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Protesters flock to uptown for Duke Energy shareholders meeting

Some call for CEO Jim Rogers to be ousted

Harry Phillips, kneeling, and Gary Phillips attend a protest outside Duke Energy Corp.'s annual shareholder meeting May 5, 2011. Gary Phillips, dressed as the mascot for the board game Monopoly, at one point took to singing his complaints on South Church Street in uptown Charlotte. Photo by Scott Baughman

Duke Energy Corp. shareholders might need more coal or they might need no more coal.

Dueling groups of protesters chanted for both at demonstrations today on South Church Street outside the utility company’s annual shareholders meeting in Charlotte.

Both groups were calling for CEO Jim Rogers’ head.

“We are concerned Jim Rogers is acting like a riverboat gambler instead of a conservative businessman,” Cynthia Brown, of environmentalist group NCWARN, said. “He is stuck in the 1970s attitudes toward nuclear plants.”

Environmental advocates who were protesting, and numbered about 35, said they are opposed to Duke’s use of nuclear, coal or petroleum-based power sources.

A similarly sized group appeared to counterprotest, chanting “Drill, baby, drill” and calling for the use of more coal.

Then there were those with other gripes.

“I’m not even here to protest about energy,” Jim Brewer said. “We want Jim Rogers gone because of the $10 million in taxpayer subsidized money he gave to the Democratic National Convention. That’s our money, not his.”

Chants and signs aside, Cindy Daugherty of FreedomWorks, a conservative group that promotes lower taxes and less government, was ready to oppose Rogers through another means.

“Our hope is the board will hear the people,” Daugherty said. “We are not being silent anymore. If we could buy our energy somewhere else we would.”

Duke representatives stood in front Duke Energy’s headquarters and tried to make statements to the media in defense of eco-friendly projects.

“We have many green initiatives, and our Cliffside station renovation in Rutherford County is cutting many emissions,” Duke Energy spokesman and shareholder host Tom Williams said. “Carbon emissions are flat at the Cliffside project …”

But before Williams could finish, he was interrupted by a singing protester, dressed as the mascot for the board game Monopoly.

“We love white men in white shirts and we love a monopoly,” Gary Phillips sang, trying to drown out Williams.

Chaos reigned in uptown as yet another group of protestors began chanting “We need coal” all while Williams struggled to be heard above the din of chants and bullhorns.

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