Mary Lee Clark
Students dressed in all black shed tears in sorrow and sang mourning songs and carried a coffin to a symbolic funeral for the James River in response to Dominion Power’s anticipated dumping of coal ash wastewater into the river this month.
“This is not a march, it’s a procession,” said Michael James-Deramo, a member of the Environmental Coalition at VCU.
Before the funeral procession, protesters walked from the General Assembly building to Great Shiplock Park, passing the Dominion Human Resources Center on the way.
This performance was put together by the Trillium Collective, which is an art collective that brings art and performance to activism. To play the part, students were dressed in mourning clothes and carried signs of dead fish and chanted “Death by Dominion.” They wore paper mache masks fashioned like dying fish and skulls.
The procession ended at the Earth Day festival at Great Shiplock Park. A coffin was placed by the James River as students, as well as people who were attending the festival, gathered around in remembrance of the river. Students shared stories of memories they had made at the river and what it meant to them.
“I think it’s important to do it today, which is the day after Earth Day. We are doing it to reclaim Earth Day. Because what Dominion does a lot with coal ash is clean-wash it, saying that it’s fine and saying it’s clean when it is definitely not,” said Kate Holcomb, a member of the VCU Environmental Coalition. “A lot of people hear that and trust Dominion.”
On Dominion’s website, Dominion states that it is committed to keeping the waterways in Virginia clear and that no ash will be discharged into the waterways at any time during the closing of their coal ash ponds, where they currently store coal ash waste.
“Dominion has a strong commitment to protecting the environment and will have a long-term, ongoing responsibility to monitor groundwater at the sites. We will meet or exceed all regulations to ensure the closure systems fully protect Virginia’s residents and the environment.” Dominion stated on the website.