2nd Annual Paddle to Protect the Water

July 23rd, 10-12

Tell Biltmore Farms:

No More War Industry

Go Clean! Go Green!

Join us for a fun paddle down the French Broad! Last year was a blast! While we tool along the river, we will engage other paddlers and tubers in conversation about the Pratt & Whitney and other likely development on Biltmore Farms land.

We will have an info table in Jean Webb Park (under the Haywood Rd Bridge) where we will also have a picnic after our paddle! Together let’s tell our community what we want.

Questions? rejectraytheonavl@protonmail.com


2022 Earth Day Celebration and Action!

It was a beautiful, sunny spring day for our Earth Day Celebration and Action. We pulled off a three-part demonstration for the protection of the earth and its inhabitants and against the US military-industrial complex. We rallied, we paraded, and we performed a direct action. We called for the conversion from an economy based on war to one based on meeting needs of our communities and our imperiled planet.

The rally was held in Bent Creek River Park, on the banks of the French Broad River and, both in sight of the new bridge being built for the 1.2 million square foot Pratt and Whitney plant and the shadow of the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over the river. Across the river from the park is Old River Road, a dirt road being used by many trucks coming and going from the Pratt & Whitney construction site every day. On this morning, it was busy.

In the park, over 50 of people gathered around the theme: Windmills Not War Machines. We had a number of speakers describe the dangers of war corporations like Pratt & Whitney and help us imagine what a better economic development plan for the Asheville area could look like. Our rally not only emphasized the war machine production of Pratt and Whitney, but also called attention to its effect on the climate emergency. What we don’t need in this urgent time is more fossil fuel intensive jet engines, even if they are for commercial use, and even if they are supposedly more efficient.

Speakers included Matthew Hoh, Iraq war veteran and a Green Party candidate for the US Senate, Bill Branyon, a historian and candidate for the Buncombe County Commission, and Adam Hall and Eliana Franklin, local leaders of the Sunrise Movement, Claire Clarke of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Sara Wilcox, pastor of the Land of the Sky UCC, and Steve Norris, local climate activist.  Local musician Saro Lynch lead us in song.  The rally was followed by a festive Earth Day parade with signs, banners, and music provided by the Brass Your Heart Band. 

At the end of our rally, the Brass Your Heart social justice marching band led the group on a parade. With music, chants, banners, and signs, we moved from the park up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we crossed the bridge to the other side of the river. It was festive as well as pointed. 

While the parade was in process, 8 activists blockaded the oncoming construction traffic from both directions on the Old River Road. Five spanned the entire road with a 20 foot banner that said “Make Wind Turbines, Not War Machines.” Another held a smaller banner that said, “Pratt and Whitney Fans the Flames of Climate Emergency.” And two stood in front and behind the blockade with the stop-sign shaped message: “No War Industry.”

As the paraders came to the end of the bridge, they stood above waving, cheering, and singing along with the band in support of the blockaders.  Construction traffic came to a halt and backed up for as far as the eye could see.

Amazingly, this stoppage lasted a full two hours. Biltmore Farms, which owns all the surrounding land and donated 100 acres to Pratt & Whitney for its plant, sent its security guards very quickly. They said protesters were on private property and threatened arrest. Truck drivers walked up with a range of emotions from anger to sympathy to amusement. Soon the site was swarming with confused workers and authority figures. Eventually, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) came and asked the protesters to leave. When they didn’t, a prolonged series of phone calls ensued.

As we found out later, there was uncertainty about jurisdiction. The protesters were actually on the National Park Service (NPS) easement for the Blue Ridge Parkway, not on Biltmore Farms private property. Technically, this meant that NPS was the proper authority but didn’t have the capacity to intervene. It apparently was decided that  Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department would take charge.

It was probably also the case that executives from both Biltmore Farms and Pratt & Whitney were discussing how to handle this situation in a way that would get them the least amount of negative publicity.

What this amounted to was a 2-hour shut down of business-as-usual for the corporations bringing a war industry to our county. It was a small victory for us earth protectors, but still a moment to savor on Earth Day.

The decision the police finally made was to give the group we now call “the Earth Day 8 a choice.  They could just walk away with no charges, they could walk away with a citation for misdemeanor trespass, or they could get arrested and taken to jail. They huddled and decided on option #2: they took citations and walked away. 

They hope for their day in court where they can tell why they did the direct action and what is at stake with this war industry plant getting built. A trial could be a means of continuing to raise public awareness about it.

We who blocked in the road, who paraded across the Blue Ridge Parkway Bridge and who spoke eloquently at the rally about the future we need are not the criminals here. The criminals are those who are making profits from the destruction of life on this planet. It is they who should be on trial.

The Earth Day 8 hopes you will follow them in solidarity.

We will also keep on showing up in the streets to raise the alarm. Ever since we found out in October, 2020 that the Buncombe County commissioners voted to give $27 million in tax incentives to Pratt & Whitney, we have been crying foul.  If you take into account all the subsidies provided to this huge multinational corporation – state, local, and private – it comes to about $100 million. Think about how much we need that money for the many human needs of our community.

Join us next time!

 Previous Actions

Sunday, December 12th and 28th

Montford Street Bridge

Highlighting the Link between Climate Urgency and Need for a Green Transition 

We displayed our new  18′ x 6′ banner on the bridge for passersby to see. We got many honks and waves from drivers on a busy Sunday afternoon.

We wanted to call attention to the crisis our environment is in, and advocate for the most viable political solution, the New Green Deal. The US military is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, and the $785 trillion dollars in the 2022 defense budget Congress just passed could have gone a long way to mitigate the climate emergency.


Asheville Holiday Parade Action

2021 Asheville Holiday Parade: Getting our Message Across

We spent over an hour on the side of the street where parade entrants were lined up waiting for the parade to start. Many families with eager children also lined the street.

As parade passed up by, we heard calls of support, encouragingly from children walking and on floats. We also  heard children’s questions about our message that parents need to answer. Once the final float carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus passed us by, we made our way to the parade route to fall in after the 2-motorcycle police motorcade. We didn’t get far.  A line of police and the 2 motorcycles formed a barricade in front of us.

Police finally agreed that we could continue down the parade route on the sidewalks.

As we continued up the street, we began chanting our messages:  “Stop the War Machine” “What Do We Want? A Future For Our Children. When Do We Want It? NOW!” “No War, No Warming”

 

 

Once we reached the parade stage and turned to make our way down the 2nd parade street, the police stopped monitoring our position and allowed us to take the street. We were able to walk down broad Patton Ave., a main route into Asheville’s downtown, creating our own little parade. We continued to chant and walk. We received enthusiastic support from the bystanders along the street. They could see us and our banners and hear our chants much better than the crowd on Biltmore Avenue, the 1st parade street.

This video by filmmaker, Teri Addabbo, captures our parade action.