by Kentaro Kumanomido, Washington University (MO), St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, Mo. – Yesterday afternoon, a crowd of local students and community members gathered in front of Peabody Energy’s world headquarters to protest the harmful effects the coal industry is having on the health of local communities.
The event was planned in recognition of National Asthma Awareness Month; however enthusiasm for the event quickly grew early Tuesday morning when news spread regarding cyber-hoax Coalcares.org. What later turned out to be the work of techno-pranksters Coal Kills Kids, Coal Cares seemed to be a shockingly-uncharacteristic public health initiative from Peabody, offering free asthma inhalers to children living within a 200 mile radius of a coal plant.
Protesters held signs displaying the alarming health effects caused by coal, singing chants including, “clean coal’s a dirty lie, clean coal’s a dirty lie.” The crowd was quickly expelled by security from the Peabody entrance plaza onto the adjacent public sidewalk, where several people then spoke about their experience with coal-induced illness. The protest broke out into a mock coughing fit that culminated with a die-in in which the bodies of ‘victims’ were then traced in chalk.
As police hostilely escorted the crowd from the sidewalk so that Peabody maintenance could wash away the outlined figures, one student cleverly quipped to an officer, “Why are you working for Peabody? They don’t even pay taxes.” Once again the coal industry proved that that coal does care…about profits.