Tree Sit Legal

"For Judy Bonds" and "Stop Strip Mining"
“For Judy Bonds” and “Stop Strip Mining”

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Marfork Coal Inc, a subsidiary of Alpha natural resources, is suing Junior, Eli, Becks and squirrel for irreparable damages. They are seeking a permanent injunction, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

“We’re such awful people! Glad the industry that kills, poisons, and destroys is able to put us in our place. They are suing us to scare us, to intimidate us, and to make sure others don’t follow in our footsteps. But we wont back down. If anything, this is going to only ignite us more” – Becks

On July 20th,Becks Kolins and Squirrel (Catherine-Ann MacDougal) took to the trees on the outskirts of the actively mined areas of the Bee Tree surface mine in an effort to halt the destructive practice of strip-mining on Coal River Mountain. Below them stood their direct support, Elias Schewel and Junior Walk.

Eli and Junior – mugshots

That day, Junior and Eli were arrested, charged with trespassing, and released from Southern Regional Jail, each held with a $1000 bail.   “Given the lack of public response and decisive action from you in regard to our request to end strip mining on Coal River Mountain, and the continued safety concerns surrounding the Brushy Fork impoundment, we see no other alternative than to take direct action.” – open letter from the tree sitters to Alpha

Becks in the tree

Becks remained in the tree for 14 days. On July 20th, they descended the tree voluntarily and were arrested, charged with trespassing, conspiracy and littering, and released on personal recognizance. Becks intends to plead not-guilty, arguing that trespassing was necessary to prevent greater harm. “I have been trespassing yes, but in effort to save a place that I feel is doomed otherwise. I have been trespassing yes, but I have poisoned no one and destroyed not one irreplaceable mountain.” Read Becks’ complete statement from that day

On August 18th, Squirrel descended her oak tree that she lived in for 30 days, was arrested, charged with trespassing and conspiracy and released on personal recognizance. Read her pre-arrest statement

squirrel in the tree

Throughout the tree sit, Alpha repeatedly claimed to the sitters and to the media that their presence was not impacting their mining operations. Yet oddly enough, immediately after the tree sit, they are claiming that this action caused them “irreparable harm.” On these grounds, they are suing for compensatory and punitive damages–in other words enough money to make up for all that irreparable harm and then enough more to really teach these kids a lesson. They are also trying to put Eli, Becks, Junior, and squirrel on an injunction that would invoke severe penalties for any one of them caught trespassing on Marfork’s property again. Alpha’s using a SLAPP suit, Stategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation: designed to bully and to quell the courage to dissent. We plan to fight this lawsuit hard, taking full advantage of another opportunity to bring public attention to Alpha’s crimes against the land and the people. If you want to help, please spread the word about this outrageous lawsuit and consider donating to the RAMPS legal fundso that we can hire a lawyer and cover court fees. Moreover, if you are an attorney or legal researcher who would like to join the defense team please email us.

Junior, Becks, Eli, and squirrel

Thank you! “I feel like it’s my duty to stop these corporations from destroying the place I come from and poisoning my people for another day” – Junior’s pre-action statement

“We are in a time and place where state agencies like the DEP are too corrupt or too incompetent to do their jobs, and federal agencies like the EPA and the OSM are too incompetent or too underfunded to do theirs. Direct action is necessary to protect the heritage, health and environment of areas threatened by strip mining.” – Eli’s pre-action statement

“I am tired of watching the powerful gain, while the working class lose. – Becks’ pre-action statement

“In other words, I do this out of passion, and I do it out of love. I do it as an act of anger and of penance. I do it out of obligation and out of freedom.” – Squirrels’ pre-action statement