Protest brings hundreds to coalfields
by Joanie Newman
Thirty-one protesters and one coal miner were placed under arrest June 23 during an anti-mountaintop mining protest at a Massey Energy site on the border of Boone and Raleigh counties.
This is just one in a series of civil
disobedience rallies in protest to the practice of mountaintop removal mining practices in southern West Virginia.
As many as 200 people on both sides of the issue turned out for the noon protest.
A group of mining supporters, dressed in coalmining uniforms, barricaded the road that protesters had originally planned to use to get access Massey Energy property.
The site is a few hundred feet from Marsh Fork Elementary, which has been a focus for previous protests.
The Massey Energy site houses a coal slurry impoundment, built years after the elementary school, that holds more than 2.8 billion gallons of sludge. On record as the Shumate Coal Refuse Disposal Facility, it is classified as a Class C Dam by the Department of Environmental Protection.
Class C dams are those dams located where failure may cause a loss of human life or serious damage to homes, industrial and commercial buildings, important public utilities, primary highways or main haul roads. This classification must be used if failure would cause possible loss of human life, according to the DEP Division of Mining and Reclamation.
Actress Daryl Hannah, and NASA
scientist James Hansen, who had joined protesters were both arrested and charged with obstructing and impeding the flow of traffic after they joined others in a sit-down protest on W.Va. 3 in front of the Goals Coal Operation, according to a spokesperson with the West Virginia State Police Whitesville Detachment.
During Hannahs arrest, a member of the crowd asked her if it had been worth it and her response was, Absolutely.
One woman, identified by authorities as the wife of a Massey coalmining employee, also was arrested and charged with battery after she allegedly punched a protester, according to authorities.
The protester has been identified as former Goldman Environmental Prize winner and Co-Director of Coal River Mountain Watch Julia Bonds.
The Coal River Mountain Watch group organized the event, with a broad range of speakers, including Ken Hechler, a former representative in the U.S. House of Delegates and a former White House assistant to President Harry S. Truman.
Hansen, Hannah and most of the other protesters were processed at the Whitesville State Police Detachment.
Organizers of the days protests waited until all 32 individuals had been processed before packing up their Theres No Such Thing As Clean Coal t-shirts and banners.
Several people still carried signs they had used during the protest to greet those who were cited for the days civil disobedience. Protesters held signs and wore clothing with slogans of Friends of the Mountains, and Stop Mountaintop Mining.
All 32 protesters will be arraigned in the Magistrate Court of Raleigh County.
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