Two women were arrested outside of a Rohnert Park warehouse this morning during a protest held as part of an ongoing battle against the installation of PG&E SmartMeters. Just before 8 a.m., about 15 people concerned about possible illnesses caused by radiation emitted from the devices stood blocking the driveway to 5531 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park police Lt. Pat Strouse said. Though this has happened in the past, Strouse said, today the activists created a safety hazard when a big-rig waiting to pull into the driveway to make a delivery and blocked traffic in the business district.
State Farm Drive services one lane in each direction, Strouse said, and the two holdouts were on the sidewalk in front of the driveway. Strouse said police were worried that vehicles would cross into the opposing lane in order to go around the halted big-rig. Strouse said protesters in the past have moved out of the way to let traffic flow.
“Today, two people did not want to move,” Strouse said. Those two people were 62-year-old Deborah Tavares of Sebastopol and 59-year-old Ilona Gallo of Novato. The activists believe that the unmarked State Farm Drive building, listed as Ace Electrical Services, is the operating facility of Wellington Energy, a company selected by PG&E to deploy its SmartMeter rollout. Though they didn’t know what was in the big-rig, they figured the truck was delivering SmartMeters. “I had a gut feeling about what was in it,” Tavares said. After refusing police requests that they move out of the way, Tavares and Gallo were handcuffed and taken into custody. Tavares, who owns property in Santa Rosa, said her tenants were growing concerned about the effects of radio frequency emitted from the devices. As a mother of two and a grandmother of four, Tavares said she never thought she would ever be arrested.
The two were taken into custody at 8:15 a.m. for failing to abide by a lawful order from police, Strouse said. The women were processed and placed in a holding area, Tavares said. She said she posted the $2,500 bail and was released from custody at about 2 p.m. “I feel like it was an arrest for justice,” Tavares said. Tavares hopes to draw attention to the issue and encourage people to “do their homework” on SmartMeters. Tavares said her grandchildren, ages 4 through 9, are very proud of her.
On Dec. 29, two other North Bay women, Katharina Sandizell, 41, of Point Reyes Station, and Kristin McCrory, 32, of Inverness, were arrested for similar charges relating to a SmartMeter protest. PG&E maintains that the effects from SmartMeter radio frequency emissions were studied extensively by the Federal Communication Commission and the World Health Organization. “We understand that the some of our customers are concerned about safety,” PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said. “It’s important for us to have an ongoing dialogue with our customers.” PG&E had previously reported that SmartMeters use one watt of power, a level that is comparable to that of a cell phone or a baby monitor. Tavares said she and Gallo are due in on Feb. 1.
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