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Atlanta Activists on Probation for Anti-Nuclear Protest in Virginia
By Matthew Cardinale, Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) NORTH ANNA, VIRGINIA - Two Atlanta anti-nuclear activists were among six people arrested at a sit-in at the Visitor's Center of the North Anna nuclear power plant in Louisa, Virginia, on August 08, 2008.
Darci Rodenhi, Program Coordinator for Atlanta Women's Action for New Directions, and Glenn Carroll, Coordinator of Nuclear Watch South, were among the six arrested during the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action.
After appealing their initial sentences, the two-as well as a third out-of-town protester, Rebecca Mann of Ohio-are currently serving one year probation and had to pay $250 each. They also received 30 days prison time each, which was suspended.
The six people arrested included three from the North Anna area-noted international activist Paxus Calta, as well as Sue Frankel-Streit and Spot Etal-who were sentenced in a different hearing.
Calta was sentenced to 30 days in jail with 15 suspended. Frankel-Streit and Etal were fined $1,000 with $700 suspended.
"We were at a training... several days of direct action training, media training, and a lot of seminars on different issues," Rodenhi, 28, told Atlanta Progressive News.
"It's on a farm and we camp and we eat entirely organic mostly vegetarian, a lot of vegan foods through the week and really live in a way of conservation," Rodenhi recalled.
Organizations represented at the Convergence include Nuclear Information Resource Source (NIRS), EarthFirst, Greenpeace, Atlanta WAND, Nuclear Watch South, and Southern Energy Network, Rodenhi said.
"I was invited to a meeting. We did the action as independent citizens, not necessarily associated with the Convergence or our individual organizations," Rodenhi said.
"There is a plant North Anna within 8 miles of where we were camping," Rodenhi said.
"And they are also in the licensing process for two new towers, which is the same situation at our power plant here in Georgia, the Plant Vogtle, which is trying to license two new towers as well," Rodenhi said.
"I know the situation, I know what they're going through. I know they've been to all of the meetings given by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which allow you to dissent but do not allow you the opportunity to object entirely," Rodenhi said.
"They allow you to ask questions. We bring up questions about the water usage, the safety, the waste, the emission of toxic chemicals into the water which are allowed by regulation although they're harmful to people," Rodenhi said.
"The North Anna body of water it sits on is a lake they created where they leave the really hot water. Their contention is that they created the lake so they can do whatever they want with it. Our contention is once you create it, it's subject to all of the laws under the EPA," Rodenhi said.
Rodenhi had doubts about protesting but said she felt moved to participate in part because she was impressed by many of the young activists she had met from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
"In my mind, I was like I don't want to get arrested in a state... not where I live," Rodenhi said. "And I wouldn't have the support of Atlanta WAND because their policy isn't one of direct action."
Many individual members of Atlanta WAND have participated in direct actions as individuals, however.
"I went with Glenn Carroll... she's a very passionate women and is really spiritual and really does this work for the Earth. I brought it up to her, she was not at the meeting," Rodenhi said.
"I told her about this meeting and she was overwhelmed. She's been in the environmental movement for 20 years. She was really grateful I brought her in on it. We were having a follow-up meeting several hours before," the protest, she said.
"We went around the cirlcle and listed our level of commitment to it. There were 10 people. We gave color codes for our level of commitment. Green were the supporters... The yellows were going to stay longer but didn't want to be arrested. Glenn was sitting next ot me, she says red, I'm getting moved in the moment too, and I'm suddenly red," she said.
"Doing something like this has always been an option for me. I do think in five years it's going to be like having a badge of honor from being arrested in Civil Rights Movement. This is the most oppressive, immediate problem we're looking at today," Rodenhi said.
"If we don't change something soon, we're going to be in a really bad situation. As a society, as a species, we need to continue to exist. If you look at the statistics, we might all be underwater," Rodenhi said.
"We need to be here so that the toxic waste that we've produced now from all of these facilities that is now... still sitting on the land of the plants in different kinds of storage," doesn't escape, Rodenhi said.
"It's leaking, wherever it is. At least it's somewhat contained. Now fast forward 20 or 30 more years. Without management or surveillance of this plutonium that's been created, all these chemicals are going to reach contact again with the ground. As the Native peoples have said from the beginning, we should have never taken the uranium out of the ground," Rodenhi said.
"If leaks into the atmosphere, it would just kill everything," she said.
"The actual protest was very peaceful and informational. We did a mock tour of the [Visitor's Center] where we brought up our questions: what about the water usage? What about putting the water back into the lake? What about the fish that live there? What about the toxic radiation?" she said.
"I think they [the staff] caught on very clearly. We were leaving sticky notes with the truth written on them. They would just remove them and we would keep going with our tour," she said.
"We sat down and had a dialogue, what we didn't like about nuclear power, what our fears were, what the facts were... Some of us were moved to tears at some point and I was," she said.
"They gave us several warnings. They told us it was our final warning. They cuffed us and put us in a van, and took us to the county jail, which then we were transferred to the prison," she said.
"We stayed in jail... [until] around 2am. They were very sweet to us. We just sang old protest songs and folded peace crains. They brought us McDonalds. It was so funny because some of us were vegan. There we were with McDonald's salads," she said.
Originally, the protesters' sentences were $2,500 each, 90 days in jail, and 2 years unsupervised probations. After appealing, the sentences were reduced.
Despite currently serving probation, Rodenhi said she does not regret participating in the sit-in.
"I think that the energy and the youth involvement up there is far more advanced than it is here. There are some young, more radical environmentalists here in Georgia and I think that movement is building but I think the standard is set in the Carolinas and in Virginia. They have young people who are willing to do this. It builds bridges. I feel forever tied to my friends at the North Anna Plant," Rodenhi said.
Defense attorney John Maus told Judge Timothy Sanner during their appeal that none of the out-of-town protesters-Rodenhi, Carroll, nor Rebecca Mann-had previous criminal records, according to the Free-Lance Star newspaper of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Judge Sanner dropped the original county charges and replaced them with state charges on October 21, 2008. Sanner recognized their protest activity as an act of civil disobedience, according to the Free-Lance Star.
The three are not allowed to step foot on Dominion Power's property in the next year, the Free-Lance Star reported.
Rodenhi said the first judge's fine of $2,500 was based on charging the protesters for the cost of the increased police presence during the entire weekend of the Convergence. The protesters wanted to appeal this because they did not want precedent set that the protesters were responsible for the Convergence or vice versa.
Glenn Carroll, who has been interviewed previously for APN's coverage of the struggle against nuclear power in the US South, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
"We are here to serve notice on the so-called 'nuclear renaissance' that the anti-nuclear movement is alive and well," Carroll said in a press release.
APN news service and blog:
About the author:
Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable is email@example.com