Local activist arrested at Cliffside protest

Avram Friedman, leader of the Sylva-based air quality group the Canary Coalition, was arrested during a protest march in Charlotte Monday (April 20) against Duke Energy’s new Cliffside power plant proposed for Rutherford County.

More than 400 marchers, including Friedman, paraded through the streets of downtown Charlotte waving signs and chanting opposition to construction of the $2.4 billion coal-fired power plant, which would be located about 70 miles southeast of Asheville. The protesters ended their march in front of Duke Energy’s headquarters, where they attempted to present a “Call to Conscience,” document to Duke CEO Jim Rogers. Friedman described the document as “a people’s injunction to stop construction at Cliffside.”

A Duke Energy representative came outside to speak with the protesters, and warned them not to cross a line that had been clearly drawn to mark the boundaries of Duke’s property.

“A Duke Energy rep came out and said, ‘This is our property, and if you cross it, you’ll get arrested,’” Friedman recounted. “I said to him, we’re here to prevent a greater crime. I crossed over the line and police came up to me.”

In the end, “44 of us chose to risk arrest, and police complied,” Friedman said.

Friedman spent 8 hours in the Mecklenburg County Jail before being released on his own recognizance. He has a court date in late May for trespassing.

Friedman called the protest an overall success. It attracted people from all over the country, and was covered by various regional media outlets.

“Polls have been showing that a large majority of the people in North Carolina are opposed to the concept of a new coal burning power plant being built, but that they aren’t even aware of Cliffside,” Friedman said. “Now they are. And now that people are aware of it, we hope they become more active in opposing it.”

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