On the MJS Action

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
posted by fern

Hey everybody,

It’s been an action-packed summer, coast-to-coast, nobody can deny that! From a RAMPS action that shut down a coal export facility and stopped 9 haul trucks on Kayford Mountain back in May, to the first successful blockades of a hydraulic fracturing site in Pennsylvania and a facility in New York, to the Mountain Mobilization that shut down the Hobet 45 mine (largest MTR site in America!!!) for a day, to an awe-inspiring week of actions against coal exports in Montana, to the numerous actions that are popping up in Texas and Oklahoma against the Keystone XL pipeline, nobody can say that the environmental movement hasn’t been busy! And you better believe that we’re not through yet!

It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with RAMPS throughout this summer, beginning with that first action coming out of Mountain Justice Summer Camp back in May. While many of the actions I just mentioned have already seen legal outcomes, those of us who were arrested on the coal barge in Chelyan, WV are just now facing our status hearing this week. To say that I’m not worried would be a lie. However, I’ve found constant comfort in the knowledge that I took part in this action for good reason. Everywhere I look I see problems with the coal industry. Whether it’s the overt destruction of a natural landmark that should be revered or the blatant disregard for the health and safety of industry employees and community members, I see one clear message: the coal machine is one that MUST be stopped.

In May (which seems so long ago at this point), I decided to take part in this action against coal exports because I knew that I needed to take a stand against the valuation of wealth over health. I decided to lock myself to a coal barge because I know that the coal being taken from West Virginian mountains often doesn’t get used in West Virginia. The coal being loaded into the barges that we occupied gets shipped down the Kanawha River, onto the Ohio and the Mississippi, and beyond. Louisiana, where I call my home, uses MTR coal in their state energy portfolio, and West Virginia, where I’ve developed strong roots this summer, does not see the benefits from their toils. Instead, they get cancer.

Yet industry has government in their pocket. We saw this fully during the Mobilization, when law enforcement forced peaceful protestors to walk 4 hours through a gauntlet of harassment from Friends of Coal and other pro-coal fanatics, and when another protestor was beaten while in police custody and then denied medical care. We’ve seen it over and over again as EPA standards are repealed and mining permits are pushed through regardless of safety regulations. We see it every time Big Coal makes a political donation, every time state and national legislators urge for more mining in the national energy program.

I know that I face a massive system of oppression and repression in the coming days, a system that works to preserve the status quo and ensure that money and power stay right where they are. However, I take solace in the fact that my actions were true, right, and just. Whatever “judgement” may be handed down to me will not stop me from playing my part in this struggle. I know that many who have come before me have been dealt harsher punishments than whatever I may receive, and certainly there will be more such situations in the years to come. I know that I am but one person, but I hope that my actions stand as a clarion call for others to join the struggle.

Those of us who were arrested during the barge action in Chelyan have our court dates on Thursday 8/30/12 and Friday 8/31/12. All five of us are facing misdemeanor trespassing charges, and three (Fern, Rebecca, and myself) are also facing misdemeanor obstruction charges. Speaking for myself, I would love to have people come out and show support for us physically on the day of our appearances.

For the mountains, for the people.

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