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Old Hills & Old Folks Resist Protest: Deborah Kushner’s Take on Protest

Deborah Kushner (on top of car), Bridget Dearing (in chair), and Allan Moore (inside car)  (Photo: FightingFoxPhotography)
Deborah Kushner (on top of car), Bridget Dearing (in chair), and Allan Moore (inside car)  (Photo: FightingFoxPhotography)

Written by Partnership for the Future intern Niyah Harris


Deborah Kushner’s day started early and ended late on June 30th. Kushner and her “partners in crime” are a part of the Appalachians Against Pipelines. Together, they made the choice to lock themselves to a broken-down car to protest the Two Mountain Valley Pipeline. Kushner referred to the building of the pipeline as a “destruction and desecration” to the environment.

Kushner’s inspiration to protest was inspired by her belief that we should protect and preserve our environment and each other. “I looked around at that particular action in those people in those mountains, and that pristine water coming down from the mountain,” said Kushner in an interview with VPM. She knew then that protest was her calling. Kushner’s overall goal of the protest was to delay the building of the pipeline. “I truly feel that this issue is so critical,” Kushner said. 
 
 “It was the combination of a lot of time planning work, gathering, and brainstorming,” Kushner said on planning their resistance. Kushner and her partners painted about 30 different words on the parked car. According to Kushner, every word on the car was a “critical message.” Not only were there words, but there were also animals painted on the car. The animals — except for the cats — were intended to represent the endangered species in the area. “These are the creatures, you know, that can't speak for themselves, can't protect themselves. I mean, these are vital elements in our environment. And we can't forget them,” Kushner stated. The parked car also included two rocking chairs — one on top of the car and one next to it. Kushner was sitting on the chair on top of the car, and one of her partners, Bridget Dearing, was sitting in the other chair. “We thought about some different ways we could play up our elder status that we settled on rocking chairs. And that was a really beautiful thing because they're really comfortable”, said Kushner.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline Security came after workers couldn't get through. And they came, they walked around the car, they didn't have much to say, they took a lot of photographs, which we know they sent to Roanoke county police”, Kushner said. Then the police arrived. Kushner and her partners were asked to leave voluntarily and didn’t, so the police stepped in and tried to separate them from the car. It took hours for the police to figure out how to “attack their particular tableau.” Kushner’s colleague Allan Moore was the first to be removed. Kushner said, “They had to cut through a lot of rebar, chicken wire, they completely dismantled the doors, I think each of the doors he was fastened in and a couple of places using concrete and rebar. So they got him out to the paddy wagon.” Then they set to work on Kushner’s tableau. “ I had my arm in a pillar of concrete inside of a metal sleeve attached with a little clip,” said Kusner. Police utilized grinders, jackhammers, and more to dismantle the concrete that secured Kushner to the car, which Kusner believes took at least an hour. Kushner said, “Truly, every extra minute we were there felt like a real victory. If we can delay this, what they call progress on the pipeline was truly exactly what I wanted to do,” said Kushner. 

Kushners and her partners were arrested. “The hardest part of the whole day was the paddy wagon transport. We were transported in a paddy wagon in separate compartments,” Kushner said. Kushner and her partners were taken to Roanoke County Jail. When they arrived there, they were told to sit on benches in front of the Magistrate’s office. “We were guilty of constructing the passage of the road. We had three misdemeanors, each of us. And that was just part of the whole process. We knew that would happen,” Kushner said. From there, they were booked and processed.  

The next step in the protest against the pipeline involves the community. “Everyone is needed, and everyone has a role to do,” Kushner said. “Truly, what I did, and what we did is an emblem. We knew that stopping work for one day is very small and the ultimate scheme of this pipeline being constructed, but the people that we touched, the people who are connected to us, who then saw our stories, people who maybe were on the fence about what this is all about.”