Written by Willie Dodson of Blue Ridge Earth First!
This past Tuesday (April 15th) I was blessed by my creator and honored by my friends to participate in a blockade that shut down Dominion Power’s headquarters for close to two hours at the beginning of the work day. The action was taken by Blue Ridge Earth First!, a Virginia-based chapter of the decentralized global Earth First! movement. As supporters stood by holding signs and a large banner reading, “No Coal, No Compromise, Earth First!” three activists locked down to trashcans filled with concrete and blocked both lanes of the only road in and out of the office complex on the banks of the James River in Richmond. The blockade was the latest action in the campaign to stop Dominion’s proposed dirty coal power plant in Wise County Virginia.
Since announcing it’s plans for the dirty coal plant in 2006, a steady groundswell of citizen opposition has taken many forms from protests to petitions to a marathon 11-hour long hearing before the State Corporation Commission full of passionate challenges to the project. Several municipalities across the state even went so far as to pass resolutions through local government opposing the plant. Regulatory channels have slowed but so far haven’t stopped Dominion’s deadly agenda from moving forward. As our state law-makers’ inaction on the issue seems to be dictated by the $3.8 million they’ve accepted from Dominion in campaign contributions in the past eleven years, Blue Ridge Earth First! has chosen to take matters into our own hands and bring serious, strategic direct action into this movement.
CHECK OUT THE SICK VIDEO COVERAGE OF THE ACTION HERE
Come out May 8th to Richmond VA and help deliver the mile-long petition with hundreds of others from across the state opposing the plant. Join others in collecting 50,000 petitions signatures by May 1st.
The blockade was established just before 8 am and a line of cars trying to get into the office to advance Dominion’s dirty work instantly began to form, stretching almost a mile into downtown Richmond before all was said and done. After about twenty minutes police arrived on the scene and informed us that we all had to get out of the road or we would be arrested. The support rally moved to the sidewalk but the lock down didn’t budge. The cops refused to disclose what charges would be filed but made vague threats of felonies if the blockaders failed to cooperate. When questioned by police, those locked down spoke not a word giving the cops plenty of incentive to communicate through me as I’d identified myself as a police liaison when they first arrived. After about an hour and a half the blockade had been dragged to the side of the road and the backed-up traffic had passed into the complex, some of them offering bizarrely supportive nods and gestures as they passed. Despite the threats made by the first cops who arrived on the scene, our lock down participants were all given traffic citations for impeding the flow of traffic and released without arrest once they agreed to unlock.
Many of the participants in Tuesday’s blockade were also present at last month’s Mountain Justice protest at the Department of Environmental Quality in Abingdon. At this event an army of windmills flooded into the DEQ’s parking lot held aloft by young people from throughout and beyond Virginia demanding clean energy and accountability from this agency which had been rubber-stamping Dominion’s requests despite the widespread objections amongst local citizens and their supporters. The DEQ allowed small groups of protesters to enter into the building to ask questions but allowed no comments to be made and offered no helpful answers or actions of any kind. In the course of this protest, I recall addressing the crowd. I asked how folks felt about being ignored by governmental entities which are supposed to be accountable to us. They didn’t feel good about that. I asked if people felt that it was time to employ direct action in resistance to Dominion’s deadly agenda. They did. I made a promise to Dominion, their governmental lackeys and all other parties complicit in the dirty coal assault on our communities and ecosystems that Blue Ridge Earth First! would be bringing direct action to the forefront of the resistance soon and strong. Well BREF! has delivered on that promise and we’re not going anywhere.
Much gratitude is owed to all the folks who have been working on this campaign on every level. We are truly honoring the old Earth First! commitment to using “every tool in the toolbox.” I deeply thank all the activists grounded in various tactical and philosophical foundations for the work that they are doing. Let’s everyone keep it up and for those of y’all who are ready to take non-violent direct action in defense of the people and places that you love, join up with Earth First!, Mountain Justice, Rising Tide, some other direct action group or start your own. Check out the Mountain Justice Action Camp this May or any of the Convergences for Climate Action being held in the Northeast, Southeast and Northwest in late July.
Hey Dominion, we won’t stop until you do.
Blue Ridge Earth First!