Friday, June 08, 2018

Pipeline protesters see parallels with civil-rights activists

Stephanie Davis hugs an ally after her charge was
dropped. (Roanoke Times photo by Nathan Klima)
More than 20 people from all walks of life have been charged with non-violent misdemeanors for protesting the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Appalachia, like the mother and daughter who blocked construction for nearly a month by sitting in treehouses in the path of construction, or the group who chained themselves to construction equipment. Some have compared these protesters to those of the civil-rights movement. "Just as those advocating equal rights for blacks saw fit to break unjust laws of the Jim Crow era, the argument goes, pipeline opponents are being arrested for resisting laws allowing a project that they say will ruin individual lives and the environment at large," Laurence Hammack reports for The Roanoke Times in Virginia.

Stephanie Stallings Davis, who was arrested April 11 for trespassing on Mountain Valley property with the intent to damage or impede construction, said as she left Roanoke County District Court on Wednesday morning: "It was important to me that I take a stand . .. to protect our water, our land and our rights as citizens. . . . We will not stand down."

The prosecutor dropped the charge against Davis on Wednesday after the judge refused to allow a continuance, but it's unclear whether the charge will be reinstated. About 20 people showed up to support Davis in court, as encouraged by Katie Zawacki, chair of the nonprofit Points of Diversity. During a rally the day before in Roanoke, held next to a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., Zawacki asked the 50 or so attendees to back pipeline protesters charged with crimes and attend their trials. "There are no terrorists here," Zawacki said. "In many ways, this entire scene seems surreal to us."

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