Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson is criticizing a town judge over his handling of those who have been arrested for protesting a proposed gas facility expansion on the shore of Seneca Lake.

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Robertson, who lost to Rep. Tom Reed in the race for the Ithaca area’s Congressional seat this fall, questioned why the public wasn’t reportedly allowed into the Reading Town Courthouse for a series of arraignments Wednesday night, according to a press release from the protesters.

“It is vital that the public ask, ‘What is Justice (Raymond) Berry afraid of?’ It is time for the public to see what is happening here and for the public to be allowed in without reservation,” Robertson said, according to the press release.

Justice Berry wasn’t immediately available for comment on Thursday. His wife said he is not giving interviews to media.

About 60 people attended the rally at the Reading Town Courthouse on Wednesday, the protesters said. Twenty-four people, including about 10 from Tompkins County, were scheduled to be arraigned on trespassing charges for their acts of civil disobedience in opposition to the expansion of Crestwood, the natural gas company.

Robertson called closing the courthouse building an “abuse of power.”

“It’s not the county government’s buildings. They’re the people’s buildings,” she said.

In their statement, the protesters said that the judge’s decision resulted in having the “public left outside in bitterly cold temperatures.”

Robertson and Sandra Steingraber, who has been a leader in the protests of Crestwood, approached two deputies at the court at 6 p.m. to ask to be let in, according to the statement.

When denied, the group moved to an adjacent area for a press conference that “focused on the theme of trampled civil liberties, both inside the court and out,” the statement said.

Previous Ithaca Voice coverage of Crestwood

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.