Denton police took a Denton man and his 92-year-old mother into custody early Tuesday morning after the man chained himself to the entrance gate at a gas well site in far west Denton.
Theron Palmer, 61, secured his folding chair and himself to the gate by about 7:40 a.m. His mother, Violet Palmer, sat down in a rocking chair next to him. She shielded herself from the occasional round of rain from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Bill with a big, floral umbrella.
The pair sat in front of the same gate that has drawn protests several times in the past few weeks, ever since Colorado-based Vantage Energy announced it would resume hydraulically fracturing wells at the “Long Term” pad site on Nail Road.
The first officers arrived about 8 a.m. and warned the pair they were trespassing.
Four units responded to the site.
They were asked to leave the property multiple times and refused, said Ryan Grelle, police spokesman, in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon.
Police escorted Violet Palmer to a squad vehicle without handcuffs. Her son, police said, was cut away from the gate and then transferred in handcuffs to the same squad car as his mother.
Both were booked into the city jail on charges of criminal trespassing and obstructing a highway passageway, according to Denton police.
Violet Palmer was released from the Denton City Jail without bond.
Charges may still be filed at-large against her, according to the news release.
“It pollutes our water, and the noise is incredible,” Violet Palmer said about fracking while walking out of the Denton City Jail alongside her daughter-in-law, Elida Tamez.
“It’s just something that should not be done within a city proper. If they are wanting to frack, we should do like we do with manufacturing and send it abroad.”
Theron Palmer was later booked into the Denton County Jail, according to Sandi Brackeen, spokeswoman for the Denton County Sherriff’s Office. He later posted bond and was released.
Officers also issued trespass warnings to a pair of documentary filmmakers, Garret Graham and Candice Bernd, who have been following Denton activists for more than a year.
Several protesters have received similar warnings in recent weeks. All risk immediate arrest if they trespass on the site again.
Blackland Prairie Rising Tide issued a press release following the arrests. A 15-year-old international group of volunteers, Rising Tide confronts climate change with direct action and protests.
The local chapter, Blackland Prairie, has become increasingly active in recent months.
Residents have organized other rallies and protests against House Bill 40, which essentially nullified the citizens’ initiative that banned fracking.
Denton voters overwhelmingly approved the measure in November.
Violet Palmer moved to Denton to be closer to her family and has been a resident of Lake Forest Village, an assisted-living facility in Denton, for nearly 10 years and, as an active voter, never imagined her vote would be overturned by legislators.
“It’s not about my age, it’s about my vote,” she said, while adding she woke up at 6:20 a.m. to go out and voice not only her opinion, but also that of nearly 15,000 other Denton voters who voted to ban fracking in the city limits.
“I did what I did for the citizens,” she said.
Seven other people, including Tamez, have been arrested on criminal trespassing charges at the Vantage Energy site on three other occasions.
A Class B misdemeanor, criminal trespassing carries a possible $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
Other protests at the Vantage site have triggered impromptu parades but have ended without incident.
Asked if she would protest again, Violet Palmer said, “I had a wonderful experience, and the police treated me well. There are plenty of others who are willing to do what I did today. I tire easily and just want to go home and go to sleep.”
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
MEGAN GRAY-HATFIELD can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @mgraynews.