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Ben & Jerry's Co-Founder Among Those Arrested at Vermont Protest of F-35 Fighter Jets

Demonstrators worried about dangerous noise levels oppose the Air Force's plans to base 18 aircrafts in Burlington starting next year

Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen, an activist and the co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream company, was one of the protesters arrested at a demonstration opposing plans to bring F-35 fighter jets to Burlington, Vermont next year. (Photo: Save Our Skies Vermont)

Ahead of a Tuesday referendum in Burlington, Vermont on whether local officials should fight plans to base F-35 bomber planes at the city airport next year, protesters—including the co-founder of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company—were arrested Saturday for a demonstration featuring a simulation of the jet noise that will be generated by the aircrafts.

"If it's legal for the F-35 to make this noise 16 times per day, 4-6 days per week, 52 weeks a year, for the next 50 years, it should be legal for us to do this limited demonstration of extreme jet blasts."
—Ben Cohen, activist and Ben & Jerry's co-founder

The activists, including Ben Cohen—whose ice cream company is based in Burlington—were arrested for disorderly conduct and violating city noise ordinances by playing "jet noise from a tower of speakers mounted on the back of a pickup truck at a level they said simulated what it would be like to be underneath the flight path," the Burlington Free Press reported.

Cohen's sound machine played 115 decibels of jet blast noise for six minutes—the same amount of time that residents would be exposed to the F-35's jet blast if the planes are sent to the Vermont Air National Guard Station at the city's airport, according to a statement from the group Save Our Skies Vermont, which opposes the basing plans.

sound machine and truck

"If the F-35 comes to Vermont, the Air Force says that over 6,600 adults and children will live in a zone that the Federal Government declares to be 'unsuitable for residential use,'" Cohen said.

"If it's legal for the F-35 to make this noise 16 times per day, 4-6 days per week, 52 weeks a year, for the next 50 years, it should be legal for us to do this limited demonstration of extreme jet blasts which are the subject of Item #6 on the March ballot," he added, referring to the ballot item that would instruct city officials to request that the Air Force cancel the basing plans.

The referendum was "prompted by a petition drive this winter," and "asks voters whether Burlington's City Council should formally request the U.S. Air Force send a safer, less noisy aircraft to Vermont to replace the aging F-16 jets," a local affiliate of NBC News reported last week. Unless the residents of Burlington vote "no" on Item #6—and the Air Force complies with the city's subsequent request—18 F-35 jets will be sent to the base in September 2019.

"The F-35 basing is a moral issue," said Richard Joseph, who also participated in the protest Saturday. "It is shocking that the Burlington City Council and Mayor have failed to address it. That failure, among other reasons, has made it imperative for us to demonstrate to the citizens of Burlington the reality of the noise contamination the city government plans to impose on the community."

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