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Protest targets pipe sales

Merchant not swayed by picketers

POSTED: November 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo/Michele Hester/

Protesters, from left, Ashally Collett, Lisa Collett, Julie Mills and Holly Mills were among a crowd of more than 200 who picketed a Dawson County convenience store Thursday. Despite pleas to stop, the store continues to sell glass pipes that could be used for smoking illegal drugs.

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Doug Nadin has been clean for more than two years.

  

A recovering drug addict, the 37-year-old Dawsonville man said he was blessed to find God and a way out of the lifestyle that consumed him for decades.

  

“From the first day I smoked pot, I did some kind of drug — pot, pills, LSD, you name it — every day for the next 20 years,” he said Thursday night as he stood outside a Dawson County convenience store with about 250 other protesters.

  

The group picketed the Chevron at Ga. 53 and Ga 400, calling for management to quit selling glass pipes 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.

  

While the store owner seemed unfazed — and the pipes are still available — other early returns were promising.

  

Since the protest, the Meth Task Force has received telephone calls and e-mails from people wanting to join the fight.

  

“The owner of 75 convenience stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin read about our effort to remove drug paraphernalia from convenience stores in our area from National Petroleum News Web site,” said Nancy Stites, director of Family Connection.

  

Family Connection is a community partner with the meth task force, providing administrative support to the volunteer organization.

  

“He just called to let us know he was taking the same initiative and asked what products we were asking them to remove.”

  

The Meth Task Force, at this time, has not planned another protest.

As for Thursday’s demonstration, task force member Tony Wooten said it was “peaceful.”

  

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

  

Ricky Stepp, pastor at The Father’s House Christ Fellowship Church, protested alongside youth from several church groups.

  

“We love you, but we love our kids more,” he said. “Quit hurting our kids.”

  

Dawson County High School student Brent Burks was part of the initial group of students that worked with the Meth Task Force to help organize the protest.

Earlier this fall, Burks and his father discovered the pipes could be bought at local stores.

  

“The kids at school know what the pipes are for,” Burks said.

  

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 has convinced four other area stores to quit selling the pipes with a petition and threats of public protests.

  

But store owner Rahul Galini said his business has not suffered as a result of the protest.

  

“We’re the busiest store in Dawson County,” he said. “Our business has actually increased.

  

Galini, a Forsyth County resident, also said the store would not give in.

  

“Our customers are fine with us selling them,” he said, watching the protest from the store parking lot.

  

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

  

Wooten, who is also an officer with the 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 task force’s mission to snuff out illegal drug use in the county.

  

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

  

Nadin said the store needs to think about the lives affected by drug addiction.

  

“I was blessed to have God in my life to help me through my addiction, but some people don’t have that,” he said.

  

“If they’re trying to get off the drugs, the last thing they need to see is the temptation when they go in a store to pay for a tank of gas.”

  

Stephen Gurr of DCN regional staff contributed to the report.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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