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Protesters Rally 1 Month After Sabal Trail Shooter’s Death

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Along with protesting the Sabal Trail Pipeline on Monday, a group of about eight demonstrators in Marion County voiced their anger at the death of James Marker.

Marker, 66, was accused of shooting at the pipeline before leading police in a car chase through Citrus County on Feb. 26. He was killed by Citrus County deputies after pointing a high-powered rifle at them, according to a police report.

About a month later, protesters stood outside the Dunnellon Compressor Station, on State Road 200 where constriction on the pipeline is ongoing near Dunnellon, holding signs reading “Solar panels not pipelines” and “we are here to protect.”

A Florida Law Enforcement spokesperson said they are investigating the incident regarding Marker’s death, but had no further information.

The three police officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave due to Citrus County Sheriff’s Office policy, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement press release.

Peter Ackerman, a protester who helped organize the demonstration, said although he didn’t know Marker, he doesn’t believe the man, who Ackerman said was a veteran, should have been killed.

Protesters stand on the side of State Road 200 in front of the Dunnellon Compressor Station, a construction site for the Sabal Trail Pipeline in Marion County. The group of about eight protesters were defending James Marker, who was killed by police on Feb. 26 for shooting at the pipeline, leading law enforcement on a car chase and then brandishing his weapon. (Katelyn Newberg/WUFT News)

“It’s important to remember and even honor somebody who looked into their heart and came up with their own strategy to end what they saw as a great threat,” Ackerman said. “We wanted to control the message that this man was a human being.”

Ackerman said the Sabal Trail Resistance Group held a memorial for Marker on Sunday. He said Marker was not part of the protest organization.

Sabal Trail, being constructed by Spectra Energy Partners, NextEra Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy, is aware of the incident which resulted in Marker’s death, wrote Andrea Grover, a spokesperson for the company, in an email.

“No STT workforce was working in the area at the time of the event,” she said. “Our top priority is for the safety of the community and our employees.”

The pipeline is set to be operational by June 2017, she said. The Dunnellon Compressor Station, however, is part of the 2020 phase of construction and will be completed by then.

Grover said the Pipeline met with landowners and community members while planning the project. She said while some raised concerns over the pipeline, they were addressed.

“Sabal Trail feels it has developed a balanced plan for the route, construction techniques, and measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts,” she said.

Kaithleen Hernandez, a junior at Florida International University, said she attended the protest Monday to stand against the construction of the pipeline and Marker’s death.

“It seems like he was someone who was very, very passionate,” said the 21-year-old. “At the end of the day it’s about him as a human being.”

Hernandez said the response from passing cars during the protest was positive.

“People here really, really treasure what is offered by the river,” she said, referring to the Withlacoochee River, located near the construction site. “We all share the fact that we need water to survive.

Panagioti Tsolkas, who also helped organize the demonstration, said the group wanted to draw attention to the Dunnellon site of the pipeline because of the wetland and scrub habitat that would be affected.

“We wanted to come here and show the pipeline company and the people that live in this area that we’re not afraid,” Tsolkas said.

He said local law enforcement should not stand up for the pipeline.

“You can’t really divorce and separate the police and the pipeline,” he said. “The police are protecting it.”

Ackerman said in the wake of Maker’s death and ongoing protests, he would like to see the pipeline’s construction halted completely.

“We are more interested in the future,” he said. “I would like to see the permits revoked.”

About Katelyn Newberg

Katelyn Newberg is a reporter for WUFT news. She can be reached at knewberg@ufl.edu, on her cell phone at 407-766-2820 or on Twitter @k_newberg.

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