Protest march targets gas pipeline
By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Folks driving along Church Street on Tuesday afternoon caught an unusual sight for Rocky Mount, a small crowd of people walking along the roadside with a giant salamander above them like a tiny Thanksgiving Day parade.
But it wasn't a parade; it was a protest march against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by the Walk To Protect Our People And The Places We Live (Stop The Pipeline) to present the public with a continuous, traveling presence across the proposed route of the pipeline in North Carolina. The march is meant to draw attention to the protesters' concerns over environmental and private property rights related to the pipeline.
The 10-foot-long salamander held aloft by two marchers with others operating its legs moved along atop the crowd as they marched along. The giant salamander represents the waterdog, a salamander found only in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins.
The salamanders have been listed as a species of concern since 1990. They can’t be captured or killed without a special permit from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Protesters are concerned the pipeline will further endanger the salamanders and other animals.
The pipeline is planned to run 600 miles from fracking sites in West Virginia to Lumberton through Nash County for 30 miles.
Margaret Souerwine of the Sierra Club said the proposed pipeline runs through too many waterways where endangered species live.
“We haven't been dealt with fairly and squarely,” Souerwine said.
Protesters complained about the revolving door between Duke Energy and the state government. They knew they wouldn't get anywhere with Pat McCrory — a former Duke employee — as governor, but hope Gov. Roy Cooper will listen and take action.
Pipeline protester Greg Yost read an open letter to Cooper.
“As a proud native of Nash County and Eastern North Carolina, we know that you hold a special place in your heart for this region. That's why we want you to be there with us as we hear and voice the concerns of families, landowners, businesses and communities along the way,” the letter states.
Beginning in Northampton County at the Virginia line, the 220-mile march continues today from Oak Level to Bailey and will continue in the coming days until the group makes it to Lumberton then Hamlet where a little-discussed portion of the pipeline will end at a Duke power plant.
A group of through-walkers making the entire journey are joined at certain points by concerned citizens and other activists including students from Davidson College and residents of Tillery.
“I'm grateful for the folks who are coming from all over the state to march,” said local resident Marvin Winstead. “This is not just a local issue or just a state issue, but a national and global issue.”
Information about the walk is available at 2017acpwalk.org.