Elizabeth Goyer raised the megaphone and set some ground rules. “We do not have a permit for this march, so we are going to follow all the laws.” She continued, “This is the march for people who don’t want to get arrested.”
The nearly 250 college students from across the Southeast cheered, and began a march in solidarity with the Occupy movement and the national day of action against the Keystone Pipeline project. The students from dozens of colleges as far away as Orlando, Fla. and Mississippi have been gathering this weekend at UNCA at the Southeast Student Renewable Engergy Conference (SSREC). Many of the students from the conference came in a caravan of cars, vans and buses from UNC Asheville to the rally point in Montford.
The march took them south on Montford across 240, then to Haywood Street. They rallied and listened to a speaker in front of Bank of America on Patton Ave describe how BofA has been a major funding partner of the Keystone XL pipeline. John Spurlock, a Junior at UNCA was at the head of the march with a sign depicting the White House, “I learned a lot from the workshops at SSREC, but it was talking to people from all over that was really educational to me,” he said.
15 Students from the University of Tennessee arrived in a red, not orange, van. Missy Lavone, a Senior at UT laughed at the irony of the color. As was the case with many of the students at the march, this was their first trip to Asheville, and practically all of them “caught the Asheville fever,” as a student from the University of Mississippi said. Another 15 from the University of Central Florida in Orlando made their first trek to the mountains, Mary Teal Reyes from Miami, Fla. observed, “you would think that cities like Orlando and Miami would be ahead of a place like Asheville, but they aren’t. Asheville has been great.”
Slogans chanted on the march, to the accompaniment of 5-gallon plastic drum buckets included, “Hey, Obama. We don’t want no climate drama” and “Yes we can. Stop the pipeline.”
A spokesperson for the SSREC, Lauren Reilly of the University of South Florida, St Petersburg, FL said, “We don’t want to break any of Asheville’s laws or regulations. We just want to get the message across, and show our solidarity with the action at the White House today. We also want to let President Obama know what he needs to do to keep our vote in 2012, he needs to keep his campaign promises about energy.”
The march continued to Royal Bank of Canada’s offices, the largest financial backer of the Keystone XL pipeline project.
Tonight they drive home to colleges across the southeast.
To see a slideshow of photos from the march, click on this slideshow link.