‘Standing Rock is everywhere’ Protesters keep on keeping on as corrupt power plant rises

| 26 Oct 2016 | 10:16

It’s Saturday, and so, as every Saturday for over a year, protesters walk this stretch of highway, holding signs and an Earth Day flag. From the woods along Route 6 in Wawayanda, NY rises a fracked-gas power plant – the tenth largest in the country – whose smokestacks will spew pollutants 30 miles. When I draw a circle on a map, I see the coverage area of this magazine.

Six protesters were arrested for blocking the construction site in a bid to draw attention to it; their trial, delayed. Even the latest news hasn’t stopped the cranes: Cuomo’s right hand man allegedly took $287,000 in bribes from the power company for pushing the project through (page 6).

I bundled up my nine-month-old and we drove over to see.

Rhoda Mack, the first protester we saw, held a sign reading, “Your Sacrifice Area.” To each car that honked, she gave a dignified nod.

“It’s so gratifying to hear so many horns blowing, so many lights flashing,” said Mack, who owns the Center for Metal Arts in Florida, NY.

A guy across the street carried a sign that read, “Crime Scene.” Would the big-headline corruption scandal make any difference, I asked Mack. She was hopeful, she said, that “the wheels of justice will turn to force a real look... to look at why the permits should not have been given.”

“We need to do a moonshot for a sustainable future for our children, for our grandchildren,” said Mack, raising her free arm toward the sky, toward the rising smokestacks. “War” is the wrong word, she said. A moonshot.

“We are so inventive as human beings. We still are. What you see is people locked into last century’s ways of thinking. They don’t understand that things can be reconfigured.”

Down the road, Emily Boardman held a “Save Our Water” sign. “I’m pretty sad,” Boardman said, taking my baby’s hand. “I wish there was more I could do for these little people.”

The baby made us both laugh, grabbing my pen and holding tight, as if to re-write things.

Boardman, a Quaker, is involved with Standing Rock, the historic Native American pipeline resistance in North Dakota.

“I think it’s one of the most significant things happening in the world today. And then you realize,” she said with a sweep of the arm, “that Standing Rock is everywhere.

“If we can keep our hands off it, we might hear something important. If we can listen to that voice of the Native Americans, who do still remember. We don’t.”

Catherine Bonnell, a teacher, and Susan Lee, a retired dental hygienist, walked together holding signs. Both live in Wawayanda. They corrected my pronunciation: “it’s like way-way-yonder.”

The emissions are linked to autism and asthma, said Bonnell, who teaches at Maple Hill, four miles as the crow flies. “This is our local town board,” she said. “How does it get to make a decision that affects the entire Hudson Valley?”

In her class, she said, “I already have so many kids with asthma.”

Randy Hurst lives nearby in a passive solar house on a five-acre organic farm.

“We’re about to become grandparents,” he said. “That’s why I’m off the couch.”