For the mountains, for the people, FOREVER, Ducky
I’d like to start this piece off by extending a huge and heartfelt thank you to the RAMPS organizers and everybody who has shown me support over the past week. It’s been a hell of an experience. I wouldn’t be able to take part in actions like the barge occupation without these support networks. I’d especially like to thank the people who were present at my status hearing and sentencing, and Ricki and Fern for visiting me in jail. I am proudly walking free, having been released at approximately 4:20pm on Monday afternoon. It’s good to be able to walk through the woods, sleep under the stars, and enjoy the finer things in life.
Although I was only in custody for just over 96 hours, I could feel the weight of oppression and repression the whole time. My heart goes out to all who are subjected to this punitive system, especially those who are jailed with no preparation or against their will. Punitive justice does not set people on a path of restoration, it simply encourages further repression and serves to uphold the systems of power that are already in place. My time in prison emphasized this to me as I watched “perpetrators” of victimless crimes become victims themselves…victims of a corrupt medical system that prescribes opiates to coal miners and encourages addiction for pharmaceutical profit, victims of a government that would rather watch these people languish in jail over actually rehabilitating them and putting them on a path to true recovery. I recognize the privilege that I had in jail, not just as a white, straight, male-bodied and -identified person, but in having such an amazing jail support network backing me up. Many of the people in my pod were not prepared to spend time in jail and were forced to make choices that deeply affected their personal lives because of these extenuating circumstances.
The days that I spent in jail also reminded me of why I am a part of this fight. The prosecutor urged my magistrate to impose a sentence that would send a message to myself and my comrades. He believes that we “come to the great state of West Virginia with the sole purpose of breaking [their] laws.” This is false. More than that, I feel that my job working with RAMPS is to work with community members who invite us to come here, and to support those whose land and health they pledge to defend. My sentencing and time served strengthened my resolve to continue working on the issue of mountaintop removal coal mining. The attempt to silence my voice, and the voices of others who speak out against the blatant destruction of the mountains, streams, communities, and local economies, showed me that the industry and government are scared. This is the first time that Kanawha County has put an activist in jail under a plea bargain in the history of RAMPS. Their backs are against the wall, they know that the coal industry is on its way out, and they’re afraid of the future we want to create for ourselves.