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Showdown in Coal Town: 16 Arrested in MJS Action

by Mountain Justice Summer Thursday, Jun. 02, 2005 at 4:50 PM
mountainjusticesummer@gmail.com 304 854-2324

For the third time in one week, residents of the Coal River Valley of West Virginia and supporters from across the country met at Massey Energy's coal processing plant behind Marsh Fork Elementary School to demand that it be shut down and cleaned up. Sixteen of the 150 participants in the Mountain Justice Summer campaign were arrested as they attempted to deliver a list of demands to the site's supervisor. Earlier in the day two campaign participants delivered the demands directly to Massey's head offices in Richmond Virginia.

Sundial, West Virginia
May 31, 2005
As part of the effort to protect Appalachian communities from the destructive and often careless actions of coal extraction companies engaging in Mountain Top Removal, local residents were joined by Mountain Justice Summer participants yesterday at a Massey Energy facility in Coal River Valley, West Virginia where the children of Marsh Fork Elementary School are threatened by the company's irresponsible mining practices.

At this site, Massey's subsidiary, Goals Coal Company, has placed an earthen sludge dam constructed of mining refuse which holds back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic waste above Marsh Fork Elementary a mere 400 yards away.  State reports have stated that the dam has multiple leaks.  Just 160 feet from the school stands a coal loading silo which releases coal dust and toxic chemicals.  Students and teachers at the school regularly complain of headaches and respiratory problems.  The school is also known to have higher than normal rates of learning disabilities.

As if this were not enough, Massey has requested a renewal of the sludge dam's permit as well as a permit for the construction of a second coal silo which prompted Coal River Valley residents to organize this rally – the third such event in a week.

This time, over 150 empowered local residents and their Mountain Justice Summer supporters came to the Massey facility to present a list of citizens' demands – which follow below. A grandmother and a great grandmother of a Marsh Fork Elementary student were among the first people to present the demands and were arrested and removed by state police at the request of a Massey employee.  Fourteen other local residents and Mountain Justice Summer participants followed after them and were also arrested by state police.  The arrestees, both the locals and their supporters, expressed their concern for the safety of the students as they were taken away.  Another concerned grandmother of a student, Debbie Jarrell said, "The coal industry has used these children as sacrificial lambs far too long. It's time for the adults to step up and take their place."

While Coal River Valley residents confronted Massey on site, two Mountain Justice Summer participants went to Massey headquarters in Richmond, VA to present the same list of demands.  They were not allowed to speak with Massey CEO Don Blankenship and were removed from the property while singing Amazing Grace in honor of the teachers and students who have died of cancer – apparently the safety and livelihood of those living in the communities in which Massey operates do not have a place in the company's busy schedule.

Visit www.mountainjusticesummer.org to learn how to join the hundreds of Mountain Justice Summer participants in our campaign to support people like 80-year-old Inez Gallimore in her efforts to protect the land and people of southern Appalachia from the incredibly destructive, and often irreversible, processes involved in Mountain Top Removal. Mountain Justice Summer, a non-violent campaign being waged in Appalachia, will consist of listening projects, outreach, water monitoring and resistance to Mountain Top Removal through attendance to public hearings and non-violent direct action.

Yesterday's event demonstrated the growing strength of an increasingly widespread effort among West Virginians and Appalachians who are resisting the destruction of their land and communities in the name of corporate profit. The action was "A show down in coal town between parents and a corporate giant" said the regional news report. In closing the segment they remarked "Here's another one boys, this will be going on all summer." It could not have gone better and it was only the beginning of what is sure to play an important role in the historic struggle to protect the land and people of Appalachia.

Coal River Valley residents' demands:

  • That Massey shut down the prep plant and cease its
    Mountaintop Removal mining above the school Immediately;
  • That Marsh Fork Elementary School be cleaned up or that a
    safe, new school be built in their community;
  • That Massey withdraw its application for the second coal
    loading silo behind the school;
  • That Massey stop blasting their homes because residents have
    a right to be safe and secure;
  • And that Massey shut down its surface mine sites and invest
    in truesustainable energy.

Mountain Justice Summer (MJS) seeks to add to the growing anti-MTR citizens movement. Specifically MJS demands an abolition of MTR, steep slope strip mining and all other forms of surface mining for coal. We want to protect the cultural and natural heritage of the Appalachia coal fields. We want to contribute with grassroots organizing, public education, nonviolent civil disobedience and other forms of citizen action.
Historically coal companies have engaged in violence and property destruction when faced with citizen opposition to their activities. MJS is committed to nonviolence and will not be engaged in property destruction.

 

To let them know how you feel, contact:
Massey Energy
(destroyer of mountains, waterways and communities in WV and KY; also viciously anti-union)
4 North 4th Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 888.424.2417, 804.788.1824
Some of Massey's top managers:
katherine.kenny@masseyenergyco.com,john.parker@masseyenergyco.com,
michael.allen@masseyenergyco.com,steve.sears@masseyenergyco.com,
gary.smith@masseyenergyco.com,gary.temple@masseyenergyco.com,
tom.kielty@masseyenergyco.com,thomas.dougherty@masseyenergyco.com

West Virginia Coal Association
P.O. Box 3923, Charleston, WV 25339
Phone: 304.342.4153 Fax: 304.342.7651
President - Bill Raney (braney@wvcoal.com), Senior VP – Chris Hamilton (chamilton@wvcoal.com), VP – Dan Miller (dmiller@wvcoal.com), Regulatory Affairs - Jason Bostic (jbostic@wvcoal.com), Administrative Assistant - Sandi Davison (sdavison@wvcoal.com)

Friends of Coal
P.O. Box 3923 Charleston, WV 25339
1.866.982.2625

 

Contact mountainjusticesummer@gmail .com and visit www.mountainjusticesummer.org for more information


Photo by Vivian Stockman with OVEC

Aerial view of the sludge dam situated above the school

Image showing the school and the coal loading silo a mere 160 feet behind it.







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