned other protesters.

"We know that at least one weapon has been present in the encampment and we are now clear that there has been extensive consumption of alcohol and some use of drugs by those present in the camp," said Shirling, who, according to the Free Press, had walked through the camp, chatting with protesters and handing out his business card. "The presence of structures and tents creates an enhanced risk by virtue of the activity that can and is occurring inside them."

Protester Jaime Jackson, 20, a University of Vermont student in environmental studies, told the Free Press that the encampment, established on Oct. 28, was a necessary action.

"This movement is still young," she said, "and we're not going away."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep272011

Neighbors Nix Man's Plan to Fly Helicopter over Home

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON, Conn.) -- When Paul Blanchette, 56, moved into his new home in Burlington, Conn., last August, he thought he was moving into a friendly neighborhood. But instead of receiving warm cookies and welcoming hellos, Blanchette was met by a flurry of protests intent on disallowing his favorite hobby -- flying his beloved chopper.

Blanchette's hobby is not illegal -- he is within his rights to fly his chopper over his house. A state regulation says only that he can't take off from residential land more than 36 times a year, the equivalent of 18 roundtrips.

But a group of his neighbors, calling itself the Burlington Residential Airspace Safety Organization, wants to outlaw Blanchette's hobby and plans to file an ordinance to restrict aviation activity in residential areas at a board meeting Tuesday night.

Paul Stadler, one of Blanchette's neighbors and a pilot himself, said that safety is the crux of the issue.

"The town zoning board doesn't have any aviation ordinances. We don't want a helicopter creating risk," Stadler said.

All the protest has taken Blanchette by surprise. In his former Taine Mountain neighborhood in nearby Bristol, he flew his helicopter regularly and said his neighbors never complained.

"Taine Mountain is a nice neighborhood, and I assumed it would be the same kind of people here -- kind, considerate, neighborly," Blanchette told ABCNews.com. "I'm hurt, because no one ever approached me. No one." Blanchette said he first heard about his neighbors' objections from a letter Stadler had been stuffing into mailboxes. The letter, obtained by ABC News, read, "We will continually listen to the noise and be concerned about possible accidents, forest fires, possible loss of life and pollution of water tables."

Blanchette has had a commercial license to fly his chopper since 2004, and said he's used his whirlybird only for recreation and charitable purposes -- not to make money -- and keeps the helicopter parked at his registered helipad located at the Ultimate Companies in Bristol, where he works. He said he would never fly it over anyone's home.

Stadler, along with 180 other neighbors, said he just wants to get the town to evaluate any potential danger. Although Blanchette owns 4.5 acres, Stadler said the neighborhood is surrounded by a heavily wooded area that could easily catch fire in the event of an accident.

But Jeffrey Bond, spokesman for the Burlington Fire Department, said the risk of an accident is small.

"History has shown benefits of an aircraft, and if you look at examples, aircraft incidents are small and rarely occur with a helicopter," said Bond.

Blanchette said that if the ordinance is passed, he would of course comply with it. He just wants one of his neighbors to talk to him about it.

Blanchette said he and Stadler had exchanged emails in which each expressed his concern, with Stadler worrying mainly about the risk.

None of the neighbors ever took Blanchette up on his offer to meet with him -- or to take a ride on his helicopter.

"I do not feel the need to personally confront someone about activity if that activity endangers the neighborhood," said Stadler.

Select Woman Cathy Bergstrom, equivalent to the town's mayor, stepped in to work out a solution -- Blanchette said she was the first person to ever ask his opinion about the fracas. After an investigation, Bergstrom reiterated that Blanchette was within his legal rights to fly his aircraft over his new house, and that most of Stadler's worries over Blanchette's intentions were unfounded. She even consulted with a real estate company, which confirmed that a helicopter nearby would not affect property values -- one of Stadler's objections.

Bergstrom also learned there were two private planes in the town, and that no enforcement action had ever been taken against them.

She arranged for Stadler and his compatriots to attend Tuesday's meeting where they could address their grievances before the board decided whether to file an ordinance against Blanchette and his eggbeater.

Bergstrom only wished that Blanchette had had the opportunity to speak with his neighbors before it came to this.

But not all the neighbors oppose Blanchette. "What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Philip Delldonna, Blanchette's next-door neighbor, asked. "He hasn't even landed the helicopter yet, and people are only hearing one side of it. … It's not right."

Deldonna was at home when Blanchette flew over his house for a test run. He said that by the time he figured out what the sound was, it was over.

"My house wasn't shaking, no glasses were falling off," he recalled. He is going to Tuesday night's meeting to support his neighbor.

And Blanchette certainly appreciates the neighborly support, which he said he's sorely missed.

"Never got the chance to get comfortable enough to do what neighbors do, like ask for a cup of sugar," Blanchette said. "I haven't even had the pleasure to meet anyone. That's what's so disheartening."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio