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Seventeen Arrested Saturday; Six Remain in Jail for Opposition to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

MAY 24, 2009
CONTACT: Sludge Watch Collective 304-854-7372

Rep. Hechler: Keep Hellraising!

Seventeen Arrested Saturday; Six Remain in Jail for Opposition to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining and Coal Sludge Impoundments; $2000 Cash Bail ‘Unprecedented”

COAL RIVER VALLEY, W.Va.— Seventeen volunteers were arrested Saturday in a three-part civil disobedience action in the continuing movement to end mountaintop removal. Six are still in the Southern Regional Jail as their supporters try to raise the $2,000 cash-only bail a Raleigh County magistrate says is needed for their release.

“This is an unprecedented and extremely punitive bail situation,” Mountain Justice volunteer Ivan Stiefel said. “We can’t even use a bondsman. We need $18,000 cash, on a holiday weekend, to get everyone out of jail. We are asking everyone to go to and respond to this outrage by donating to our legal fund.”

Allies of those arrested plan to hold vigils outside the magistrate’s office until they are all released.

The civil disobedience actions were carried out by community members, Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero volunteers, and others. Former Congressman Ken Hechler, 94, was among those protesting at noon yesterday at the gate to the Massey Energy’s Marfork Coal facility, where the massive Brushy Fork coal sludge dam is built. He tried to cross onto Massey Energy property in solidarity, but the West Virginia State Police refused to arrest him. They did, however, arrest seven others who crossed onto Massey property. Four remain in the Southern Regional Jail.

In the week leading up to these actions, many of the same volunteers helped people in Mingo County clear their homes of debris from the recent floods. In one of the first actions Saturday, before dawn, eight people walked onto the Patriot Coal-owned section of the 12,000-acre-plus Kayford Mountain mountaintop removal site. After hanging a banner reading “Never Again!” on the grill of a giant dump truck, they locked themselves to guardrails and the driveshaft of the truck. State Police took the eight to the Madison County Courthouse, where they were charged with trespass and conspiracy and released for future court appearances.

“We locked down at the Kayford mountaintop removal site with mud from the Mingo County floods on our boots, and now, with the dusty remains of Kayford Mountain on our boots, we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers still jailed for their actions to oppose mountaintop removal” the Kayford Eight Mountain Justice volunteers said.

Also before dawn Saturday, two women donned hazmat suits and respirators and boated onto the 8-billion-gallon Brushy Fork toxic coal slurry lake to unfurl a 60-foot floating banner reading, “No more toxic sludge!” They were charged with trespass and littering, and both remain in the Southern Regional Jail, with $2000 cash needed for their release.

“This is absurd. How can you litter on a giant toxic waste dump?” asked volunteer Cente Rosa. “Massey Energy has a permit to blast within 100 feet of this impoundment, which sits atop a honeycomb of abandoned deep mines. That’s the criminal activity!”

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