|The Tuscaloosa News 14.11.1978|
Power line foes found not guilty
BUFFALO, Minn. (AP) - Folksinger Dean Ree, one of 19 power line opponents acquitted of trespassing in a case that became an international affair, says the verdict will inspire others to protest social injustice.
"I think this was a very important verdict because of the international support we received here," said the 40-year-old Reed. "Others will gain inspiration from what happended in this courtroom."
The six-member Wright County jury deliberated for nearly seven hours before acquitting Reed and 18 others late Monday of criminal trespass in an Oct. 29 protest at the Delano, Minn. terminal of a 427-mile power line from North Dakota to central Minnesota.
The case gained international attention when Tass, the Soviet news agency, began covering the trial. In a counterattack on President Carter's human rights campaign, the news agency said Reed's only offense was his "active struggle" in defending the rights of political prisoners in the United States.
In a dispatch today reporting the verdict, Tass said: "The victory attained over American reaction will be a profound stimulus for many people in the United States to come out ever more resolutely for their rights, against oppression and lawlessness."
Reed, who now lives in Studio City, Calif., is popular in Soviet bloc nations, where he often performs.
After the trial, the folksinger said he joined the power line protest "to draw attention to the great problems of political prisoners in the United States.
I don't believe President Jimmy Carter can talk about human rights being violated by other countries while at the same time turning his back on men like American Indian Movement leader Russell Means," said Reed. The Indian activist is serving a prison term in South Dakota.
The packed courtroom erupted with cheers after the verdicts were read, and Reed and the other defendants embraced.
Defendants said the acquittals will give the power line protest new impetus and draw support to their cause.
"This is a tremendous victory for the oppositions to the power line," said Kathleen Randall, 25, of Minneapolis. "We grow. We get ever stronger. We'll be there every step of the way supporting the farmers."
The power line, which many farmers said invaded their property rights, was completed in September despite nearly three years of protest and vandalism, but will not be operational until spring. It was built by two power cooperatives for rural electric cooperatives in Minnesota.