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Climate Activists Protest At Sen. Thom Tillis' North Carolina Home After Huntersville Gas Spill

NC Sen. Thom Tillis visits Fort Bragg
Brian Godette
U.S. Army Reserve
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis visits with U.S. Army Reserve senior command staff to discuss benefits, capabilities and needs of the Army Reserve at U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters, Fort Bragg, N.C., April 8, 2015. The first-term Republican senator returns home to North Carolina and to Fort Bragg after a week in the Middle East, where he met with key leaders and service members. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Brian Godette/released)

Climate activists gathered in downtown Huntersville Sunday afternoon and later staged an overnight protest at the nearby home of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. Members of Sunrise Movement NC said they want Tillis and other officials to push for more climate-friendly infrastructure investments and take action against Colonial Pipeline over a massive August 2020 gasoline spill in Huntersville.

The Colonial spill leaked at least 1.2 million gallons of gasoline from a section of the pipeline in a nature preserve east of downtown Huntersville. It was the largest gasoline spill in North Carolina history and one of the largest in the U.S.

"Our primary goal is to raise more awareness across the state and nationally about the pipeline spill," said Ashley McDermott, a spokesperson for the demonstrators. She said Tillis lives 10 miles from the spill "and has done nothing about the spill except push for more pipelines."

McDermott said they're also calling on President Biden to stop negotiating with Tillis and other Republicans and push for a comprehensive investment in infrastructure that addresses climate change.

"We need a really big, bold investment in climate right now, and that means no more pipelines," she said.

The protesters are part of the national Sunrise Movement of students and people in their 20s and 30s focused on stopping climate change.

Federal officials investigating the Colonial leak say the entire 5,500-mile pipeline is at risk of similar spills. Colonial is under scrutiny by both federal pipeline regulators and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Sunday's events started with a rally at Veterans Park in Huntersville that included speeches and a drumline. Some protesters then moved to Tillis' house in Huntersville, where they camped for 13 hours before leaving Monday morning.

Tills has not publicly responded to the protesters.

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David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including and The Charlotte Observer.
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