Non-violent activists arrested and beaten for action to stop mountaintop removal coal mining

Source: RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival)

Twenty people were arrested and are currently jailed in West Virginia for a courageous act of non-violent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal mining last weekend.  These folks are currently under a bond of $25,000 per person, and this excessively high bond means that the protestors cannot be released until the funds are raised to bail them out.  We do not have anything close to this amount of money, so we need your help.

Please donate to help raise bail for these activists

Last week, as part of a massive “Mountain Mobilization” organized by RAMPS – Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, folks walked onto Patriot Coal’s Hobet mountaintop removal mine as a non-violent protest against this form of coal mining, where coal companies blast the tops off the Appalachian Mountains, destroying the forests and every living thing on the mountain.  Over 500 mountains in Appalachia have already been flattened by this form of mining.  Coal companies dump enormous amounts of mining waste rock and debris into precious headwater mountain streams in mountaintop removal, and the landscape is permanently altered.

Burning coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide is the leading contributor to global warming.

Earlier this summer, in the midst of the two-week heat wave that roasted much of the country, West Virginia was blasted by a derecho – a straight line wind of near-hurricane force that toppled trees and power lines, leaving some West Virginians without power for up to 14 days.  Check out the scary and crazy pictures of the derecho as it formed over Chicago on June 29.

With the record heat wave this summer and the forest fires in Colorado, it is worrisome to contemplate what may lie ahead for all of us as the earth heats up.  To get an idea what may happen, its important to consider the positive feedback mechanisms of climate change.

For example, as the earth’s temperature increases, forests dry out and burn, leading to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  That’s a positive feedback loop, and there are many of them in global warming.  Watch this short 11-minute animated film, which I believe is the best explanation of the feedbak mechanisms that may be the greatest danger of global warming.  This film by Leo Murray is excellent and concise, and I highly recommend it.

We need to act urgently to address climate change, and these young activists in West Virginia aren’t just sitting on their hands worrying about the problem – they are taking action.

We need donations now to get these 20 people out of jail in WV for their acts of civil disobedience in shutting down a mountaintop removal mine site.

Please help spread the word! Below is a press release from RAMPS: 

Donate now, and share with your friends!

Twenty arrested at Hobet mine, held on $500,000 combined bail

Police allow extensive harassment of protesters

Barboursville, WV – More than 50 people affiliated with the R.A.M.P.S. Campaign stopped mining work for three hours on Patriot Coal’s Hobet mine in Lincoln County yesterday, the largest number of people ever to disrupt an active mountaintop removal site.  Protesters walked onto the Hobet 45 mining complex with banners reading: “Restore our mountains; re-employ our miners” and “Coal Leaves; Cancer Stays.”  Twenty people were arrested and are being held on bail of $25,000 each at the Western Regional Jail.  Multiple arrestees, including 20-year-old Dustin Steele of Matewan, W.Va., were reportedly beaten by authorities in custody. R.A.M.P.S. and supporters are calling for an immediate reduction in bail and the immediate transfer of Dustin Steele to a hospital to document and treat his injuries.

The remainder of the demonstrators walked off the site when asked to leave by police. Authorities prevented their transport vehicles from driving down the public road to pick them up, forcing them to walk for four hours along the side of Mud River Road while allowing pro-coal demonstrators to harass them. After reuniting with their transport vehicles, they were barricaded on the road for an hour and a half by a blockade of miners in pickup trucks.  A separate convoy of vehicles attempting to pick up demonstrators was blocked in by pro-coal demonstrators at a gas station where three individuals were pepper-sprayed.  Pro-coal demonstrators were not stopped by police in their multiple attempts to block public roads.

“The blatant cooperation between law enforcement and the coal industry makes me embarrassed as a West Virginian. This brutality and disregard for safety is one of the clearest examples of the hold the coal industry has on the state government,” said Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va.

Earlier in the day, about 30 people gathered at the Kanawha State Forest. They were met by about 60 counter-protesters before leaving to join the protest, but the tone turned non-confrontational as one miner struck up a lengthy dialogue with a local protester over the economic future of the region. Police arrested one activist who they accused of lying to them about not having identification. The only identification on him was a debit card–not a valid form of ID.  After several hours, he was released with a ticket on the side of Rt. 94 far from any town and forced to hitchhike because police had confiscated his cell phone and debit card. An independent journalist was also arrested for photographing the incident.

Recent studies have found a 42 percent increase in risk of birth defects

around strip mines, and miners who spend at least 20 years as strip-mine drillers have a 61 percent chance of contracting silicosis, a virulent form of black lung.

“The coal companies are poisoning our water and air, and they’re treating the workers no better than the land – fighting workplace health and safety protections to get the most out of labor as they can,” said Junior Walk of Whitesville, W.Va.

As coal production declines, protesters are concerned that the region will be left with illness and environmental devastation as the industry pulls out of the region and companies file for bankruptcy to shed legacy costs <>.

Patriot Coal is currently going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which union contracts and pensions could be on the chopping block.  Both UMWA pensions and the state’s Special Reclamation Fund are funded through a per-ton tax on coal.  With Central Appalachian coal production in the middle of a projected six-year, 50 percent decline <>,this funding stream is increasingly unsustainable.  Protesters are calling on the coal industry and government to both to honor commitments to retired workers and to restore the land.

“Coal companies must employ their surface mine workers in reclaiming all disturbed land to the highest standards.  Instead of arguing about the ‘war on coal,’ political leaders should immediately allocate funds to retrain and re-employ laid off miners to secure a healthy future for the families of this region,” said R.A.M.P.S. spokesperson Mathew Louis-Rosenberg.

Appalachian communities have a long, proud history of confronting the coal industry’s exploitive practices with direct civil disobedience. R.A.M.P.S. and others have returned to this tradition to eliminate strip mining once and for all. For R.A.M.P.S., this has included a range of actions since 2011, from tree-sits to blockades of coal trucks.

Saturday’s action was just one part of this summer’s National Uprising Against Extraction<>, to fight oppressive extractive industries and demand a transition to a sustainable economy.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Coal, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Mining, Mountaintop Removal, Political Repression, Pollution, Water

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