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Radical Action for Mountain Peoples' Survival. A direct action campaign to end strip mining, based in southern West Virginia.
Updated: 5 min 18 sec ago
Four members of RAMPS were arrested with eight others on Monday for locking down in UBS’s national headquarters and for hanging a giant banner from a construction crane.
Teaming up with Hands Off Appalachia, RAMPS travelled north to Stamford, CT, for HOA’s fall action camp. Coal companies couldn’t tear down the mountains of WV without financers like UBS backing their capitol-intensive exploits–so we would like to make sure that companies like UBS can’t fund mountaintop removal without activists decorating their national headquarters.
All twelve arrestees have their first appearance in court on January 8th.
More Details on this action are in the press release below.
Stamford, CT – Early this morning, three activists hung a huge banner reading “UBS. Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal” off of a crane constructing the 66 Summers St building in downtown Stamford. Later in the day two activists entered the UBS headquarters in Stamford, locking themselves to a bannister and hanging a banner reading “UBS. Divest from Mountaintop Removal”, while others locked themselves to the outside doors of the building. The protests are a part of the Hands Off Appalachia, a sustained campaign to get UBS to end all financing of companies conducting mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.
“Over the last two years, I have visited UBS’s offices over 30 times pleading with them to stop the destruction of Appalachian communities. Today, I’m not asking anymore. I’m demanding an end to UBS’s financing of mountaintop removal.” said Ricki Draper of Knoxville, TN who is locked inside the UBS headquarters.
Mountaintop removal is an extreme form of strip-mining in which coal companies blast up to a thousand feet off the top of a mountain to extract thin seams of coal. The resulting rubble is often placed in the valley below burying headwater streams. Over 1 million acres of forest in Central Appalachia have been destroyed and over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried by this practice. Recent research has linked mountaintop removal to increased rates of cancer, birth defects and cardiovascular disease in communities near these mining operations. UBS is a top funder of companies that conduct mountaintop removal such as Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal, and Arch Coal. On Friday, organizers with Hands Off Appalachia met with UBS executives at their office in Stamford to discuss UBS’s existing policy on mountaintop removal.
“[At the meeting] I was ‘reassured’ [by UBS executives] that UBS’s policy on mountaintop removal was sufficient enough to protect my people. I wholeheartedly disagree. The reality is that their ‘policy’ is nothing more than an excuse to remove themselves from the truth that as UBS profits, my people suffer,” said Adam Hall of Glen Daniel, W.Va. who blocked the entrance to UBS’s headquarters today.
UBS’s existing policy claims to “recognize the potential environmental, social, and human rights impacts of this industry sector” and take into consideration “concerns of stakeholder groups”, but UBS officials have never travelled to Appalachia to witness the impacts or met with impacted community members until last Friday. The policy also claims to take into account regulatory compliance, but UBS financed Massey Energy and oversaw their merger with Alpha Natural Resources even after Massey was fined $20 million by the EPA for over 4,600 violations of the Clean Water Act.
Started in Knoxville, TN, the Hands Off Appalachia Campaign has spent two years engaging with UBS about their funding of the destruction of Appalachian through this extreme form of strip mining. HOA has organized dozens of actions and protests at local UBS offices all over Appalachia and the Southeast.
This summer, HOA escalated their campaign against UBS when three organizers blocked the entrance to the Knoxville UBS branch, the point of inception for the campaign. This action was the thirty third time in sixteen months that campaign organizers had visited that office. On the heels of that action followed a blockade at UBS’ North American Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. There, four organizers with Hands Off Appalachia and Capitalism vs. the Climate, a climate justice direct action group based in Connecticut, took a stand against UBS in solidarity with communities in Appalachia. This action launched the northeast leg of our campaign against UBS. Yesterday, activists with the campaign picketed UBS’s Parade Spectacular in Stamford, handing out leaflets and displaying a large banner reading “UBS Stop Funding Mountaintop Removal.”
Hands Off Appalachia is proud to present the Fall Action Camp in Connecticut [UBS America's Headquarters] November 19-25.
The camp will build organizing capacity and leadership skills among anti-extraction activists in the northeast. After all the hard work and learning, we’ll put our new skills into practice with a culminating action!
Expect a week of collaboration and workshops such as:
- Non-violent direct action training
- History of Appalachian resistance
- Art in activism
- Media training
- and much more!
Hands off Appalachia is an urban-based campaign that targets the funding of mountaintop removal.
Just to clear up any possible confusion, I thought I might write a brief note explaining some of the circumstances surrounding my recent stay and release from South Central Regional Jail.
I was arrested on August 21 for locking to a barrel of ‘dirty water’ in front of the governor’s mansion in Charleston, WV. I was charged with trespassing and obstructing and my bail was set initially at $5,000, with a “10% option”, which in Kanawha County meant that I could be bailed out for $500. There was enough money in our legal defense fund to bail me out, but I elected to stay in. I was hoping that while in jail, I could settle my charges by working out a plea deal with the prosecution. After a few weeks, during which I had only intermittent contact with my public defender, it was clear that no such deal would be forthcoming.
At that time I considered requesting bail, but at that point I had been moved to stay in because I felt like there were pressing issues inside the jail itself that I felt like I needed to help address. First, the jail administration had enacted a ban on outside books being sent into the jail, which I considered unjust and dangerous. Second, I was trying to support a young man who was still in high school who got locked up with me and had to deal with being in jail for the first time while having difficulty finding support on the outside.
While i was doing what i could from the inside, the jail support team was doing what they could from the outside. After many phone calls, meetings, and letters, these issues were successfully resolved; inmates are able to receive books again and the young man was released.
So, after 30 days in jail, on September 19th, when my jail support went to see a Kanawha County magistrate, I got released on my own recognizance (meaning we didn’t have to pay bail.)
Doing time has been an eye-opening experience for many of us who have spent time in jail as part of this campaign. I remain extremely troubled by conditions prevalent at South Central (especially the plight of folks remaining in jail weeks or months after being cleared to be released to home confinement) and by the way our society uses incarceration to deal with problems like family conflict and unpaid traffic tickets. As someone who views the fight against surface mining as part of a broader liberation project for Appalachia, I feel it’s important that we continue to make supporting the incarcerated a regular part of our practice as activists here in West Virginia.
The downside to this work is that my incarceration cost RAMPS a significant amount of money – primarily from the cost of calls from the jail. People were always there to answer both my calls and those from my fellow inmates, which added up to hundreds of dollars at the exorbitant rates the the jail charges inmates for that privilege. If you would like to help defray the cost of my incarceration, please donate here.
UPDATE 9/19: David was released from jail today! After one month in jail, David was released on “personal recognizance” (without bail) and came home to celebrate with a big meal and a lot of snacks. While we’ve missed David during this REALLY long jail stint, one really important thing came out of David’s time there: inmates in South Central Regional Jail are now being allowed to receive books once again! After we had contacted the press, advocacy groups, and finally the Regional Jail Authority, inmates in South Central were notified on 9/17 that the no-book policy would soon be reversed.
David Bagdadi has been in South Central Regional Jail Since August 21st, when he locked down to a barrel containing slurry on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion on the WV Capitol complex.
Nearly three weeks later, David is still waiting in jail to make a plea deal. He was told that he will not be able to make a plea for 3-7 weeks from now. While he was scheduled two hearings for bail reduction, he was not informed of these or allowed to attend them. His request to be released on his own recognizance was denied. but his bail was reduced yesterday to $1,500.
As usual, at David’s request, we sent books in for him and his podmates to read. One day, however, David got a notice that no one in the jail would be able to receive any books sent to them after today, September 9th. The previous policy was that inmates could receive books ordered for them as long as they were shipped from the publisher, not from an individual.
We believe that this policy is disturbing and unjustified. There are few productive or edifying things to do when you’re locked in jail, but reading good books is one of the best things that inmates can do to redeem that time. Inmates use them to educate themselves and build skills they’ll use when they get out. While there is a jail library, it’s unfortunately comprised of poorly written romance and fantasy novels. The collection is sparse, and it’s hard for inmates to get their hands on something that they actually want to read.
We’re looking into the details of the jail system’s book policy right now and trying to see if there is anything we can do. If you think that access to good reading material should be a right for inmates, email firstname.lastname@example.org to help out.
Join us in West Virginia for a weekend of workshops and trainings about mountain top removal coal mining. Following the weekend there will be intensive sessions, including direct action and community service projects, for people who are interested in spending more time working in the Appalachian region.
Sitting on a slurry impoundment is terrifying. We wore Tyvec suits, respirators, and rubber gloves to protect us from the 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry which, according to the Sludge Safety project, can cause “intestinal lesions, neuropathy, kidney and liver failure, cancer, high blood pressure, brittle bones, miscarriages and birth defects.”
Today, as we confronted Alpha directly about the toxicity of coal slurry and the vulnerabilities of impoundments that sit above communities in West Virginia, our friends in Charleston delivered the message to Governor Tomblin personally. Alpha, formerly Massey Energy, has a long history of neglect and abuse of Appalachian communities. When the coal industry dies and Alpha leaves West Virginia, all of their slurry impoundments will stay, leaching into ground water and threatening communities below the dams.
I was scared on the impoundment, but I am more terrified of the coal industry’s continued disregard for human life and land. After taking all of the coal, Alpha will abandon Appalachia in order to find other resources and communities to extract.
Today we call on Governor Tomblin to place community health over his own desire for profits and limit the use of slurry impoundments, reclaim old impoundments adequately, ensure that dams are stable, and improve the regulation process.
My name is Heather Doyle, and today, with a good friend, I am paddling out onto the massive Shumate coal slurry impoundment beneath the Edwight coal mine, above the Coal River valley. We aim to bring awareness to folks in Charleston and beyond about the dirty and poisonous reality of modern coal production that is ravaging the state of West Virginia. I am interfering with business as usual and breaking the law because mountaintop removal coal mining and the coal-mining industry continue to wreak permanent damage and unrelenting suffering on the land and communities of Appalachia. I only know how to respond to this insanity with my small and powerful act of direct defiance.
It is hard for me to imagine the hubris and disregard for life that justifies filling an entire mountain valley with toxic coal slurry, held back by a man-made earthen dam, that may one day break and cause total destruction of people’s lives and homes, and further chaos and disruption even farther downstream. Even without a catastrophic failure, slurry impoundments including the one my friend and I are floating on today concentrate countless heavy metals into areas previously teeming with the diverse life of the Appalachian ecosystem, creating a vast dead zone. These slurry ponds will continue to leak and leach mining runoff and treatment chemicals into the groundwater and streams of the surrounding valleys, irreparably damaging the landscape and the health of communities below. The specter of unsafe coal extraction, irresponsible corporate decisions, and complicit authorities will hang over the people living here for as long as any of us can imagine, and beyond. When the profits of coal extraction are gone, and the coal behemoths have left this state, it is the people of West Virginia who will be left with a destroyed mountain legacy. No ecosystem or valley community can ever reverse the damaging effects of mountaintop removal mining and the associated massive slurry impoundments.
I’m participating in this action in solidarity with the Appalachian people who live every day slowly being poisoned by their own drinking water. These folks are sentenced to the threat of a lifetime of serious and often fatal health problems, the vitality of the land they belong to stolen from them by greedy and violent corporations. Profit is valued exponentially over these people’s lives. Will the folks in power in Charleston stand aside while the people in the hollers suffer so companies can get rich and run?
I do not live in the coalfields of West Virginia, and appreciate that there is much I cannot understand about life in these achingly beautiful hills. But I do know that the communities of central Appalachia are being held hostage by soulless coal companies, ineffective state agencies, and corrupt lawmakers. I have the health and resources to take the risks involved in this action and possible jail time. The struggles I encounter every day as a city-dweller are very different in many ways than those of folks in West Virginia, but today I stand in solidarity with the people determinedly laboring for freedom from extractive industry and ethically bankrupt leaders. I am honored to take on this role in what is a long struggle being fought throughout Appalachia for freedom from corporate control, for mountain culture, for clear streams, high ridges and deep valleys to call home. It is without a doubt a hard struggle, but today I make a choice to act, bolstered by great admiration for the people in Appalachia who have shown me that we have this day to affirm each other and our belonging to this world, to act through love to make this new world possible. For the mountains, for us all, together.