First they laugh, Now they get ugly
The same Massey workers that undermine good paying union jobs in the coalfields were out in full force today to subvert a rally to stop mountaintop removal and bring sustainable jobs to the Coal River Valley. The protest was hosted by Coal River Mountain Watch and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and was attended by hundreds of social and environmental justice advocates from across the Appalachian region. Even a well known celebrity (Darly Hannah) and world renowned NASA scientist (Jim Hansen) came to bring attention to the massive devastation wreaked by Massey.
In an effort to silence dissent, Massey workers were dispatched in mass to heckle, insult, attack, or otherwise drown out the protesters.
But thanks to determined speakers and the state police, the voices of reason triumphed and galvanized a march from the protest site to the Massey property line. In my estimation about 500 protesters made the march. Leading the way were Hannah, Hansen, and 94 year old ex-Congressman Ken Hechler, all of whom were arrested for the cause. In total, 30 people were arrested.
The most striking feature about the protest was the visceral hate which spewed from the Massey workers and their wives and even their children Goldman award winner Judy Bonds was struck on the head by a worker who was immediately apprehended and charged with battery. One woman held a large sign that said “Hang Tree Huggers.” When 94 year old Hechler was slow making his way to the stage, Massey men chanted “they lost his wheelchair.” Speaker Vernom Haltom was drowned out by the refrain “Go Home,” even though the multi-generation West Virginian lived walking- distance away–a claim that hardly any of the “local” miners could assert. In another attempt to hush speakers, Massey supporters disconnected the public address equipment.
Luckily, I was out of hearing-distance from most of the vitriole.
The old adage about social justice movements says that first dissenters are laughed at, then repressed, and finally accepted as right. I’m not so sure. But I do know that something dramatic has changed in the movement to stop mountaintop removal. No longer are the coal cronies ignoring our pleas. Stakeholders like Don Blankenship are intimating to their employees that the future of their jobs depends on their ability to stifle the truth. More and more coal minions have come to the internet to spread company produced propaganda. More and more Massey scabs are growing restless.
Several years ago, brave community members started blowing the whistle on Massey’s crimes. The world has finally started to heed their calls.