UVA students join March on Mansion protest

Maria DeHart (round sunglasses) marches on towards the Governor’s Mansion. 

Photo Courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography Maria DeHart (round sunglasses) marches on towards the Governor’s Mansion. Photo Courtesy of Dave Parrish Photography

Four “brides” decked out in distressed wedding gowns joined the March on the Mansion demonstration July 23 to protest Governor Terry McAuliffe’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

UVA third-year Maria DeHart was one of four women sporting glitzy wedding dresses that were caked in debris, torn and accessorized with chains. They walked in unison with a gangly depiction of a skeleton that was labeled as McAuliffe.

“There were four brides performing a ‘marriage’ with a puppet of McAuliffe,” says DeHart. “My costume represented the coal industry, and the other brides were oil, natural gas and pipelines.”

Over the past two semesters, art students teamed up with student leaders in environmental justice groups at Virginia Commonwealth University to form the Trillium collective, which aims to combine creative arts with environmental and social justice strategies. The collective created the mobile art demonstration.

“The piece that I was a part of was called the ‘Toxic Marriage,’ and it aimed to show the toxic/corrupt relationship between Governor McAuliffe and the fossil fuel industry in Virginia,” DeHart tells C-VILLE.

More than 600 protesters demanded that McAuliffe recognize the welfare of civilian lives over the interests of the Virginian fossil fuel industry.

DeHart attended the protest as a member of both UVA’s Climate Action Society and the statewide college-run group Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

“It was really, really hot in that dress but it was so worth it,” she says. “Our outfits attracted so much attention, and the image of us walking in formation was very powerful.”

DeHart is no stranger to environmental demonstrations—one of which led to her arrest. But she says her arrest contributed to her fervor, and actually sparked her interest in attending the protest.

DeHart, who says she didn’t receive any animosity from counter-protesters, hopes the governor will have a change of heart.

“The governor did not respond to our message to him, but he definitely heard us and knows who we are,” she says. —Melissa Angell