In a demonstration of solidarity with those who could be affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline, opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline stood in front of the Nelson County Courthouse last Tuesday to protest both of the proposed projects.

The event was part of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s national day of action, during which environmental groups across the country held demonstrations in an attempt to bring attention to the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

About 50 people attended the Nelson County event, including members of anti-pipeline groups Free Nelson, Knitting Nannas of Virginia and Protect Our Water, a chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

As part of one of several speeches given by attendees and organizers, Sharon Ponton, a member of BREDL and an organizer of the event, called Native Americans “an indigenous people we have abused horribly throughout our history.”

Ponton argued allowing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois would “repeat that abusive history” and “destroy their ancestral lands [and] sacred sites [and] threaten their water supply.”

Nelson resident Marion Kanour echoed Ponton’s view of the Dakota Access Pipeline and said people who live in the area know firsthand what is involved in a pipeline battle.

“Nelson County has been termed the ‘epicenter’ of the fight against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Kanour said. “We clearly understand and empathize with those being forced to accept fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Organizers also asked attendees to contact government officials as a way to make their voices and opposition to the pipeline projects heard.

“We strongly urge President [Barack] Obama to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to protect those who have gathered in the Sacred Stone Camp [located on the proposed route],” Ponton said.

Last week’s collection of environmental activists, who focused primarily on asking officials to “protect our water,” also used Twitter to try to contact the president and Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

While holding signs that asserted “pipelines explode” and “Dominion destroying forests,” the group also voiced concern by singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Wade in the Water.” However, while the music stayed the same, the lyrics in certain parts of the song were swapped for some more relevant and original words.

The new version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” expressed the anti-pipeline groups’ efforts to “let no pipeline desecrate this land …” while “Wade in the Water” asserted “the pipeline’s gonna trouble the water.”

As the group sang, several members of the crowd paraded in a small circle, donning cardboard masks decorated to look like animals. A butterfly, eagle, fox and opossum were just a few of the animals represented.

Ponton said the masks were an attempt to acknowledge the pipelines could affect more than just humans.

“They have no voice,” Ponton said after the event about the animals in the areas where the pipelines could be placed. “We attempted to give them one by wearing the masks and bringing attention to their plight.”

People who attended the event also signed a banner with messages for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which organizers plan to send to Sacred Stone Camp.

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Emily Brown covers the Hillcats, ODAC and high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5529.

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