Wednesday, July 5, 2017



Activists gather at Camp Constellation to protect wetlands

Martin and Williams

FREEHOLD -- At first glance, the people in Stella Martin’s backyard look like just another July 4th barbeque. But these folks arrived at the Greene County hamlet of Freehold for much more than hot dogs and firecrackers Tuesday night. They came to save the planet.

Activists, veterans, and Standing Rock protesters converged to this spot, which they now call Camp Constellation, to occupy and patrol the property, which has been repeatedly trespassed, vandalized and besieged.

According to Martin, an unknown group has been harassing the single mother of two, apparently in retaliation for her ongoing complaints about alleged toxic waste dumping. Martin suffers from severe cadmium poisoning, which she suspects is caused by an illegal landfill.

“It’s wrong, what they’ve done to the wetlands; it runs into a whole other town,” Martin said. “All I can think of is the kids and families that are down that way, without anybody knowing, I think that is so wrong.”

The Town of Saugerties, in adjacent Ulster County, sits just downstream.

Last winter, the Town of Catskill condemned her home, forcing Martin to relocate to nearby Palenville, in the Town of Cairo. Although that put some distance between her family and the landfill which she believes made her sick, the nighttime prowlers followed her there as well.

She has been the target of broken windows, pinholes in her brake lines, rapid discharge gunfire near her home, strange footprints and smashed bottles in the yard at dawn. Security cameras set up around the property pick up electronic noises from the woods, designed to annoy dogs.

Vietnam-era Marine veteran James Williams of Brooklyn explained that he finds Martin’s story to be credible.

“I came up here on a fact-finding mission with three other vets,” Williams said. “We met with Stella and all the other people; she showed the documentation she has, and I became convinced that everything she was saying had some basis in fact. She needed some protection, and the water needed protecting, that’s why I’m here.”

Williams spent last winter with thousands of other veterans, in solidarity with Native American protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota, against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Also at the July 4th event was Dr. Ward Stone, retired DEC pathologist once closely associated with former Congressman Maurice Hinchey.

I’m back, and ready to do some fighting,” said the 78-year-old environmental sleuth, now a multiple stroke survivor, who used a walker to inspect the landfill area.

Other Standing Rock activists at Camp Constellation include a young couple from Colorado, fresh from a different protest camp in Mahwah, NJ. About 50 similar sites currently exist throughout the US, formed in the wake of DAPL in South Dakota.

“I think it is happening, what Standing Rock awakened, it’s brought together a powerful coalition of veterans, environmentalists, and Native Americans. I think we can make a difference with protecting the Earth, the [political] climate is totally changing,” Williams said.

Stella Martin tucked her children into bed Tuesday night, and slept soundly, as her supporters patrolled the perimeter in rounds, using walkie-talkies, until dawn. When this team moves on, others will be ready to take their place. One woman plans to fly over from Germany to participate.


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