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Protesters want convenience store to pipe down

Glass devices can be used for illegal drugs

POSTED: November 17, 2008 5:00 a.m.

About 250 protesters picketed a Dawson County convenience store Thursday, calling for store management to quit selling glass pipes that they claim are used for smoking illegal drugs.

Members of the Dawson County Meth Task Force, along with area high school students and church members, held placards and chanted in front of the Chevron store located on Ga. 53 at Ga 400.

Tony Wooten, a member of the task force, said it was a "peaceful protest" to call attention to what the store sold.

"We’ve wanted to do this for a long time," Wooten said.

Ricky Stepp, a pastor with Dawsonville’s Christ Fellowship Church, helped organize the protest with members of his youth group.

"I’m here to let people know I do not want this in my town," Stepp said.

Doug Malin, a 37-year-old recovering addict from Dawsonville, said he was "here in support of all these people."

"I want the people in this store to realize while they’re making a couple of bucks, they’re hurting so many people."

The group obtained a demonstration permit from the Dawson County Commission and received permission from the Georgia Department of Transportation to protest on a state right-of-way in front of the store, Wooten said.

The group already has convinced three other area stores to quit selling the pipes with a petition and threats of public protests.

The manager of the Chevron, however, said the store would not give in.

"Our customers don’t mind (the pipes) and want them here," store manager Justin Wittrock told the Dawson County News this week, prior to the protest. "We’ve been asking our customers since we learned about this (planned protest)."

The protest lasted two hours, from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday. Dawson County sheriff’s officials provided traffic control.

Wooten, who is also a deputy with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, said the agency has tried for several years to convince local merchants to quit selling the pipes, which are legal if used for smoking tobacco. He said the protest was part of the Meth Task Force’s mission to eradicate illegal drug use in the county.

"Getting the paraphernalia out of the stores is a step in the right direction," Wooten said.



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