Escalating the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal
On Saturday, July 28th, twenty activists were arrested for taking a courageous stand against the surface mining practice known as mountain top removal (MTR). Approximately 50 activists walked on to the Hobet Mine in Central West Virginia, the largest surface mine in the state, and shut down mining operations for the day with a series of technical lock downs, banner drops and tree sits. The action was the culmination of 4 days of workshops and trainings known as the Mountain Mobilization. This first-of-its-kind mass action at a West Virginia coal mine was organized by the awesome folks of Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS).
The action went largely as planned, but the response by the police and pro-coal counter demonstrators, however predictable, were still alarming. WV state troopers responded quickly and with very little negotiation. Threats, physical and verbal abuse and refusal to protect protesters from throngs of livid miners were but some of the ways in which our comrades were treated that day.
After being refused access to the mine site, rescue vehicles had to wait for the protesters to make a grueling 12 mile hike down from the site. All the while being verbally assaulted, spit on, hit with stick and rocks, as well as being driven at by fast
moving ATVs and trucks. To top it off the police were allowing Friends of Coal trucks through their barricade, presumably to escalate the intimidation of the 30 or so protesters that decided to leave. There was a moment of sweet irony when FOC counter-protesters formed a soft blockade to stop any protesters from leaving. Their attempts at a hard blockade, however, were unsuccessful. The most alarming situation was the arrest of Dustin Steele, a 20 year old West Virginia native who was arrested, taken into a private holding cell and severly beaten by police, then charged with assault on an officer two days later.
Seeds of Peace was at the camp from day 1, along with the amazing folks of Everybody’s Kitchen, providing food and logistical support to the camp. By this point we had it down pretty well, being the 4th action camp of the summer and all. We reunited with many friends and built new allies in the fight to end MTR. Additionally, we were able to work on a larger collective goal of branching out from our usual logistical work and provide crucial organizing support.
Building on other similar mobilizations this summer, the Mountain Mobilization had a meta-theme of connecting all the active struggles around the country against the increasingly desperate fossil fuel industry. The struggle in Appalachia is absolutely unique and eyeopening, yet provides patent examples of how direct action can be applied to any local struggle.
As of Wednesday, August 8, all of the folks arrested last weekend have been released on plea deals, and 1 on bond. There is an amazing amount of momentum that is emerging as a result of these courageous actions and Seeds of Peace is in full support of those that are dedicating their lives to protecting this besieged ecosystem. For more info and updates visit the RAMPS website.