A mock funeral procession — marking the loss of life caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — took place at noon on Saturday, Sept. 4, in downtown Asheville. Beginning at the Sean Pace Gallery, demonstrators wore black veils over their faces as they marched toward Pack Square and circled the Vance Monument. The crowd then regrouped at Pritchard Park before traveling down Haywood Street, carrying black signs cut into the shape of coffins, and decorated with white pelicans, turtles and dolphins.
“It’s important to realize that people are affected by this, not just [the people who live] on the Golf Coast,” said Melissa Terrezza, who organized the event. “Art opens minds, and is a creative way of expressing important matters,” she remarked.
“Art interprets what the culture feels,” added Coleman Smith, an artist who helped make the coffin-shaped signs demonstrators held. Coleman created an elaborate outfit made of inflated trash bags that he strapped to his back. “We can’t let people forget,” he continued, “or push it from their minds.”
Nine-year-old Haley Johnson of Asheville said she came to today’s event because “all the animals are dying and are covered in oil. Everything, the sand, beaches, turtles are covered in oil.”
“I know the artists and appreciate that somebody gives a damn about this giant environmental catastrophe,” said Leif Johnson, another Ashevillian who participated in the procession. “It’s now disappeared from the newspapers,” he continued. “I hate BP.”
Virginia Paris, who is involved in an organization called the Oil Spill Solidarity Movement stated, “It’s important that people remember the damage [from the spill].” Gesturing to the child in her arms, she continued, “I brought my daughter because it’s important for kids to be involved.”
Local artists Madison J. Cripps, walking on stilts and dressed as a huge black crane, said, “People don’t seem to really grasp the gravity of what’s going on. Every little thing that we do is important.” When asked what he was dressed to represent, Cripps replied, “I’m a dead bird.”
Local performance artist Claire Elizabeth Barratt said that she came to the event to support her fellow artists since “every action has a domino effect. I wanted to support Melissa and this bold action.”
Here are a few photos from the scene:
Sean Pace helps Smith into his demonstration outfit.
Madison J. Cripps’ “Dead Bird” outfit