Coal Twp. chief: There's a line between protest, trespass
COAL TOWNSHIP - Police Chief William Carpenter is clarifying some points about a protest scheduled for Saturday at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area.
A Facebook group called "March on the AOAA Day of Mass Protest" is making plans to protest the 6,500-acre recreation area, saying it's wrong for county residents to pay to use land for when they already pay taxes.
Organizer Matt Reidinger said in a News-Item article Thursday he will "peacefully cross the property line" in protest Saturday and is encouraging others to join him.
Carpenter reminds possible participants Reidinger's statement is inviting others to commit a crime on Saturday.
"We have no problem with the protest, and there is nothing wrong with them engaging in a peaceful protest, but if they cross the property line, they are committing the crime of defiant trespass," Carpenter said.
Defiant trespass is a summary offense punishable by a fine of up to $300 plus court costs, and/or 90 days in jail. If someone defies an order to leave the land, the offense could turn into a misdemeanor and the offender will be taken into custody, Carpenter said.
Carpenter said the AOAA authority has set aside a specific area where protestors can stand Saturday.
"There is an upper area above the paved road, accessible by a double gate," Carpenter said. "That is the area designated for Saturday's protest. Anyone outside that area protesting will be cited."
The chief also reminded protesters there is limited space for parking in the protest area and no parking will be allowed on the shoulder of the road. He encourages those attending the protest to carpool.
Reidinger said approximately 50 people have agreed to participate in Saturday's demonstration, and Carpenter doesn't have a problem with that.
"No one has a problem with the group protesting, but there is a fine line between protesting and defiant trespass if they are going to cross the property line as suggested," Carpenter said.