"What We Do to the Land, We Do to the People"-- May 24 West Virginia Direct Actions Against MTR

Photo  shows protest at coal barge in the Kanawha River. 

Photo of  Kayford Mountain protest blocking the haul road for the Republic Energy mine.

Both are c. RAMPs and  Mountain Justice and used by permission. You can find  lots more photos at Flickr.  The following  entry was originally posted at 11:45 am and updated throughout the day.


Mountain Justice, RAMPS disrupt coal transport at two locations in upper Kanawha Valley

On Thursday, May 24, As part of the   Mountain Justice Summer Action Camp taking place at the Appalachian South Folklife Center near Pipestem, WV, five members of Mountain Justice and

RAMPS boarded a coal barge to protest the destruction of mountains in West Virginia through Mountaintop removal, while other members and their fellow concerned activists blocked coal transport at approximately 10 a.m. .

Location one:  Chelyan protesters block coal barge shipment

Catherine-Ann MacDougal, 24, of Rock Creek, WV, joined by Ricki Draper, 21, of Greensboro, NC Nathan Joseph, 23, of New Orleans, LA, Rebecca Loeb, 24, of Maynard, MA and Jacob Mack-Boll, 20, Lancaster, PA, boarded a coal barge on the Kanawha River near Cheleyan, West Virginia.

Joseph, Loeb and MacDougal locked  themselves on the barge beside Kanawa River Terminal's Quincy Dock , while  Draper and Mack-Boll boarded and served as worker liaisons.  The group tried to raise a large banner that read “Coal leaves, cancer stays” before being stopped by company workers. They immobilized the barge for  three hours before police removed them at about  1:00 pm.

Police charged Joseph, Loeb and MacDougal with trespass after being asked to leave and obstruction, both misdemeanors.  They charged Draper and Mack-Boll with trespass after being  asked to leave. All five were arrested on a $10,000 bail with an option of $1,000 surety bond. Loeb and MacDougal intend to continue their protest  stay in jail until their court dates.  The other three were released at around 5:00 p.m. Draper stated,
I am incredibly proud to stand today with the century-long Appalachian resistance against the devastating effects of the coal industry. I have broken the law because the legal system is broken. I have broken the law because mountaintop removal is destroying our health, our mountains, and our futures. I have broken the law because the destruction of our landbase, which is our endowment, is legal.
Barge protesters come from near and far

Catherine Ann MacDougal of Rock Creek, had already engaged in the Bee Tree Hollow Tree Sit in Coal River Valley for thirty days during July and August 2011.

Rebecca  Loeb explained her reason for traveling from NC to take part in the protest: “...the viability and health of mountain communities are being destroyed by mountaintop removal—the coal and the profits are shipped away, leaving disease and destruction in their wake.”

Joseph, who traveled from New Orleans, LA, added, “The coal industry's continued disregard for the well-being of Appalachian communities is connected to the struggles of other North American extraction communities. Strip mining tar sands for low-quality oil, fracking for dirty gas and deep sea oil drilling are signs we are scraping the bottom of the barrel. The extraction, transport, processing and combustion of these fuels all. 

Location two:  Kayford Mountain protestors block coal haul road

At Kayford Mountain, a major mountaintop removal coal mining site, dozens obstructed access to the haul road at Republic Energy mine.  Kayford is home to Larry Gibson, founder of Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, who traces his family's life at Stanley Heirs Camp there back to the 1700s. 
According to his website, Larry and his family:
used to live on the lowest lying part of the mountain, and looked "up" to the mountain peaks that surrounded them. Since 1986, the slow motion destruction of Kayford Mountain has been continuous -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Eighteen years after the "mountain top removal" project began, Larry Gibson now occupies the highest point of land around; he is enveloped more than 7,500 acres of destruction of what was previously a forested mountain range.
 During a half hour, protesters stopped nine trucks: seven leaving the mine and two entering.  No arrests were made. Protesters report seeing officials with the EPA, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Geologic Survey drive past.

Alaskan  joins the Kayford protest

Kirby Spangler of Palmer, AK, resists surface mining in south central Alaska.  He travelled to WV to express solidarity, saying
We're going to spend the afternoon helping out at Stanley Heirs Park, trying to make life a little easier for Larry and other folks who live near mountaintop removal and face intimidation [and observed] Some of the truck drivers gave friendly honks of their horns.
Federal and state officials make surprise visit to Kayford 

According to Spangler and  Gibson,  officials with the WV Department of Environmental Protection, federal Environmental Protection Agency, and United States Geological Survey made an unscheduled visit. They drove past the blocked haul road to the top of the mountain and observed  the mountaintop removal operation. Following the action's conclusion, Gibson, in an impromptu meeting with the visitors, told the EPA officials, "If the DEP did its job, you wouldn't need to be here,” describing his experience of living next to mountaintop removal, including the acts of violence and vandalism targeting him and his property.

Gibson says he mourns the mono-economy of coal mining forces many young people to leave the state in search of better opportunities elsewhere:  "Our biggest export in this state besides coal is our young people.”

Virginia  native Junior Walk supports the protests

While the coal industry would depict opposition to mountaintop removal as being the work of outsiders, many native West Virginians besides Gibson are outraged by the practice. Junior Walk, a native of southern West Virginia who now lives in Whitesville explains,
For the past 150 years the coal industry has been pillaging this place and taking everything, leaving nothing but death and destruction in their wake.[about today's actions, he adds,] I am personally very thankful to these young folks who ain't from around here necessarily who decided to put their freedom and bodies on the line to stop this vicious cycle, even if it is just for one day..."
Walk, one of Earth Island Institute's 2011 Brower Youth Award Winners was arrested that year while serving as direct support for the Bee Tree Hollow Tree Sit. He helped "get the tree sit up in the trees, haul the water and things, and the platform up."  About today's protest, he said, "I would love to see some of my native West Virginia brothers and sisters stand up and tell this industry they can't do this anymore.”

So does retired army nurse  Marylin Mullins

Marylin Mullins, a retired army nurse and native West Virginian who lives in Coolridge, WV is an organizer of Women United to End Mountaintop Removal.  She plans to shave her head with others in front of the State Capitol May 28 in mourning for the mountains.

Mullins is alarmed by health studies on the impacts of coal mining including the one in 2011 co-authored by Dr. Michael Hendryx, a researcher at West Virginia University, linked mountaintop removal mining  to increased community cancer risk, based on data from 773 adults in door-to-door interviews, which found self-reported cancer rates twice as in  mining versus the non-mining areas after controlling for age, sex, smoking, occupational history, and family cancer history.  She says,
Clean water and air is a human right. My electricity is not worth my human rights being violated–I’ll live with the lights off. I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the beauty of West Virginia. We’re tired of the corporations lording over us, and no one is hearing our voices, so it’s time to take it further than talking.
Today's actions build on non-violent resistance to mountaintop removal in the region

Central Appalachia had a long history actions.  Earlier this month protesters chastised Swiss firm UBS at its branches for coal investments on May Day as part of Occupy Mountains! Then on May 3, activists from Greenpeace, RAMPS, Katuah Earth First!, Mountain Justice and Keepers of the Mountains Foundation blocked a coal train en route to the Marshall Steam Station, a Duke Energy coal-fired power plant.

Gabe Wisniewsk, Coal Campaign Director for Greenpeace supported today's action, issuing the following statement:
For mountain communities that are at risk of losing their homes, radical action may be the only way to stop the destructive practice of mountaintop removal threatening their health and survival. We stand behind these communities and are renewed and inspired by their commitment and today’s heroic actions.

The environmental and health risks of mountaintop removal are too serious to be ignored any longer. Companies like Republic Energy must stop this dangerous practice, and utilities like Duke Energy should stop buying mountaintop removal coal.”
Appalachia Rising will return to DC June 6

Appalachia Rising, the confederation which sparked 115 arrests in front of the White House in September 2010 will rally at the Upper Senate Park from 11 am to 11:45 am on June 6 to demand that Congress take action to
  • end mountaintop removal coal mining and destructive coal technologies
  • foster a sincere, public discussion about the urgent need for a sustainable economic transition for coal workers and mountain communities;  and
  • protect our drinking water by passing the Clean Water Protection Act.
It's organizers also invite you to take action at home at a local rallies and events across Appalachia and across the United States or "take just a single minute to call-in to support our action in Washington DC."