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6 anti-Duke Energy protesters arrested for blocking intersection

By Ames Alexander and Meghan Cooke
aalexander@charlotteobserver.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Six environmental protesters were arrested Thursday afternoon after locking arms and sitting down at an intersection next to the uptown Duke Energy Center, forcing police to block the intersection.

The demonstrators at Stonewall and Tryon streets said they were demanding an audience with Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, a company they contend has done much to harm the environment.

With about 30 standing police officers watching them from nearby, the protesters sat atop a massive banner that read: “Duke is destroying our Earth with taxpayer dollars.”

Around 2:30 p.m., police gave the protesters a 10-minute warning, saying that remaining in the intersection was unsafe and that they would be arrested for impeding traffic. They didn’t budge. Meanwhile, the protesters’ supporters cheered them on, chanting “Earth is not for sale.”

When the 10 minutes was up, police followed through on their promise.

Police unlinked their arms and then the protesters went limp, forcing police to carry them by the arms and legs to a prisoner transport van, where they were patted down and handcuffed. One of the protesters smiled as he was placed in the police van.

Some spectators cheered for the protesters as they were led away.

Just before her arrest, 26-year-old Christina Mounce of Casper, W. Va. criticized the utility company for burning coal and running nuclear power plants.

“We want President Obama to stop accepting their campaign money,” said Mounce, a marine biologist. “The president is setting a horrible example by being linked with them.”

The others arrested were Amelia Campbell, 22, of Boulder, Colo.; Audrey Campbell, 22, of Boulder, Colo.; Richard French, 39, of Farmington, N.M.; Matthew Goodsell, 56; and Michael Joseph Stewart, 25, of Lakewood, Colo.

All were charged with impeding traffic.

Duke said it had shut down 23 coal-fired power units in the past two years, and plans to shut down more in the years ahead. The company said it has opened 13 solar-power projects in recent years and buys more solar electricity from other companies.

Duke has spent $7 billion in recent years to build four state-of-the-art power plants – two coal-fired, two natural gas-fired – featuring some of the world’s most advanced pollution controls.

Staff writer Gary Wright contributed.

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