Anti-fracking protesters march down Main and tell their stories

Courtney Kerrigan

KentWired Video

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Drivers honked their horns in support as more than 75 people marched in the snow and wind along Main Street’s sidewalk in protest of hydraulic fracturing Saturday.

Residents of Portage, Summit, Mahoning and Medina counties, among others, banned together to march from the Kent Stage to the Rock on Kent State’s front campus. They held signs reading “You can’t drink money” and “No fracking way” while chanting “Stop fracking now!”

Hiram Township resident Gwen Fischer is a member of Concerned Citizens Ohio, the group that spent a month organizing the event. She heard about the issues surrounding fracking and began researching the process.

“Ultimately it is massive industrialization of our urban and rural area,” she said. “A few people will get rich and a lot of people will suffer.”

Marchers returned to the Kent Stage for refreshments and listened to speakers tell their stories.

Among them was Coitsville resident Jamie Frederick. After a company began drilling on her neighbor’s property, she noticed her health began deteriorating.

“My water was the really dangerous kind that looks fine and smells fine, so you drink it, and I drank it for a long time,” she said. “It always tasted like metal but we were told it was high in iron and we thought it was safe.”

Soon after, Frederick had her gall bladder removed and underwent five surgeries because of an intestinal infection that ate through to her skin.

She said she also experienced violent episodes of vomiting, intense abdominal pain, elevated liver and kidney numbers, kidney infections, rapid heart beats and palpitations, trouble breathing, muscle tremors and weakness, circulation problems, dizziness and disorientation, hair loss and rashes on her skin.

Her home was once valued at $125,000. It is now worth nothing.

“We suffer with air that is not safe to breathe; we suffer with water that is not safe to drink,” she said. “… We have to continue to educate and force them to tell the truth with every chance we get. Truckloads of money are being poured into slimy industry front groups who have the audacity to claim to be grass roots.”

Kent State students Steve Larson, senior Spanish major and geography and Latin American studies minor, and Karch Marhofer, senior general studies major, are a part of Occupy Kent and were also marching down Main Street Saturday. They believe fracking is an attack on Ohio’s abundant water source.

“The fact that we’ve approached fracking so hastily is evident that we’re taking that resource for granted,” Marhofer said.

Retired NEOMED neurobiology professor Dr. Ted Voneida has been working against fracking for more than three years and spoke at the Kent Stage about the tremendous amounts of acreage that companies like Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy have taken from Ohio.

To him, Ohio residents’ constitutional rights of “health, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have been taken away by the state of Ohio.

“We here in Ohio have been invaded, not by a foreign country or terrorists from outside but from companies right here in the United States,” he said.

Contact Courtney Kerrigan at [email protected].