Mountain Justice Protest Shuts Down
July 8th, 2005 on the International Day of Action Against
Climate Change, three activists with Mountain Justice, a grassroots campaign to stop Mountain Top Removal
(MTR) coal mining, locked themselves to large papier mache
mountains to block the front door to Massey Energy’s
headquarters at the corner of 4th and Main in downtown Richmond.
Long-time coalfields activist Larry Gibson and several other
supporters joined in the blockade, demanding that Massey cancel
plans to expand their MTR operations next to the Marsh Fork
Elementary School in the Coal River Valley in West Virginia,
where several students and teachers have gotten cancer as
a result of ongoing exposure to Massey’s coal preparation
plant, located 150 feet from the school.
Frankel-Streit, one of the women who locked down, stated,
“I wanted to do something in solidarity with all of
the people who are protesting the G8 who are not going to
allow leaders of the eight most powerful nations to make decisions
about their future, and with people of the coalfields who
aren’t going to allow Massey Coal to continue to destroy
their mountains and culture.”
Several hundred people rallied outside Massey’s building
following a rally and march from Monroe Park, where coalfields
residents spoke about their experiences living near a blasting
zone. Colorful flags, banners and giant puppets filled Franklin
street as the crowd chanted “Hands off our mountains!”
and other chants.
has come under fire from environmental activists, the United
Mine Workers of America and government regulators for their
repeated violations of the Clean Water Act. “Just last
week we traced another blackwater spill on the Tug Fork River
to a Massey coal preparation plant in Pike County, Kentucky,”
said Mountain Justice participant Dave Cooper, from
Lexington Kentucky. “I’m sick and tired of Massey
ruining our beautiful Kentucky mountains and streams.”
Long-time coalfields activist Larry Gibson and several
other supporters joined in the blockade.
Protestors pull large papier mache
mountains with lock boxes inside of them--to block the
front door to Massey Energy’s headquarters.
The demonstration was part of an international
day of action against the root causes of climate change,
coordinated with the protests against the G8 in Scotland,
Columbia, and around the world.
(with slide show & audio clips)
Protest targets Massey
300 demonstrators rallied against the coal company's practices
GREG EDWARDS AND PAIGE AKIN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITERS Jul 9, 2005
For a while, it appeared it might not turn out that way.
About 20 protesters lay down on Fourth Street in front of
Massey Energy Co.'s office with the intention of going to
jail. Three of them stayed for two hours on the sidewalk with
their arms bound together inside PVC piping to make it difficult
to be hauled away.
But arrests for the planned civil disobedience were avoided
when Massey sent two security guards to pick up a list of
the demonstrators' demands.
Throughout the afternoon, people speaking for the demonstrators
called on Massey officials to come to the street and talk
over some 300 protesters' grievances concerning company mining
Massey, which mines in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia,
is one of the nation's largest coal companies. It also is
arguably the most controversial in central Appalachia and
draws frequent criticism from environmentalists and from the
United Mine Workers of America union.
"Blankenship, Blankenship, Blankenship," demonstrators
chanted over and over. "Come on out, Don," they
said, inviting Massey Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship to
join them in the street.
After the Massey guards picked up the list of demands, protest
leader Larry Gibson asked the energetic crowd of mostly young
people to march back to Monroe Park, where the protest began.
Gibson lives on Cave Ford (thats Kayford!) Mountain, about
34 miles south of Charleston, W.Va. Massey, he said, has taken
the mountain near his home down 900 feet. The company is mining
around him and underneath him, leaving the place where he
and his ancestors have lived for 220 years an island, he said.
Mountain-top removal is a type of strip mining in which the
crown is removed to get at the coal bed beneath it. Sometimes
hundreds of feet are clipped off.
The mining is a violent process involving dynamite.
Gibson said that the practice sank his well three years ago
and that it has not been replaced despite his complaints to
"It's very important we bring people's attention to
what's happening," Gibson said. Protest is the only means
of communication the group has after efforts to cor- respond
with Massey failed, he said.
In a statement yesterday, Massey defended its environmental
record. The company said it supports environmental stewardship
and follows environmental regulations.
Massey said it respects the rights of people to express their
concerns but said "a great deal of misinformation"
has been spread about its coal-mining complex near an elementary
school. That operation, by its Goals Coal Co. subsidiary,
was singled out for more specific criticism yesterday.
No one got much work done at the Massey headquarters yesterday,
spokeswoman Katharine Kenney said.
Massey workers watched from office windows and occasionally
would try to talk with protesters. Some, including one man
stationed on the roof, took photos of the crowd.
A police squad equipped with riot gear at Fourth and Franklin,
four horse-mounted officers and several other officers in
the vicinity were readying to move in on the thinning crowd
when the protest was called off about 4.
The march to Massey headquarters began after a noontime rally
at Monroe Park, near the Virginia Commonwealth University
academic campus. Franklin Street was blocked off from 1 to
2 p.m. while protestors carrying banners and huge "G-8
puppets" marched to the Massey building. A few demonstrators
on bikes led the way, circling police cruisers that were trying
to direct traffic.
The march turned the corner at Fourth Street and settled
in front of the Massey building. There protestors remained,
chanting slogans, making speeches, dancing and beating drums
until departing with what they considered a victory. By that
time, the group had dwindled from 300 to about 100.
About 60 Richmond police officers spent most of the day working
the protest. They got some help from Henrico County and VCU
police. No arrests were made, and no one was injured.
Several "legal observers," working with the protesters,
kept a close eye on the crowd and police, scribbling in tiny
notebooks. "We're here to make sure the demonstrators'
rights are respected," one observer said.
Staff writer Greg Edwards can be reached at (804) 649-6390
or email@example.com Staff writer Paige Akin can
be reached at (804) 649-6671 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Anti-coal protesters take fight to Richmond
Mountain Justice has sustained its campaign
against mountaintop removal mining since May.
By Tim Thornton
The Roanoke Times
Saturday, July 9, 2005
- Larry Gibson isn't a big man. He stands no more than 5-foot-5.
The two hulking men in black suits who met Gibson at Massey
Energy's door were easily big enough to fill the doorway and
keep Gibson on the sidewalk.
The men accepted a list of demands from the protesters who
filled Fourth Street on Friday, but it was clear that no one
inside the Massey building was coming out and none of the
protesters was going in. More than 250 protesters marched
from Monroe Park to the energy company's office Friday afternoon,
part of Mountain Justice's campaign against mountaintop
and other mining practices the group says damage the environment,
put people living near the coal operations in danger and ultimately
contribute to global warming.
Gibson has been fighting Massey for nearly two decades. His
family farm near Dawes, W.Va., is surrounded by strip mines.
But much of Friday's protest centered on a Massey operation
near Sundial, W.Va.
There the company runs a strip mining operation near Marsh
Fork Elementary School. A coal loading silo stands within
200 feet of the school. The state recently approved a second
While protesters say these cause health problems among students
and teachers, they are particularly concerned about a dam
that holds more than 2 billion gallons of coal sludge less
than 400 yards from the school.
"Anything built by man is prone to failure," said
Julia Bonds, grandmother of a former Marsh Fork Elementary
student. "I think they're rolling the dice with people's
lives, is what I think."
Massey officials declined the protesters' chanted invitation
to come out on the street and talk. But the company did release
a statement before the rally began.
"Massey Energy Company believes that there has been
a great deal of misinformation disseminated with respect to
current and proposed activities at its Goals preparation plant
in West Virginia," the release said. "The Goals
impoundment has been inspected by both federal and state regulatory
The site is run much like any other in the industry, according
to the release.
The release also said the company conducts its operations
in accordance with legal requirements and is committed "to
the preservation of our land, air and water." Massey's
statement also said the company respects people's rights to
The march began with a rally in Monroe Park. The public address
system was powered by Erin McKelvy's Mercedes station wagon.
McKelvy, from Blacksburg, runs her car on vegetable oil -
used grease she gets from local restaurants.
The crowd included coalfield residents, environmentalists,
anarchists and Allen Johnson, who spoke for a recently formed
group called Christians for the Mountains.
Johnson, from Frost, W.Va., quoted Genesis and Psalm 24 to
tell the crowd that the earth is the Lord's and it is mankind's
duty to protect God's creation.
"We believe the Scriptures, the theology, is clear,"
Bicycles led the group from Monroe Park. They were followed
by bearers of banners, a flag brigade and a band consisting
mostly of drums and plastic buckets accompanied by whistles,
a harmonica and a kazoo. An accordion was played with the
group in the park but didn't make the march.
The protesters marched past the exclusive Commonwealth Club
and the venerable Jefferson Hotel, chanting and handing out
fliers explaining what they were marching against.
Jim Lytle stepped out of his office to have a cup of tea
and to see what all the fuss was about. The protest didn't
"I think it's one of the avenues that have to be pursued,"
he said. "I mean, it's entertaining at least."
Tom Priano waited in his black Jaguar convertible as the
"Any demonstration is good," he said.
This demonstration stretched long past its allotted time.
Protesters drummed, danced, chanted and used a bullhorn to
carry their message to the Massey employees at the open windows
above the street. Some of the people in those windows photographed
the crowd as did a videographer on the building's roof. Some
protesters pointed cameras back at the people taking pictures
Almost three hours after leaving Monroe Park, the crowd began
its march back. There were no arrests, no violence and no
meeting between protesters and Massey officials.
McKelvy, principal organizer of the Virginia portion of Mountain Justice, considered that a success.
The march ended back in Monroe Park, near the base of a statue
dedicated to Joseph Bryan. The inscription on the base reads,
"The character of the citizen is the strength of the
Posted on Sat, Jul. 09, 2005
Coal protesters march at Massey
200 CALL FOR CHANGE IN MINING TECHNIQUES
By Dionne Walker
RICHMOND, Va. - Hoisting bed sheet flags and paper puppets,
about 200 protesters marched to Massey Energy Co.'s headquarters
yesterday, calling for a change in how coal is mined.
Led by the Mountain Justice campaign, it marked the
latest showdown between the nation's fourth-largest coal mining
company and environmentalists.
Mountain Justice is described by its participants
as a non-violent campaign that calls for
the abolition of mountaintop removal mining in Kentucky, Tennessee,
Virginia and West Virginia.
On June 17, about 175 Mountain Justice protesters
staged a rally and march in downtown
Lexington. About 10 Kentuckians had been expected to take
part in the protest yesterday in Richmond, said Stephanie
Blessing, a Mountain Justice participant from Lexington.
At the heart of the conflict is mountaintop-removal mining.
The process involves blasting rock and dirt from mountaintops
to expose seams of coal underneath. The leftover dirt is then
deposited in nearby valleys.
About 75 percent of Massey's coal mines are in West Virginia,
said Katharine Kenny, vice president of investor relations.
She estimated that 67 percent of U.S. coal is produced through
surface mining methods, which she said are cleaner and safer
But environmentalists blame the techniques for the destruction
of more than 1,000 miles of stream beds in West Virginia alone,
and they say that noxious fumes from a coal operation are
blackening the lungs of children at Marsh Fork Elementary
in Sundial, W.Va.
"My grandson went to that school," said Julia Bonds
of Coal River, W.Va., after giving a fiery speech against
Massey. "I don't want to see babies poisoned."
Others remembered Jeremy Kyle Davidson, a toddler killed
last August when a boulder crashed through his bedroom wall
in Wise County, Va. The boulder broke free during nighttime
construction of a strip mine access road; Massey Energy was
Jeff Winder, father of three from Nelson County, Va., was
touched by the tragedy. He helped organize the protest and
sang a song in honor of the boy.
"When I imagined a 600-pound boulder crashing through
his bedroom as he slept, I had to do something," he said.
Starting near Virginia Commonwealth University, the protesters
clanked, whistled and hooted down Franklin Street. Others
fanned out along the sidewalks, distributing fliers on mountaintop
removal to onlookers.
"I don't know how I feel one way or another," said
Alice Tousignant as she scanned one of the fliers. "I'll
definitely read up on it."
Herald-Leader staff writer Art Jester contributed to
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