BRISTOL, VA. and KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Two protests in two states targeted different parts of coal strip mining today. Five Mountain Justice and RAMPS activists, including West Virginian Junior Walk and Kentuckian Emily
Gillespie, shut down the entrance to Alpha Natural Resources’
headquarters this morning with a 250-gallon water buffalo, full of dirty
water and converted to a lockbox, as well as a concrete-filled
55-gallon drum. Another three activists with Mountain Justice and Hands Off Appalachia,
including Knoxvillian Ricki Draper and Kentuckian Lou Lepping, locked
themselves to a giant paper maché puppet of a fat cat banker in front of
UBS’ Knoxville office.
“Alpha-Massey has been getting away with poisoning my community’s water and gambling
our lives for profit with their unsafe Brushy Fork sludge impoundment,
so we’re bringing the dirty water to them,” Walk said, “Alpha-Massey has
locked Appalachia to dirty water, backed by the state government of
“Mountaintop removal coal mining requires intensive injections of capital
investment. That capital comes at the cost of the people of Appalachia.
I’ve engaged in this non-violent act of protest against UBS’ funding of
mountaintop removal to exhibit our dedication to ending their funding
and support of an industry that is devastating Appalachia and killing
it’s residents.” — Ricki Draper, Hands Off Appalachia! And Knoxville
The Alpha blockade closed the only entrance to Alpha’s office, which police
cleared by almost 10 a.m. All of the Alpha Five were charged with
blocking a roadway and obstruction of justice.
The UBS action took place in downtown Knoxville during the lunch hours, at
the entrance of the 1st Tennessee Building on Gay Street. Police and
first responders eventually cut the chains and utilized “Jaws of Life”
equipment to dismantle the protest. All three were charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest and were released by late Friday afternoon on $500.
“These protests will continue to escalate until Appalachian communities are no
longer made to sacrifice their health and identities to provide toxic
coal to America and its importers, and until banks stop funding these
exploitative practices,” said Gillespie.
Jocelyn Sawyer, one of the people who blockaded the Alpha HQ, was released this
Friday afternoon on $5,000 bail while Gillespie, Andy and Walk were
released on personal recognizance. Baghdadi remains in jail on $5,000
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- Click here to donate to Hands Off Appalachia! Support Fund