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Radical Action for Mountain Peoples' Survival. A direct action campaign to end strip mining, based in southern West Virginia.
Updated: 8 hours 52 min ago
Update: Glen’s jail sentence ends on May 7 th … But that doesn’t include court costs.
Glen owes $518 in court costs, which he needs to pay before he is released. If court costs are not paid before May 7th, Glen will be kept in Smith County Jail for 5 additional days. For every additional day that Glen remains in jail, Smith County will credit him $100 towards payment of the court costs.
As a for-profit private jail, Smith County Jail makes more than $100 a day on Glen for everyday that he is incarcerated. For this reason (and because jail sucks,) Glen would like to pay his court costs before his set release date and get out of jail on May 7 th.
Glen is doing alright in jail, he calls and checks in regularly. The jail took 4 extra days to give him the books that we sent him, but he has them now and is spending most of his time reading. He has commissary, so he is eating enough to keep his belly full. He has gotten over the cold that he got right after getting into jail, along with most of the other guys in his pod that were also sick.
Thank you all for the support that you’ve shown to our comrade in jail!
Glen Collins is in Smith County Jail in Texas tonight after pleading guilty to charges of trespassing and illegal dumping stemming from his blockade of the Keystone XL pipeline last December. In one of the most striking actions in the Tar Sands Blockade campaign, Glen locked himself with Matt Almonte to a concrete barrel inside the KXL pipeline. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail – the longest sentence of the three activists arrested that day. We are currently waiting to find out how the 3 weeks Glen spent in jail following his action will be counted against his sentence. Due to the overwhelming weirdness of the Texas legal system, it’s uncertain how much time he has left to serve.
Glen has checked in from jail and is doing fine as far as jail goes. We are supporting him in every way we can from up here in WV. To help support Glen, please donate to the RAMPS general fund which we are using to pay for collect calls from jail, commissary and sending him books to help pass the time.
Glen took action in Texas as a part of our deep commitment to true solidarity, made of action, not words across all struggles against extraction. As he said at the time, “I’m barricading this pipe with Tar Sands Blockade today to say loud and clear to the extraction industry that our communities and the resources we depend on for survival are not collateral damage. This fight in East Texas against tar sands exploitation is one and the same as our fight in the hollers of West Virginia. Dirty energy extraction doesn’t just threaten my home; it threatens the collective future of the planet.”
Today a friend and I interrupted a coal conference – one where industry funded scientists are trying to cast doubt on the clear evidence of the ravages of coal. These scientists are worse than a disgrace: their lies and willful misdirection condone the war the coal industry is waging on West Virginia and the people of Appalachia.
There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that coal–and mountaintop removal in particular–is poisoning the people of Appalachia. Just one of dozens of recent peer-reviewed studies tell us that the rate of children born with birth defects is 42% higher in mountaintop removal communities. The evidence is likewise clear that the coal carbon bomb locked underneath Appalachia’s mountains make up one of the biggest American accelerators of climate change. NASA’s former lead climate scientist tells us “coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.”
I refuse to be silent, to sit back, when the US treats its own beloved state of West Virginia as a colony for King Coal. We can do better. And we must.
I am a current resident of the southern coalfields of WV. Though I hail from Vermont. We share the same ridge-line. We are all connected. My actions here pale in comparison to what happens when the Green Mountain State stands up strong for what’s becoming the Mountaintop Removal State. I invite my fellow Vermonters to join us in solidarity this Summer and beyond.
WV has a bright, clean energy future, if we seize it. Last month, 100% of the new US electricity generated was solar power. We share the same sun as the rest of the country; let’s tap into it. We are ranked as the 49th state when it comes to energy efficiency. It’s time to fight to be #1: creating thousands of jobs that save neighbors money, without the risk of black lung.
King Coal and the fossil fuel and extreme energy corporations are digging in with all they’ve got to reap the last profits from wrecking our planet. It’s time for us to dig in too. With resolve, solidarity, and love.
Rumor has it we are in store for quite a fearless Summer of resistance. I like to think that Summer’s spirit may be already here.
UPDATE 4/16 10:45 p.m. David Baghdadi had a bail reduction hearing today and was released on his own recognizance. He is out of jail and among friends. Thanks for all your support and to David for standing up to the legal system!
Joe and David were charged in Charleston Municipal Court with trespassing, obstruction, and unlawful assembly.
Their bails were set at $1,686 each.
Joe has been bailed out.
David has been taken to South Central Regional Jail.
Tips on how to support our folks in jail.
Charleston, W.Va. — Today two protesters disrupted the first symposium held by the Appalachian Research Initiative in Environmental Science (ARIES), a coal industry funded research consortium.
Joe Solomon and David Baghdadi marched into the opening session of the “Environmental Considerations in Energy Production” Symposium, locked themselves together, and started chanting “Coal kills, science lies.” They also played recordings of the late Judy Bonds and Larry Gibson, long-time leaders in the fight against strip-mining. The plenary panel included the top state mining regulators from West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky, including WV Dept. of Environmental Protection.
Joe and David said they would unlocked if even one West Virginia citizen was allowed to speak on the panel. Symposium organizers chose instead to clear the room, call the Charleston Police and have the two arrested. More protesters outside the symposium sought to highlight the questionable nature of research produced with coal industry money.
“This is just another example of the coal industry cynically trying to muddy the waters, distort the science and delay the inevitable,” said Junior Walk of Boone Co., WV who attended the protest, “Truly independent scientists and Appalachian citizen’s daily experiences both have proven strip mining damages community health, local economies and local watersheds. It’s time for action.”
The protesters today were acting in solidarity with Appalachian residents that are at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regions 3 and 4 in Philadelphia and Atlanta today to demand the EPA issue a “conductivity rule”.
Over three years the EPA has released independently reviewed science clearly linking higher conductivity from strip mines with damage to overall stream health. Citizens’ groups across Appalachia have been calling on the EPA to translate this science into an enforceable, numeric limit.
ARIES is a multi-university effort “to engage in detailed studies of the environmental impacts of the mining, gas and energy sectors in Appalachia, focusing on both upstream (mining, drilling, and processing) and downstream (water, land and air) issues” funded by 15 million dollars from corporate sponsors including Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, Natural Resource Partners, TECO Coal, Patriot Coal, Cliffs Natural Resources, Mepco, Norfolk Southern and CSX. The project is directed by Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy. The Center director Dr. Michael Karmis made the true purpose of the ARIES project clear at a September 2011 meeting of the Society of Mining Professors.
“”The coal industry needs help,” said Karmis, citing the industry as “under a major attack” from “unreasonable regulations” based on “questionable science,” “false assertions” and “self-serving interests.”
The very first “Technical Bulletin” published by ARIES promoted a study of a single stream in the Virginia coalfields that purported to refute volumes of data linking conductivity and impaired streams.
“This country has seen these same dirty tricks before from the lead, tobacco, and asbestos industries. The industry funds scientists to create just enough doubt to delay strong government action. We won’t be fooled again and we won’t let the coal industry get away with it,” said Joe Solomon.
Read more about ARIES in this excellent article by Ken Ward Jr.
The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Camp is near Damascus, VA from May 19-27. Register Now
Join us for our 9th Mountain Justice Summer Action Training Camp. This year, it’s time to fan the flames of resistance to dirty energy, and put an end to MTR once and for all, while continuing to support bottom up economic transition for a brighter Appalachia.
MJS is a place to learn skills, expand on the ones you already have, strengthen connections in networked social movements for Justice, meet new allies and take action to stop the destruction of Appalachia.
MJS is a week-long program of education, workshops, discussions, entertainment, and trainings to prepare activists of all ages and walks of life to join the movement to end MTR and to help promote environmental justice for Appalachia and beyond. There will also be opportunities to learn about community organizing, non-violent civil disobedience, Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining and other topics including Appalachian Culture, anti-oppression theory, and Anti-extraction movement building. There will also be a training for trainers track and a street medic training,
We can’t wait and look forward to seeing you soon!
The movement against extreme energy and extraction in Appalachia is uniting like never before. This morning, over a hundred coalfield and gasfield activists and youth allies from across the country stormed the Capitol building in Charleston, WV, and spoke clearly and in one voice against the industries which are poisoning communities.
The protest started out in the Capitol courtyard and was led by local residents.
Deirdre, an activist visiting from the Pennsylvania gasfields, spoke to the crowd:
“We are here to show that we are united and saying ‘no’ to all dirty and deadly industries. What we want is a clean and healthy economy in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and beyond, an economy that doesn’t poison our water, toxify our air, sicken our bodies and fracture our communities… The West Virginia governor, just like our governor in Pennsylvania, has blood on his hands. They have followed the orders of polluting industries. They have acted as traitors to the people who elected them.”
Next, Dustin Steele of Mingo County, West Virginia, took the megaphone: “A few months ago, a delegation of coalfield residents like myself tried to meet with the governor to talk about economic diversification, about preventing the boom and bust cycle that’s afflicted West Virginia for the past 125 years, that’s left our people addicted to drugs and with some of the highest poverty rates in the nation.”
Dustin echoed the late Judy Bonds to drive their point home:
“If coal is so great, why are all these hillbillies so poor?”
Activists then took the main stairs up into the capitol, and led chants inside the capitol rotunda. As their voices echoed through the heart of the building, a banner was unfurled over the balcony, which read, “Support the People, not the Polluters.”
Fired up, the crowd marched to the entrance of the governor’s office, chanting, “Hey, Governor Tomblin, stop mountain bombing!”.
Dustin White, of Boone County, took the megaphone and reminded us why we were there.
“It is not our patriotic duty to die for gas or coal. We will stand up and demand a better West Virginia. We will fight. We will fight for clean air. We will fight for clean water. We will fight for our history and our future. And one day we will win.”
Junior Walk, also of Boone County, made it clear that the governor could expect to see more of these protests outside of his office. “We will be back in more numbers until this stops. We’re not gonna stop.”
Activists at today’s protest also expressed their anger at a recent onslaught of proposed legislation, which would undercut West Virginia’s already meek pollution control standards, such as HB 2579, which would slash water safeguards for selenium poisoning. Protesters pointed to the all-but-defeated resource planning bill (HB 2803), which would encourage the use of energy efficiency measures to create jobs and meet electricity demand, as a far more appropriate course of action for the state legislature.
This rally was just the beginning of a spring and summer of escalating action against extreme energy that is being planned in Appalachia and around the nation. If you feel inspired to get involved, sign up on RAMPS website here. And stay tuned for Mountain Justice Summer!
Included at the protest were many students from campus groups helping to lead fossil fuel divestment campaigns, included many who recently attended the Swarthmore PowerUp! Convergence.
Join us this Friday in Charleston for a rally to demand a bright future for West Virginia – not one that caters to the destruction of our mountains and fracking of our waters.
Our state is in a critical moment. We have a choice. We can double down on destructive and declining coal industry and another boom and bust energy industry or we can chart a new path to a diverse, healthy, sustainable economy. Instead of embracing calls to create a Citizens Advisory Council on Economic Diversification, a WV Future Fund or job-creating energy efficiency policies, corrupt politicians have been championing corporate interests. From the attempt to rollback selenium standards, the new threats to sue the EPA , and the continued refusal to address the damage hydrofracking is doing across our state, the government of West Virginia has shown us where they stand. They stand side by side with the big money interests and the destructive industries of gas and coal.
It’s time for us to stand together — the movements rising to save our communities from the onslaughts on mountain blasting for coal and fracking for gas.
We’re outraged, and sick and tired of being sick from nasty chemicals in our water and tired of asking for the peoples’ voices to matter. It’s our time to show the WV government where our interests are: in the health and well-being for all of our communities. It is beyond time we demand that our state government work for the benefit of all West Virginians.
Join us this Friday, March 15th at 11 am in the CAPITOL COURTYARD where we will take our demands straight inside to these corrupt politicians.
No more fracking, no more strip mining! We want a new economy for our state. One that doesn’t trade clean air, clean water, and the health of our people for a handful of jobs that won’t last. One that doesn’t devastate our communities with boom and bust economic cycles and can provide safe, healthy jobs for generations to come.
It has never been more clear that our government is failing us. Join us this Friday outside the statehouse to show your resolve for a future worth fighting for.We also have a ‘meme’ to promote the event, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=620648591283631&set=a.417159854965840.120723.291975537484273&type=1&theater and a facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/249187645218323 Thank you so much for helping to pass it around.
New Matamoras OH – Ohio residents and allies from numerous environmental groups including Earth First! have disrupted operations at Greenhunter Water’s hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” waste storage site along the Ohio River in Washington County. Nate Ebert, a 33-year-old Athens County resident and member of Appalachia Resist!, ascended a 30 foot pole anchored to a brine truck in the process of unloading frack waste, preventing all trucks carrying frack waste from entering the site.
Over one hundred supporters gathered at the facility, protesting Greenhunter’s plans to increase capacity for toxic frack waste dumping in Ohio. Greenhunter is seeking approval from the Coast Guard to ship frack waste across the Ohio River via barge at a rate of up to half a million gallons per load. The Ohio River is a drinking source for more than 5 million people, including residents of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Test results from multiple frack waste samples reveal high levels of benzene, toluene, arsenic, barium, and radium, among other carcinogenic and radioactive chemicals.
“Our governor, legislature, and regulatory agencies have all failed in their obligation to protect Ohioans from the predatory gas industry,” said Ebert. “Greenhunter wants to use our water sources as dumping grounds for their toxic, radioactive waste. We are here to send a message that the people of Ohio and Appalachia will not sit idly by and watch our homes be turned into a sacrifice zone!”
Frack waste dumping has generated resistance across Ohio, including direct actions disrupting waste disposal operations from Youngstown to Athens County. The waste is injected underground into over 170 wells statewide, contaminating water and causing numerous earthquakes across the state from Marietta to Ashtabula, most notably a 4.0 earthquake in Youngstown. Surface spills are commonplace across Ohio, including the recently uncovered intentional dumping of an estimated hundreds of thousands of gallons of frack waste into the Mahoning River.
“Fracking chemicals and cancer go hand in hand,” said Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Forest Council, a grassroots Ohio organization seeking a ban on frack waste injection. “Greenhunter plans to recklessly endanger the drinking water of millions of residents of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and beyond. How many kids have to get cancer before we decide that saturating Ohio’s rivers and aquifers with toxic waste is not worth it? We need a ban on injection wells to protect our air, our water, and our children.”
Other groups participating in Tuesday’s action include Tar Sands Blockade, Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival (RAMPS), a coalition of indigenous leaders including representatives from No Line 9 and the Unis’tot’en Camp, Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, and Earth First! chapters from across the country. Tuesday’s action is the latest in a series of escalated acts of resistance to destructive extractive industries. On Monday, Pennsylvanians disrupted construction of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline in the Delaware State Forest. In January, Navajo residents from Black Mesa, Arizona joined with Appalachians to protest strip mining at the headquarters of Peabody Energy. International resistance to tar sands mining has continued to escalate from the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas and Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance in Oklahoma, to the Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en Territories.
“I am here because the struggle against frack waste dumping in Ohio is the same as our resistance to the blasting of the mountains in my backyard in West Virginia,” said Kim Ellis of RAMPS. “Until we put a stop to poisonous and exploitative extractive practices everywhere, we will continue to fight.”
###Appalachia Resist is a campaign of resistance to the poisoning and exploitation of Appalachia. For more information, go to: www.appalachiaresist.wordpress.com; Twitter: @AppalResist
This Sunday, a RAMPS contingent joined more than 40,000 others at the Washington Monument for the Forward on Climate rally and march around the capitol. We marched in a unit with other mountain justice activists from all over Appalachia, representing our battle as a piece of the greater fight. Likewise, representatives from almost every justice struggle imaginable across the nation marched under their own colors, banners, and carefully chosen words.
Sometimes coming together is hard. To be honest, marches in circles around DC aren’t really our style. But more important than what we did or where we walked on Sunday was that stood in solidarity with so many others from so many distant corners of the movement for environmental justice. Mountaintop removal is, among many other things, a climate issue. The climate crisis demands that humans come together in a way that we never have before, which means disciplining ourselves to a unity that defies many of the natural lines of affinity that we have been able to rally behind throughout the rest of history.
Just as all of us need to be a part of the climate movement, the climate movement must arrive hand-in-hand with all other forms of justice. We hope that the climate movement refuses to be seduced by the lies that those who profit from killing our planet and its inhabitants try to tell us. No “green” technology will allow our species to eternally expand its consumption, or allow the rich to eternally expand their profits. Many false solutions will be tossed at the climate movement to distract us; one sign of these will be that they make the poor bear the burdens of change and allow the accumulation of capital to continue. Climate justice will only be realized as an equalizing force, realistically inseparable from social justice, economic justice, and justice for nonhuman creatures.
Dustin Steele and Adam Hall of West Virginia and Fern Benally and Don Yellowman of the Navajo Nation of Arizona speak at length about living in the shadow of coal mining, their first-hand experiences with destructive corporate practices, the importance of community empowerment, the role of education and the fight to maintain self-determination and a sacred connection to their land and culture.
In the second part of the interview, these resisters share their inspiring stories from frontline communities who stand up to the injustice of coal companies every day, issue a call for solidarity in the struggle against extraction everywhere, and together, envision a better future for future generations without coal.
Two activists were arrested for distributing this flier near the apartment of Peabody Energy CEO Greg Boyce on Tuesday inside the Chase Park Plaza hotel and apartment complex. The activists were charged with disturbing the peace and released after eight hours in custody.
Earlier that morning, a small group known as the “Chase Park Plaza Committee for Non-Evil” leafletted inside the building’s parking garage, posting warnings to tenants and guests that Boyce, a “known climate criminal,” resides inside the building. The flier states: “Mr. Boyce’s crimes, while too extensive and storied to detail completely here, reveal a legacy of gross disregard for the city of St. Louis, workers’ rights, human life, and the future of the planet as a whole,” and features criticism of Peabody’s complicity in the forced relocation of Dineh (Navajo) families from their ancestral homeland in Black Mesa, Arizona. Activists also used the flier to highlight Peabody’s efforts to shirk on their obligations to retired coal miners, as well as the massive $61 million tax break that Peabody received from the city of St. Louis in 2010.
You can support continued direct action against extraction by making a generous donation to the RAMPS legal fund.
After nearly 300 fliers had been distributed, two members of the Chase Park Plaza Committee for Non-Evil were tackled by at least ten hotel employees. The activists, who had not received an order to leave the property, were then ziptied around their wrists and legs by hotel security and forcibly detained until police arrived. Security used chokehold grips on the activists, and one activist could be seen bleeding from his nose on the floor of the hotel lobby as a result of an injury sustained during the assault. Though Missouri state law only authorizes private security to administer “citizen’s arrests” in response to felony offenses, St. Louis police refused multiple requests by the detained activists to file a complaint against the security officials involved in the detention.
“The inconvenience we experienced today is literally nothing compared to the forty years of genocidal onslaught that Peabody has wrought upon the Dineh people,” said one of the arrested activists who wished to remain anonymous. “The executives who profit intensely from the constant destruction of our planet are hiding out in St. Louis, Phoenix, Denver, and all throughout the corporate zones of America. We refuse to be intimidated by their violence and will not be deterred from holding the Greg Boyces of this world accountable for their atrocities.”
Tuesday’s confrontation was the latest in a series of recent actions targeting coal companies in St. Louis. On Tuesday, January 22, seven activists locked themselves to a 500-pound potted plant in the office of ArchCoal, demanding an end to strip mining in Appalachia. The following Friday, impacted community members from Black Mesa and West Virginia joined forces with allies across the nation in a rally outside Peabody headquarters to draw attention to Peabody’s destructive mining and labor practices. A dozen protesters were arrested at the rally for attempting to deliver a letter to Greg Boyce on behalf of Dineh community members who had traveled all the way from Arizona to voice their concerns about Peabody’s role in the desecration of their homeland. And while activists were fliering at Chase Park Plaza Tuesday morning, 500 members of the United Mine Workers of America were rallying outside Peabody headquarters to demand that Peabody fulfill their obligation to provide pension and health care benefits to retired mine workers; ten mine workers were arrested Tuesday in an act of civil disobedience. You can support continued direct action against extraction by making a generous donation to the RAMPS legal fund.
Yesterday was an amazing coming together of East and West, Native people and non-Native supporters, to confront Peabody Energy’s trail of destruction and despair. The national anti-extraction movement continues to grow. Here’s a collection of videos and photos from the two MORE-RAMPS-BMIS Winter Action Camp actions, and the letter from Black Mesa to Peabody:
Video from StopPeabody action.
Entirety of Fern Benally’s speech at Peabody HQ
- Letter from Black Mesa to Peabody Energy
- Press packet from StopPeabody action
- Press release from StopPeabody action
- Wrap-up post from StopPeabody action
- Press release from Arch Coal action
- Wrap-up post from Arch Coal action
There’s also several statements from arrestees available on the RAMPS and MORE websites. Just scroll through the posts.
An unprecedented coalition of Navajo (Dineh) residents of Black Mesa, AZ, Appalachian residents, St. Louis residents, military veterans and labor unions brought the fight for our future to Peabody’s HQ today. Nearly 100 of us had a raucous rally opened with a prayer by Black Mesa native Don Yellowman, followed by speeches demanding Peabody stop destabilizing the climate, forcing the Dineh off their land, and cheating workers out of their retirement benefits. Peabody representatives promised to accept a letter from Fern Benally and Don Yellowman, the Navajo residents of Black Mesa, but they broke their promise and called the police instead.
But we didn’t back down: people rushed over the barricades and locked arms and legs on the steps. Peabody security official, Jeff Learner, who had promised Black Mesa residents that he would deliver their letter to CEO Greg Boyce came out to see us, but ignored our chants demanding that he come accept the letter. Instead, he stood by as the police forcefully ripped people apart using pain compliance pressure points and twisting heads and arrested them. One arrested member of Veterans for Peace person was handcuffed, walking compliantly with police and was suddenly thrown to the ground by the police, for no reason.
After twelve people were arrested, the rest of us seized the streets of St. Louis to march and let the people know their city was subsidizing Peabody’s destructive and abusive behavior with funding taken from public education. Despite heavy police presence, we finished our march without further arrests.
We just got word from the arrestees that they are being charged with trespassing, resisting arrest and failure to disburse. Their bail has not been set. In the meantime please donate to their legal support fund: https://bit.ly/mj-legal
I am in St. Louis today for many reasons. To stand in solidarity with the native people of Black Mesa and the Navajo nation, as they demand to have their grievances heard. To raise awareness with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment against Peabody Coal for taking taxpayers’ money just for threatening to leave town, thus taking resources from the city for schools and other services. To shed light on the pensions and benefits that are on the verge of being stripped away while countless men and women, both past and present, toil and struggle with the promise that the dues they pay will secure their days of leisure.
How does this all tie together? At face value we see the resource: coal. But when you look beyond the resource and see the legacy the industry leaves for the people, those who live in the shadow of the extraction, you see nothing that can be sustained. You see sickness, dying, conflict, torment, grief, sorrow, and anger. These feelings are not sustainable and are in need of remedy. Yet we are ignored, mocked, threatened, and ultimately, for some, broken. This is where those in power want us. They want complacency and obedience, which is masked with the illusion that if we give our lives to those in power our quality of life will improve. Resistance makes the powers that be quake. They know that should the masses resist, quality of life could be fair for all, thus rendering the current structures of power obsolete to society.
Peabody Coal was built on a foundation of deception and intimidation. Where they go,
suffering follows. Today I will let them know just how united these struggles are against their power. Peabody’s past and present abuses will come back on them today, when those affected by their practices from the east and west unite and demand justice for our people.
From their offices in St. Louis, Greg Boyce and the other executives at Peabody Coal give orders to poison and displace our brothers and sisters in the coalfields, and to continue mining coal when we know that climate change threatens all the people and plants and animals on Earth.
Our friends from the frontlines of Peabody’s violent operations have joined us in St. Louis today, and their presence gives this action great meaning. I want to retell a story I have heard in recent days from Diné and Hopi resisters who have traveled here from their homeland. The colonization of this continent that began 500 years ago continues today, as Peabody and the federal government have colluded to forcibly relocate native people from their lands, and tear out the coal lies that beneath. This relocation, which started in 1974, is the largest forced relocation of indigenous people in the United States since the Trail of Tears.
I cross the line and risk arrest today, not knowing for sure when we will make real our dreams for justice, but knowing that my only choice is to stand on my convictions. I feel connected to those throughout history who have organized and resisted against all odds.
To return native lands, to end the extraction of coal, oil, and gas, we will have to break the rules that are written by our corporate and extractive government. We are breaking away from this violent economy. We are building a world of just relations. We are rising up together. Join us.
- Harry Alper
I came to Saint Louis for graduate school, hoping to do research that would bring about technological solutions to climate change. Underlying this standard graduate student naivete was the far more ubiquitous and far, far more dangerous overreliance on and faith in technology. In the context of our world, where global industrial Capitalism reigns supreme and demands continuous growth and exploitation, the question “which technology will save us from climate change?” is moot. There is no fancy solar cell, or wind turbine, or nuclear whatever that could ever hope to address the crises of Capitalism.
On this day I’m going off to participate in the rally at Peabody to stand in solidarity with everyone in Appalachia, the Navajo and Hopi Nations, Saint Louis, and every other living community. I want to draw attention to the decades of exploitation that the Navajo and Hopi nations have endured due to Peabody’s role in this repugnant system. I want to draw attention to the way we exploit our planet, and how that is driving us to the brink.
Will today’s actions significantly stop emissions, or stop Peabody? No, probably not. Will this give people who work at Peabody or the lines upon lines of police that will inevitably be protecting Peabody’s headquarters any time to pause and really consider what it is that they’re defending? Almost certainly not. Will it bring a renewed sense of hope and ease and invigorate the ongoing struggle? That would be nice and I hope that happens. This is just one action and one day.
We’re steadily marching towards a future that will see a 4 degree Celsius rise in global temperature, if not more. This scenario at least ensures a global level of suffering and death that we’ve never witnessed before and can hardly imagine. At worst it means there won’t be a human species any more, let alone countless other species.
The actions that I and everyone else take on this day should be judged in this context. Is today’s action enough? Of course not. Is it too rash or radical? Give me a break. We will all learn from the experiences of today, and we will experience the mounting pressures, and change accordingly.
There is no hope for an environmentally just world as long as giant fossil fuel companies such as Peabody are allowed to exist. I hope that others will join in the fight against this corporation and all that it represents. Standing on the sidelines will not ensure our safety or the safety of those we care for.
- Chris Singer
ST. LOUIS, MO — About one hundreds of protesters are gathered in downtown St. Louis today outside of the Peabody Coal corporate headquarters. St. Louis locals were joined by Navajo residents from Black Mesa, Ariz., Appalachians from coal-burdened West Virginia, and supporters from across the United States to demand the cessation of strip mining and accountability for land and people. Navajo residents of Black Mesa, Don Yellowman and Fern Benally are demanding to speak with Peabody CEO Greg H. Boyce and have a letter detailing their concerns. (Read it here.) Protesters including representatives from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, Black Mesa Indigenous Support, Veterans for Peace, SEIU and other labor unions are refusing to leave until Peabody executives meet with them. Banners have been dropped from two nearby buildings reading, “Stop the War on Mother Earth. Peabody: Bad for St. Louis, Bad for the Planet” and “Peabody Kills.”
Peabody, the largest coal company in the U.S., operates massive strip mines on Black Mesa, Ariz., ancestral homelands of the Navajo people. Tens of thousands of Navajo families have been forcibly relocated in order to clear the land for Peabody’s strip mines; this constitutes the largest forced relocation of indigenous peoples in the U.S since the Trail of Tears. To this day, Navajo and Hopi people are engaged in resistance to the forced relocation and mining practices threaten the land and livelihood of future generations.
In nearly 45 years of operation, Peabody’s mines on Black Mesa have been the source of over 325 million tons of carbon dioxide discharged into the atmosphere#. The strip mines have damaged countless graves, sacred sites, and homes. 70 percent of a once-pristine desert aquifer has been drained for coal operations. The remaining groundwater is polluted, causing devastation to a once-flourishing ecosystem.
“The mine affects lots of ways of life. It’s destroying the places that have names. Everywhere you go here, every place has a name: names I learned from my grandparents, names that have existed for hundreds of years. A lot of those places and knowledge of those places and cultural values are being destroyed by the mine. It’s destroying our way of life,” says Gerold Blackrock, a resident of Black Mesa.
Peabody’s strip mines harm the health of communities wherever they operate, from Black Mesa to Appalachia. Appalachian miners’ hard-earned healthcare benefits and pensions are threatened by Peabody’s business practices. “Peabody and Arch dumped their obligations to retired miners into Patriot. This was a calculated decision to cheat people out of their pensions,” said retired United Mine Workers of America miner Terry Steele.
“Enabled by the City of St. Louis, Peabody’s corporate executives hide out in their downtown office building, removed from the destruction they cause in communities across the nation,” said Dan Cohn, St. Louis resident. In 2010, the Board of Aldermen, in conjunction with the St. Louis Development Corporation, gave Peabody a $61 million tax break, including $2 million that was designated for the St. Louis City Public Schools.
“Peabody’s everyday business contributed to this summer’s triple-digit heat waves and historic drought. St. Louis residents are here today to stand in solidarity with the other communities that Peabody impacts and demand that our city stops subsidizing the unjust relocation of indigenous people and climate change. We need our taxpayer development dollars to be invested in green jobs, not corporations who have no regard for human life,” Reggie Rounds, a MORE member, said.
MORE is currently collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would force the city of St. Louis to divest public money from fossil fuel corporations and switch over incentives to renewable energy and sustainability initiatives. The St. Louis Sustainable Energy ballot initiative has gained the support of numerous local social and environmental groups, small businesses, and 6th Ward Alderperson candidate Michelle Witthaus, who was present at today’s protest.
Today’s action is part of a growing movement for indigenous self-determination, and against exploitative business practices that destroy communities and land.
Dear Mr. Greg H. Boyce and other Peabody Officials,
We have travelled from the Navajo Nation located in what is now the State of Arizona. We are in St. Louis on behalf of some of the elders from Black Mesa/Big Mountain who are impacted by the coal mining back home. This letter is to request a face to face meeting with you or others responsible for the coal mine out in Black Mesa, to address our issues and concerns. We personally live within the boundary and vicinity of Peabody Western Coal Company.
The 46 year old strip-mining on Black Mesa is devastating for our people. Our Dine’ (Navajo People) are facing forced relocation as Peabody Western Coal Co., makes way for the strip-mining; in addition to the many environmental and health issues which they face on a daily basis. The pollution from Kayenta Mine on Black Mesa is visible every day. The coal mine does not effectively extinguish coal fires to prevent the toxic gases from being emitted. The gaseous pollution poisons and endangers the respiratory health of the residents. Many coal miners suspect they have lung diseases caused by the coal but Peabody Western has adamantly denied coal being the direct cause of pulmonary diseases. The residents have noticed increased prevalence of lung problems since the coal mining began in late 1960s and 1970s. It does not require a high education to make the correlations.
Before Peabody’s arrival, natural springs were plentiful. Our animals, both wild and domestic, quenched their thirst effectively without needing to search for waters. Wildlife was in abundance, as were domestic livestock. Natural springs are extinct now. Black Mesa residents now face the daily chores of hauling water. They drive as far as 30 to 40 miles round trip to deliver potable water to their homes and livestock, while wild animals are left to fend for themselves. Water is essential for life. However, Peabody has wasted billions of acre feet of irreplaceable water. The pristine Navajo Aquifer is irreversibly damaged according to researcher Daniel Higgins, PhD.
The only option, Peabody Energy, is to transition to solar. It is well known, fossil fuels are the dirtiest energy and coal emits the most carbon dioxide, contributing to global climate change. Coal causes detrimental effects to the Indigenous Peoples of Black Mesa. Peabody needs to be active in the immediate healing of Black Mesa residents. The healing process can begin with Peabody Energy ceasing further coal strip mining on Black Mesa. Now is the time to about face and turn to renewable energy. To take initiative in healing, Peabody Energy and Peabody Western should put profits into solar and allow the residents of Black Mesa to create their own way of life as we see fit.
Our people live with these impacts, as Peabody Western reaps financial profits in the billions each year from the bountiful resources extracted from the heart of our ancestral land. The Dine’ people are unable to focus on their prayers and sacred offerings because of coal mining impacts. We, also request that there be a study to collect scientific data available for respiratory diseases from coal mining on Black Mesa. We have personal knowledge and we witness the damages, losses and impacts the Black Mesa people have endured physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Black Mesa is where it all begins. The Dine’ people struggle to survive, as the southwest cities benefits from cheap resources.
Finally, a direct message from our elders living on their ancestral homelands in the former joint use area now known as the Hopi Partitioned Land: they have asked for you to stop mining on Black Mesa and to stop the forced relocation of our people immediately. Tens of thousands of our people were forced to leave their land to make room for your mine, making this the biggest forced relocation of Native people in this country since the Trial of Tears. Do not expand your mine anymore!
In January 2012 a Dine (Navajo) resister speaks about Peabody and the U.S. Government orchestrating the largest forced relocation since the Trail of Tears, as well as the destruction of sacred sites and traditional medicinal plants and herbs. Ultimately, he tells Peabody to leave his ancestral homeland in Big Mtn., Ariz.
In connecting colonial legacies, resource extraction disproportionately impacts indigenous communities, and the tragedy of strip mining in Appalachia started over 500 years ago with the first forced relocation of indigenous people in North America, such as the Mingo and Cherokee. Two Big Mountain resisters, Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS), RAMPS and Mountain Justice join Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) tomorrow to confront Peabody Energy at their home in St. Louis, Mo.
CREVE COEUR, MO–Seven protesters disrupted work at Arch Coal corporate headquarters today by locking themselves together inside Arch’s office building. At approximately 9 a.m., three protesters disguised as delivery personnel wheeled a 500-pound potted plant filled with concrete up to the third floor offices of Arch Coal and locked themselves to the plant. Another four protesters dressed in business attire joined them and locked themselves to each other, effectively blocking people from entering or leaving the office, while another group of protesters entered the ground floor lobby and released helium balloons floating a banner with a drawing of a dragline that read, “John Eaves, your coal company kills.”
The protesters in the lobby confronted office workers with protest songs and chants that emphasized a sustained resistance to Arch’s dirty energy and culpability in the climate crisis. Protesters hung another banner from a second floor banister that read, “Arch: Nemesis of the Land and People.” When asked to leave by police approximately 45 minutes later, the protesters downstairs complied but remained outside to sing and support protesters upstairs.
Arch Coal, a Missouri-based company, mines extensively in Appalachia. Arch’s operations follow a history of flagrantly irresponsible mining practices that poison groundwater, destroy mountains, and uproot Appalachian culture. According to blockader Margaret Fetzer, “Arch [has] been sacrificing the health of communities in Appalachia and across the world for their quarterly profits. Capitalism does not answer to communities, it only consumes them.”
Arch undermines Appalachia’s legacy of resistance by strip mining the Blair Mountain Battlefield, the site of the second-largest armed uprising in U.S. history and a pivotal early union battleground. Workers’ rights are routinely threatened by Arch’s insidious business practices. Currently, Arch plays a role in an ongoing case in which 22,000 unionized Patriot employees are being robbed of their healthcare and pensions.
“I have seen coal wreck everything around me! Arch [has] spent the last 125 years destroying [my] home,” blockader and native West Virginian Dustin Steele said. Steele swore to sustain resistance against Arch Coal, saying, “I will not allow their economy to kill any more of my friends. …I will be there fighting every inch of [every] permit.”
The police encountered difficulties removing protesters and set off a fire alarm from smoke created by their equipment. The last protester was removed at approximately 3:45 p.m., after over six hours of disrupting “business as usual” at the office.
All seven protesters have been arrested and charged with trespass and resisting arrest, and six protesters have been released on bail of $1,000 each. One protester has chosen to remain in jail to confront injustice in the legal system and continue resisting. Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS), and Mountain Justice helped to organize today’s protest and welcome donations online to help cover legal costs.
Coal has always been in the forefront of my life. A UMWA pension is what kept food in my stomach and a roof over my head. The lure of the mines has attracted most of my family, a majority of the folks I went to school with, some of my greatest allies, and a group of pro coal protesters who serve as the little dutch boy with their finger in the damn.
I have seen coal wreck everything around me! Mountains that once blanketed me in a sense of security, peace and the only place I call home. Arch along with other coal companies have spent the last 125 years destroying that home; with a heart of metal, and a mind of money they sink their teeth deep into the heart of Appalachia. They care for nothing, except draining the last profitable drop of blood out of West Virginia; they will not stop until every lump of coal is ripped out of the ground.
They ask us to compromise, to believe that they hold the keys of progress and prosperity in their hands. Arch tells us to think to think of the economy, to think about all the jobs they bring to my community. I will say once and for all TO HELL WITH THEIR ECONOMY! I will not allow their economy to kill any more of my friends. I will not allow Arch another inch in this struggle; there will be a winner and loser in this fight for the future of Appalachia and it sure as hell won’t be the coal companies.
Today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of my life I will disrupt business as usual. From St. Louis to the strip site, from the city to the hollers, wherever they are I will be there fighting for every inch, fighting for every permit, and I won’t stop until Arch is nothing more then a collective bad memory. So as they drag me out of their office, all their doing is empowering our struggle.
We are strong and we are everywhere. If there are extractive industries trying to exploit the land and the people, whether it be in the Tar sands in Canada, or Peabody trying to destroy the brave folks fighting for the ancestral way of life on Big Mountain we will be there to tell them either you are going to stop destroying our communities or you will be fighting me and all of my other allies until you put us in the ground!
For the land and the people,