Mountain Mobe: Ending another war

Poster art from second annual Stop the Kaboom Music and Art Festival  in Hedgesville, WV which starts today to bring awareness and raise funds to fight fracking and mountaintop removal. I first published this post on July 20, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.  I last updated it July 26 at 10:00 a.m.


The Mobe then

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement written primarily by Tom Hayden, then the Field Secretary of SDS, and later a California legislator and founding director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center. Back in 1967, the  National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam or The Mobe, was formed to evaluate the antiwar demonstrations and to chart a future course for the antiwar movement. 

And now

In Appalachia, another war is going on, a war by Big Coal on our mountains and our culture.   As  Junior Walk, 22, who lives in Whiteville, has said, 

Now is when we decide if we let the coal industry strip it all before deserting Appalachia or if we send them packing while we still have mountains.
Mountain Mobilization starts July 25

Starting July 25, folks will converge in southern West Virginia for a mobilization RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival) is hosting to prepare for the nonviolent direct action July 28 to shut down a strip mine.

While public outcries against the abuses of the fossil fuel industry rise and scientific evidence mounts, environmental protections are under attack by politicians backed by corporate cash. The Occupy movement highlighted what communities fighting Big Coal, Big Oil and Big Gas have long known -- when corporate interests dominate the political system, citizens must be the ones to restore democracy. In sharp contrast to Washington inaction, ordinary citizens around the country are turning to American traditions of direct intervention and civil disobedience.  Here's a video by Jordan Freeman.

Escalating protests on fossil fuels

From the historic March on Blair Mountain to the longest tree sit in the eastern US to recent sit-ins in Washington and coal barge and trucks blockades right here in WV, protests have escalated.  Last summer, hundreds were arrested in DC protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, andTexas activists are planning a blockade to directly halt construction of the pipeline July 27-9. Madeline Fitch locked herself to barrels to block the use of a fracking well in Ohio, June 26. Don’t Frack Ohio” brought together thousands to protest hydrofracking in Ohio Jun 14-17, and “Stop the Frack Attack” will mobilize thousands in DC July 28.   In August, thousands will converge on the statehouse in Montana to protest the continued expansion of western strip mines for exporting coal to China and elsewhere in Asia.

Mathew Louis-Rosenberg of RAMPS talks about Mountain Mobilization

Today I was "talking" via gchat with Mathew Louis-Rosenberg over in Sandstone, West Virginia, about the upcoming mountain mobilization. Since Peter Slavin wrote about him in 2010, Louis-Rosenbergin has moved on from Climate Ground Zero to volunteering at RAMPS.  He is still working with the Sludge Safety Project through Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW).   His mission remains the same: to lend his skills to the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining. He explains,
The fight against strip mining in Appalachia is connected to so many critical issues for our time. This struggle is about public health, human rights, environmental justice, national energy policy and the future of the planet. It's about corporate control of government, wealth inequality and Appalachia's right to a viable future. From every angle, strip mining and other extreme extraction is wrong.
The Mountain Mobilization is drawing attendees from withing Central Appalachia

Although Louis-Rosenberg is a native of West Saugerties, New York, he's been in WV since 2008.  Appalachian natives and those who have chosen to live in our region have joined together to supporting the mobilization.  I've already mentioned Junior Walk. 

  • There are folks coming from 13 towns and cities in WV (Blair, Charleston,  Danville, Fayetteville, Greenville, Huntington, Hurricane, Lookout, Marlington, Morgantown,  Rock Creek, Sandstone, Summerville) two in KY (Lexington and Berea), four in OH (Cleveland, Columbus, London, Springfield), five in TN (Kingsport, Knoxville, Lebanon, Memphis, Sevierville), two in VA (Blacksburg, Floyd), and four in NC (Asheville, New Bern, Raleigh, Weaversville).
The Mobilization is attracting antendees from a wide geographic area as well
  • DC will be well represented, as will MD (College Park, Frederick, Oxford, Upper Marlboro) and Northern and Central Virginia (Fredericksburg, Charlottesville.)
  • New York is sending a large contingent (Brooktondale, Fayettesville, Ithaca, New York City, Redwood, Scarsdale, Warwick, Woodside), as is PA (Benton, Bryn Athyn, Daisytown, Erie, Fairview, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsvburgh, Revere, Swathmore).  RAMPS and MJ members recently took part in a fracking protest. NJ will also be represented (Oldwick).
  • New England participants are coming from MA (Alston, Andover, Belmont, Boston, Somersville, Waltham), VT (Brattleboro, Burlington, East Calais) and CT (New Haven).                             
  • There are folks traveling from  AZ (Tempe), CA (Berkeley and San Francisco), CO (Boulder)  IN (Bloomington) ,MO(St. Louis), MS (Starkville), MT (Missoula), , NJ , NM (Santa Fe),,  OR (Bandon), TX (Austin), UT (Castle Valley, Salt Lake City) and WA (Port Townsend).          
  • There is even a registrant from China.
Native West Virginian Junior Walk on MTR

 I've already mentioned Junior Walk at the top of this post.  He wrote about mtr and the coal industry for  Aurora Lights's Journey Up Coal River map project when he was twenty.  Reading Walk's account of how he left his job working for Massey and then a security job at a mtr site  made me recall two TMK security guards who quit their jobs after being assigned to harass protesters engaged in a tree-sit in the Coal River Valley:
I had no idea how to go about applying for college, or scholarships, grants, or any of that stuff seeing as how I was the first person in my family that was even remotely interested in going to school, so I didn’t get to go. I did what a lot of folks do around here when they get out of high school and find themselves jobless. I went to work for Massey Energy, I worked at the Elk Run preparation plant in Sylvester for almost 6 months. I knew I couldn’t do that for long, and I had to quit.

After a year or so of going from minimum wage job to minimum wage job a family friend offered me a job as a security guard at a mountaintop removal site. While working there I felt like a horrible person for being even the smallest part in the machine that was tearing down that mountain and poisoning the community at the bottom. So I contacted Coal River Mountain Watch and started volunteering with them, I would write articles for their newsletter anonymously while I was on the job as a security guard. I’d take my desktop computer, load it into the passenger seat of my car and run an extension cord to the power box. They then offered me a job as the office manager at Coal River Mountain Watch, so that’s where I am today.
Walk grew up right in the Coal River Valley and went to Marsh Fork Elementary School:
...[Y]es the same Marsh Fork that’s situated beside of a coal preparation plant and in the looming shadow of a 2.8 billion gallon coal sludge impoundment. I went to Marsh Fork High School the last year that it was open, they closed it down and it promptly burned to the ground like a lot of abandoned buildings in this area do.  I then had to ride a bus for an hour to and from school every day, but that’s all too common in poor communities where school consolidation is business as usual.
He explains why he works for Coal River Mountain Watch and opposes the coal industry:
I think the Coal River Valley is one of the most amazing places on this earth, and I’d never want to move away from here. Sadly though it’s also poverty stricken and highly exploited by outside extractive industries.  I think if the Coal River Valley were prosperous it wouldn’t look all that different, but it would certainly have a better feel to it, a better climate if you will. Folks would be self sufficient and not have to rely on outside corporations to use them just so they could feed their families. I’m working with Coal River Mountain Watch now to do my part in ending the tyranny of the coal industry by speaking out and trying to educate the general public about what’s going on here.  The coal industry is the main barrier to accomplishing what I would like to accomplish in making this community sustainable, and making sure folks around here educate themselves so they don’t get exploited again.