by Vanessa Haugh, Online Organizing Fellow, Energy Action Coalition
Last week at Mountain Mobilization, Dustin Steele spoke to other activists about learning the ability to resist, the situation in Appalachia, and the connectedness of movements against the fossil fuel industry. On Saturday, Dustin and 19 activists were arrested after occupying and shutting down the largest surface mine in West Virginia, Patriot Coal's Hobet 45 Mine in Lincoln county. Dustin has been released as of early afternoon on Wednesday, but 19 other activists still remain in jail. Ten of them locked down a rock truck, and several of them went limp while being arrested. The activists have been charged with misdemeanors. Until they get a bail reduction hearing, the bail is $25,000 per person-- half a million combined. Help the activists get out of jail by donating $20 to the legal fund and pass on the link!
During Saturday's action, several people faced violence from police officers. Arrestees reported from jail that they had heard Dustin being beaten, and saw blood on the floor. Sign this petition to Senators Manchin and Rockefeller to investigate Dustin's abuse. This unexpected police violence, as RAMPS has expressed, is partly out of fear of a growing, united resistance movement against extractive industries and their allies in government. The hostility from police indicate that this action was effective in sending a message that coal companies can't continue to exploit Appalachia.
The permit for the Hobet 45 Mine was approved by the Obama administration EPA and Army Corp of Engineers. In 2011, the mine produced 22 million tons of coal in Appalachia. Patriot coal has filed for bankruptcy, which would allow them to drop the costs of union contracts and pensions that thousands who have put their bodies on the line will depend on throughout old age.
In an interview, Mathew Louis-Rosenberg, an organizer with RAMPS said,
"My hope is that we have the fortitude both within our own organizing crew here and in the broader movement to continue to push for large public actions and for building sustained resistance. I think we all agree that where direct action needs to go in this movement is toward longer and more disruptive actions — obviously, keeping within our strict code of nonviolence...But within that context we need to find ways to continue to push the envelope and have more sustained disruption. In a perfect world, we would have the people to pull off Tim DeChristopher’s vision of sending 30 people into a mountaintop removal site every day. Clearly we have not reached that scale in the movement yet. But that’s a dream to shoot for. And we felt that this action was the first step along that path. I hope we can find ways to continue toward that vision as safely and effectively as possible." [Read the rest of the interview.]
Mountain Mobilization has been the largest action against mountaintop removal yet. It was a bold move toward that vision of sustained resistance. Thank you to the activists and the organizers. Now, let's help the activists get out of jail!