Archive for November, 2012

A Letter from Jail

Monday, November 26th, 2012
posted by admin

Squirrel is out of Jail and enjoying being home.   We didn’t get this letter in the mail until after we have already been hanging out with her, but here’s a letter from jail …

When I went before the magistrate to take my plea, he asked me the same question that I had watched him ask Ducky about two months before: whether anyone had pressured or threatened me to make a plea deal.

“No,” I said, “although I believe you mentioned to one of my friends a couple of months ago that you were ‘worried’ about what would happen to me if I didn’t plead guilty.”

“I don’t remember that.” he retorted.  I had spoken with a polite and casual tone, but the heavy implication of what I had said gradually sank in, and I watched him tense as it did.

“I hope you know,” he said, “that I am under no obligation to follow what’s laid out in this paper.”  He gestured toward the terms on the plea agreement – 20 days in jail, court costs, no fines – that the prosecutor, my attorney, and I had settled on.  It was true, he could sentence me any way he wanted after I had pleaded guilty.

“And I haven’t made my mind up yet.”  touché.  Now he took a turn at a pregnant statement.

It was obvious what he was getting at, that I’d better watch how I spoke to him, but what struck me was the apparent compulsion with which he moved to put me in my place.  I don’t really know anything about this man’s character, but he held a compassionate and fatherly tone for most of our interaction, calling me “baby” at one point and kindly correcting me when I signed in the wrong place.


Solidarity Against Extractive Industry is a Beautiful Thing!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
posted by admin

RAMPS  is excited to continue to be part of the growing national uprising against extraction!

This past weekend, we had the privilege and honor to be fighting against extraction from many different places.

While some of us happily stayed home in West Virginia to continue the long struggle against surface mining, others traveled around the county to show solidarity with other campaigns in their struggles.

Some folks traveled to Texas, again, to be a part of the Tar Sands Blockade.   Over 100 people rallied to help shut down two Keystone XL construction sites for the day.  The mass action resulted in 11 arrests,  including 4 people who locked themselves to KXL machinery and 3 others who climbed trees in the path of the toxic pipeline.   UPDATE 11/21 : all the brave blockaders have been bonded out of jail!

Appalachia Resist! blockades the Ginsburg Injection Well in Athens, County Ohio. November 19, 2012

Meanwhile other RAMPS folks traveled to Athens, Ohio to join up with Appalachia Resist! in their fight against frack-waste injection wells.  We had a great time sharing and learning at a weekend direct action camp,  which trained an ever-widening group of community members who want to join the resistance to injection wells and the fracking industry in Southeast Ohio.   On Monday, we were honored to be a part of a great action that blockaded a frack-waste injection well!

As well, other folks returned to support front line resistance communities on Big Mountain & Black Mesa, AZ.  RAMPS is honored to be working with Black Mesa Indigenous Support in supporting the Indigenous peoples of Black Mesa in their resistance to massive coal mining operations and to the forced relocation policies of the US Government.

And let us not forget, Squirrel continued the fight against surface mining from her cell in South Central Regional Jail.    She has received many letters of support and solidarity.  THANKS to everyone for supporting those who choose to risk arrest and are given jail time!  We look forward to picking Squirrel up from jail on Thanksgiving!

In January, we will continue in our commitment to building a national coalition against extraction as we and MORE hold our winter action camp in St. Louis – where surface mining companies Peabody, Arch, and Patriot Coal all have their headquarters.   See ya there!


Announcing Winter Action Camp!

Monday, November 19th, 2012
posted by admin

Check Out the 1st Urban Winter Action Camp!

Beginning Jan. 7, 2013, RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival) and MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment) will be hosting the Winter Action Camp in St. Louis!

Apply here today, space is limited!

This MORE-RAMPS collaboration is yet another part of the growing national uprising against economic and resource extraction.  St. Louis is corporate headquarters to five coal corporations including Peabody, Arch and Patriot, as well as industrial agri-giant Monsanto. Participants will learn new skills and use them to engage in the current campaign against these corporations through direct action and community organizing.

Patriot to phase out large-scale strip mining!

Friday, November 16th, 2012
posted by admin

In a historic move, Patriot Coal announced Nov. 15 its intention to phase out all of its large-scale strip mining in part of a deal in a selenium pollution lawsuit brought by some of our allies.  The latter put out a release today.  Particularly, Patriot has agreed to a 5 year plan to cut surface production to 3 million tons a year cap, less than half of current production.  They have agreed not to apply for any future valley fill permits or acquire any new coal property for surface mining.  And they are selling their draglines!  In exchange for these and some other restrictions, the plaintiffs have agreed to extend Patriot’s time limits for implementing court-ordered selenium treatment and not to litigate against one of Patriot’s mine unless the EPA steps in.

The most important part of all this may be a truly unprecedented statement by CEO Ben Hatfield in Federal Court.

Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.

For the first time ever, a coal industry executive has publicly admitted that large-scale surface mining has serious consequences for the communities around it and abandoning the practice would reduce that harm.  This is big.  Very big.  Perhaps just as large is another statement by CEO Hatfield.

Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long term interests.

Patriot said this is part of their long-term plan to refocus their business on deep mining metallurgical coal, as other producers are doing in Central Appalachia.  Patriot has seen the writing on the wall.   Not only are the cold hard economic realities of the coal market changing, but our movement has grown stronger, smarter, and better able to hold companies accountable for the damage they are doing to communities.  As Cindy Rank of the WV Highlands Conservancy put it, “We’ve been saying for many years that if companies had to pay the real costs of mountaintop removal, it would not be economically feasible. Hopefully, it’s now become clear that when coal companies are required to prevent illegal selenium pollution and pay the costs for cleanup themselves it’s simply doesn’t make economic sense to continue this destructive form of mining.”

Patriot has also said this settlement will help them emerge from their recent bankruptcy stronger and more able to honor their existing obligations.  RAMPS hopes that includes their obligations to UMWA retirees and stands with those miners in their fight for the benefits they deserve.

Yesterday was a big milestone for our movement, but there is still a long way to go.  The other major coal companies in Appalachia show no signs of following Patriot’s lead and it remains to be seen what effect this agreement will have on total surface-mining.  We are committed to continuing the struggle until all coal companies are forced to admit that continued large-scale strip mining isn’t in anyone’s interest anymore.  Debbie Jarrell of Coal River Mountain Watch reminds us why the fight isn’t over yet.

For a company to admit that it’s harming the community is a major step, but we can’t wait for all the companies to end mountaintop removal out of the goodness of their hearts. Citizens have pleaded with Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and others for decades to stop this abominable practice, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and government agencies have not ended the practice.  I worry for my grandchildren’s health and for the health of everyone in the community. Patriot is showing that a company doesn’t have to threaten its neighbors’ health and that mountaintop removal is unnecessary.

A copy of the settlement is here.

Squirrel Goes to Jail Again

Monday, November 5th, 2012
posted by admin


Squirrel’s letters are getting rejected.  PLEASE read the “Sending Letters & Books” section of the Jail Support page before sending mail.  If you include things like stickers, letters, etc., your letter will get rejected.  Also, please include a return address so that it gets through and so that squirrel can write you back.  Thanks so much for sending Squirrel letters!

Today in Kanawha county court, Squirrel agreed to a plea deal which resulted in her being transported to south central regional jail to serve the remaining 18 days of a 20 day sentence. That means she will get out on Thanksgiving day.

Squirrel is the last member of her affinity group to be sentenced for boarding a barge on the Kanawha River near Chelyan, with a large banner that read “Coal leaves, cancer stays,” and locking their bodies to the barge.  At the same time, dozens of concerned citizens obstructed access to the haul road on Kayford Mountain, stopping coal trucks from entering or leaving the Republic Energy mine. On May 24th, coal transport in two locations was halted to protest mountaintop removal.



The initial plea offer Squirrel received this afternoon was 10 days in jail with a year probation and an additional 80 days suspended sentence, meaning she would only serve those 80 days if she violated probation. Squirrel was not interested in serving probation, so she made a counter-offer of 20 days in jail with no probation. The prosecutor agreed and Magistrate Workman then signed off on the deal. She was given 2 days time served for the 2 days that she served in jail immediately following the action. Magistrate Workman offered for her to serve the remaining 18 days only on weekends, which Squirrel refused as she would rather serve the full sentence at one time.

Before court today, squirrel had this to say “Since I’ve been arrested three times in West Virginia, I anticipate facing some jail time. I would love letters and news while I’m in jail, but no worry. I would also love for RAMPS to receive donations to the general Fund

You can write to her:

Catherine Ann MacDougal
South Central Regional Jail
1001 Centre Way
Charleston, WV 25309-1001

For more information about Jail Support, check out our Jail Support page.
You Can Donate to the RAMPS General Fund here.

Squirrel had this to say after serving those 2 days immediately after the action … 

When my friends and I locked our bodies to a coal Barge on the Kanawha River, we found ourselves in a place of great visibility. We were immediately noticed and photographed and our story and message spread through newspapers, on twitter, and all over the internet.

That same day, we entered South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County, WV, where those held are almost invisible. I believe that jail is always inhumane–a poor way to resolve social conflict but an excellent way for those in power to repress dissenting people groups.

You can read her full post showing solidarity with prisoners of south central regional jail