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Environmental Mobilization and the Summer of Solidarity
this is the summer of "solidarity & mobilization," where convergences on emergency action in an attempt to restore environmental sanity to a crazy, overheated, world are taking place. this past weekend was chock full of extraction awareness trainings and action campaigns, from the tar sands blockade training in east texas, to the "stop the frack attack" teach-in and rally in dc, and the ramps "mountain justice mobilization" in west virginia. all in all, thousands of concerned citizens and environmental activists gathered for these events.
the "stop the frack attack" campaign drew thousands of concerned citizens who descended upon the capital from across the nation and the world, to protest the use of hydraulic fracturing as a method to extract natural gas and oil from shale beds and abandoned coal mines. this method includes drilling through the earth's crust, smashing up rocks in a dormant well site and capturing the vapors. it has been known to make water so toxic it can literally be set on fire while streaming out of the taps. it is also believed that it destabilizes bed rock to the degree that it creates small earth quakes in areas where fracking is practiced.
the texas keystone convergence drew in activists from across the state and nation for an educational and networking event to train participants in the peaceful keystone xl pipeline interventions that are being organized for later this summer in the southern gulf coast. tar sands extraction is big in canada and is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in canada. its effects are so toxic that migrating birds landing on lake sized waste ponds affiliated with these sites are as good as dead. the path has been cleared for the toxic laden tar sands oil to be pumped through a stretch of 2,000 miles of pipe that will be laid through six states, from montana to texas where it will be refined, further poisoning the air there.
and last but not least, the mountain mobilization sponsored by ramps, successfully shut down the largest mountain top removal site in the state of west virginia for about 3 hours. while this was not the largest gathering of the weekend, ramps and the people who attended the mobilization, proved what a few dedicated citizens can do when they work collectively toward an end goal.
mountain top removal of coal is an insidious process whereby the coal companies "kill a mountain" to reap its coal. it's less costly than other forms of coal mining and patriot coal, owner of hobet mine #45, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 9th of this year. kill the mountain, kill the environment, take the money and run. while coal production rates have fallen by 50% over the last 6 years in the united states, mountain top removal is a tactical means for coal companies to wreak havoc economically and environmentally, while maximizing their profits.
the mountains in west virginia are some of the oldest in the world and the new river is the second oldest river on the globe. in mountain top removal, a mountain top is literally dynamited layer by layer, to reveal the coal seams, which are then harvested by miners operating heavy equipment. the coal is then trucked off site for energy production. the explosions of mountain top removal devastates the surrounding environment, with fly rock, toxins and heavy metals, which are released into the air during blasting. the blasting process also buries surrounding streams beneath rubble, and damages foundations of properties close to the sites. slurry ponds are created to contain the toxic waste and the blasting refuse from the decimated mountain is kept to fill in the scarred mountains which are reseeded, replanted and restocked with wildlife, about 6% of environmental devastation caused by mining is tended to the point of "restoration" or reclamation. a mountain devastated in this manner, never recovers it's original and elegant state of forested beauty, at least not in our life time, nor the life time of our children's children.
the successful action in west virginia this weekend was pulled off by teams of activists and concerned citizens working in tandem to allow for the hobet mine site to be shut down. while a group of about 50 activists mobilized toward the mountain top removal site, another group headed to a diversion training and rally being held in the kanawah state forest. by 9:30 in the morning, about 30 activists were prepping the area for the much publicized event. meanwhile, coal supporters or counter protestors were rallying at 9:30 in the morning in a local church parking lot, pulling out in time to arrive en masse at the state park to confront the environmentalists. while the numbers of mountaineers seemed low indeed, heated crowds of coal, miners, and their wives marched into the state park, where they were met by state troopers who escorted their arrival with seven cruisers, in solidarity with their efforts to heckle the defenders of the mountains.
the vociferous crowd came in with blare horns, and signs to confront the activists with their numbers swelling from an initial 20, to close to 150, as they gathered behind a line of 14 police officers stretched across the thuroghfare. the counter protestors yelled invectives, and displayed signs taunting the activists, the activists attempted to engage in a non-confrontational discussion with the crowd. as the publicized appointed time for activation toward the mine site approached, the counter-protestors were slowly filtering away. apparently, news had reached them through the grapevine, that the hobet mine had been shut down. apparently, all mining sites had been on high alert for the much publicized ramps mountain mobilization action that was to take place somewhere in west virginia on july 28th. perhaps hobet (like many of the banks) felt that they were "too big" to be compromised by a wily group of folks who wanted to confront the mining industry, to defend the environmental heritage of west virginia's mountains, as well as the long term lively hood of the miners.
in a conversation with a personal acquaintance and west virginian miner, who wishes to have his name with held, i was informed that "the mines are scared -real scared. every one of 'em have hired extra security in anticipation that they might be invaded and shut down by the activists this weekend."
meanwhile a group of 50 activists had walked onto hobet with very little resistance or security at the mine. a group of ten locked down to various equipment on the site, some to a rock truck, dropping banners saying "coal leaves cancer stays" and "restore our mountains re-employ our miners" another climbed a tree and was threatened by mine workers with chainsaws. protestors performing support and soft blocks left the area when police arrived and threatened them with arrest. in all 20 activists were arrested at the site. two west virginian natives were amongst that number, and they have been abused and beaten while in custody of the police. all activists know they are facing the possibility of arrest when they undertake actions, however these protestors are facing the test of surety bail. that is, for charges of trespass and obstruction, they must produce $25,000 in cash money or $25,000 in west virginia property, in order to secure release jail.
this is an egregiously steep bail and the conditions assure that those who have not yet been released will remain in custody for some time. it is believed that the call for surety bonds is due to the severe beating and abuse of the two west virginians in custody at the jail. the tactic is such that if bond can not be met, those who have been beaten and abused will sit long enough that their injuries will be concealed by time.
if you love mountains and the wilderness, but are unable to fight valiantly in direct action against the abuse of the environment as these activists have, you can step up to the bat now, by contributing to the ramps legal fund. any amount that you can donate will be greatly appreciated as ramps would like to secure the release of the arrestees as soon as possible. precedence has gone toward the release of the two west virginians who have been subject to heavy handed abuse by the police while in custody, and i am happy to say dustin steele's (the west virginian native who was most severely beaten) release has just been secured. 19 activists still remain housed in the western regional jail, in barboursville, west virginia. if you can't donate to the bail fund, please consider writing those who remain in jail.