You are hereTruthout: Dissent Continues One Year After BP Disaster

Truthout: Dissent Continues One Year After BP Disaster

April 22, 2011- Gulf Coast resident Cherri Foytlin still can't get used to being called an activist. "A year ago, I was just a mom trying to protect my kids," she says. "But I've embraced my new responsibilities respectfully and proudly."

Foytlin marked the one-year anniversary of the BP oil disaster by walking 1,243 miles from New Orleans to Washington, DC to remind the country that even though the Obama administration and BP claim that life in the Gulf is back to normal, facts on the ground prove otherwise. She says people are experiencing everything from kidney damage to skin lesions, wildlife is dying, the economic devastation continues and the ecosystem has forever been damaged.

Foytlinarrived in DCon April 14 after 34 days of rainstorms, heat exhaustion, tornadoes and countless blisters. She says it was worth it.

"I've met so many people along the way," she says. "Fisherman showed me crabs and shrimps with burn holes in them. I saw fish with no eyes. One man said, 'I don't understand. Why would you care about us?' And he starts tearing up. At that point, I knew that this was about the people. I've been carrying them with me the whole time and sharing their stories."

A mother of six whose husband lost his oil rig job after the disaster, Foytlin made international headlines in July 2010 after heremotional pleato President Obama aired live on CNN. "I am asking you, sir, as a patriot and as an honorable person, to come and hear our stories and hear the pain that we are in. We are crying out to you. Louisiana is crying out to you. We need your help."

The people are still crying for help, but Foytlin says politicians and the national media aren't listening. Over the course of her journey, she was interviewed by several local and international outlets, but never heard from one national reporter. "We get more attention from the BBC and Al Jazeera English than CNN, ABC or NBC," she says. "The national media bow down to the corporations. I hate to insult them, but the free press no longer exists. They have moved on. How many people have to die before they start telling the truth?"

Foytlin and other Gulf Coast residents took part in a number of rallies and meetings with politicians and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to demand health care resources for the people of the Gulf, clean energy and green jobs. They also focused on the health and environmental effects of chemical dispersants.

"All waters are connected," says Foytlin. "If we let one group suffer, we can guarantee it will spill over to other groups, and that's not right. I have to give my kids a better world. It has to be about more than greed and profit. I felt like they heard us, but reports in the national news are saying that everything is okay, so it's a double-edged sword."



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