Story by Sarah Vig
Thoreau wrote near the end of his life, “if I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behavior.”
At 76, Bruce King, a retiree and military veteran – like Thoreau – was beginning to regret his good behavior.
It was the first formal protest of his life, but on the morning of April 19, King joined more than 200 others who answered the Stop Cliffside Coalition’s “Call to Conscience” in Charlotte, N.C.
The Stop Cliffside Coalition is comprised of 10 environmental and citizen advocacy groups partnering in opposition to the 800-megawatt expansion of Duke Energy’s Cliffside Power Plant in Rutherford County, 50 miles west of Charlotte. The plant’s expansion represents a $2.3 billion dollar investment in coal-fired electricity generation, and it is anticipated that much of the coal used at the plant would come from mountaintop removal mining operations in neighboring Appalachian states. This, in addition to growing concerns about carbon emissions and climate change, air quality and coal combustion waste, has led many North Carolinians to oppose the plant.
The Coalition’s Call declared that “we cannot be silent as Duke poisons our air, destroys the Appalachian Mountains, and fans the flames of climate change for the sake of profit,” and King was not the only one participating who did not fit the typical image of a environmental activist.
Of the hundreds of people gathered for the protest, many were elderly, clergy and regular citizens dressed in their Sunday best.
The peaceful protest, which took place shortly before Earth Day, traveled through downtown Charlotte, stopping at Governor Purdue’s office and finally reaching the Duke Corporate Headquarters.
As the group crossed the street to stand in front of Duke Headquarters, their rallying cries faded. 44 individuals of all ages and professions crossed the line spray-painted on the cement sidewalk to illegally trespass on Duke’s private property. As the rest of the marchers watched, the 44 accepted arrest, one-by-one.
It now stands as the largest arrest total for civil disobedience on climate change in history.
Though King was not one of those arrested, he did feel that this, his first protest in the name of climate change and clean air, would not be his last.
“If I had known this was what protesting was like, I would have done it sooner,” King said.