by Steve Norris
On April 2nd XRWNC rebels in PPE unfurled banners over I-240 and around the city in Asheville, NC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970.
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day nine of us gathered near Asheville’s deserted Cherry Street skateboard park and prepared to occupy the Flint Street Bridge across I-240 which passes through downtown Asheville. All of us wore masks which gave us an colorful “outlaw” feel, especially since we were half expecting the police to intervene and send us back into lockdown. After assembling our two banners, we walked onto the bridge. Facing westbound traffic on the east side of the bridge was a banner made by Amanda Seta that read “Peoples Bailout this Time”, On the west side facing eastbound traffic, another banner read “Love Now More Than Ever: Earth Day 2020”. We remained on the bridge for over an hour in which time we estimated about 4-5000 cars passed under us. Many cars and an unusual number of trucks with their booming air horns let us know of their support and appreciation. And while it was hard to see, some drivers used their hands to wave or flash a peace sign. One police car came near and waved, but did not stop or question us.
At 5:30 we started marching with our banners through downtown Asheville’s streets, and while the streets were quieter than we’d ever experienced, passersby waved and cheered and several asked to take photos of us and our banners. We stopped at the festive elders and sage community garden near the Battery Park Hotel, a fitting reminder that Earth Day is alive and well. At the historic Grove Arcade we were stopped by Louise, an online journalist from DescubreAsheville.com who interviewed four of us and took photos. At the Federal Building we raised our banners in a salute to the scientists there who are researching and documenting climate change. We ended up at Vance Monument in Asheville’s most busy intersection where we displayed our banners until near sunset.
About the action Anne Craig commented “It felt good to me to be together as I am coping with a myriad of feelings and emotions during this pandemic time — anger, despair, rage, resignation, acceptance, grief, fear, anxiety, anticipation… the car horn beeps and waves were encouraging… and Nature has gifted us with a glorious spring from which I take heart.”
Padma Dyvine “experienced a sense of camaraderie and purpose with fellow rebels. It felt powerful to sign the love or peace symbol with my fingers to the oncoming traffic, knowing that we were resonating with some, and maybe awakening others. Walking downtown was instructive~ empty except for people who had money to pick up their food or sit having drinks outside or the financially insecure, possibly houseless sitting on the sidewalks. Neither group was social distancing. Listening to fellow rebels interviewed by a local latinx blogger, was uplifting in that we got to have a voice in a seeming vacuum. Went home feeling a mixture of satisfaction, emptiness, sadness and wonder.”
Ruby Susan Warren wrote “it felt uplifting to BE TOGETHER outdoors on a beautiful sunny day doing something that felt valuable and important and connective. And to feel the solidarity with the drivers passing by.”