Four protesters blocking the road to Massey Energy’s Regional Headquarters in Boone County and a journalist covering the event were
arrested this morning. The protesters are charged with trespass, conspiracy, destruction of property, disobeying a lawful order and resisting arrest. Roland Micklem, 81, James McGuinness, 53, Joseph Hamsher, 22, and Fred Williamson, 75, comprised the human roadblock. The journalist, Gianni Lapis, is charged with trespass, failure to obey a lawful command, and conspiracy.
“All four have pledged to not participate in property destruction—these are likely just trumped up charges,” Charles Suggs of Climate Ground Zero said.
The four men used plastic pipes and chain to lock themselves together and to a guardrail and light post, shutting down the road to the headquarters for early morning traffic. State troopers and Boone County Sheriffs were on the scene soon after the lockdown and bolt cutters arrived shortly thereafter. Police cut the chains binding the men to the guardrail and light post and dragged them to the side of the road by the pipes that still locked their arms together.
Eyewitness Ivan Stiefel also reported that two of the three drivers-by who stopped to ask questions were supportive of the protesters. “One fellow was a deep miner passing through on his way to Charleston and broke down on the road,” Stiefel said. “He went to the cops to ask to use their phone to call a cab and was told to leave or he’d be arrested for trespassing. So he walked over to us and asked if it was a strike.
“I said it was a protest against Massey and mountaintop removal. He said he was a deep miner and hoped we didn’t hold that against him, but he didn’t like mountaintop removal. We said it was mountaintop removal and Massey’s horrible business practices we were protesting. Then we talked a while and called him a cab.”
Stiefel and other bystanders were asked to leave before the team was taken from the scene.
“I am exercising a spiritual obligation as a steward of Creation. It was not God’s intent that these mountains be destroyed to enhance the wealth of a few individuals,” said Micklem. “This should not be solely a young person’s campaign. Now that they have provided the example and inspiration, we seniors need to make a statement with our own actions and share the risks that are part of this ongoing effort to stop the obliteration of West Virginia’s mountains.”
Micklem is organizing a 25-mile senior citizen’s march set to begin in Charleston on Oct. 5. All four protesters are being held on $5,000 bail each, while the journalist is held on $3,000.
Original press release from the morning of 9/9
JULIAN, W.Va. Four concerned citizens are locked arm-to-arm across the road to Massey Energy’s regional headquarters off of Corridor-G in Boone County, W.Va. The four men, ranging in age from 22 to 81 years, are halting all traffic coming into the corporate office in an act of protest against Massey Energy and their use of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining.
The signs read “Stop MTR,” “Stop Blowing up America,” “Protect God’s Creation,” and “People Over Profit.” The protesters insist that Massey pay damages and health care costs to people who live within a one-mile radius of Massey MTR sites, that the federal government ban MTR immediately, and that a full investigation is conducted into Massey’s business, labor, and environmental practices.
“I am exercising a spiritual obligation as a steward of Creation. It was not God’s intent that these mountains be destroyed to enhance the wealth of a few individuals,” said Roland Micklem, 81. “This should not be solely a young person’s campaign. Now that they have provided the example and inspiration, we seniors need to make a statement with our own actions and share the risks that are part of this ongoing effort to stop the obliteration of West Virginia’s mountains.”
Alongside Micklem are James McGuinness, 53, Joseph Hamsher, 22, and Fred Williamson, 75.
This protest follows on the heels of the week-long tree occupation that stopped blasting above Pettry Bottom for a week and the Massey-sponsored Friends of America event, at which Massey Energy Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, conservative celebrities Ted Nugent, Sean Hannity and others, painted climate change as conspiracy, pointed the finger at “environmental extremists,” and called for a new conservative extremist movement.
“There were many true ‘friends of America’ at their Labor Day rally, but not a single one could be found on stage,” said Andrew Munn of Climate Ground Zero. “‘Friends of America’ are people who strive to make our land and lives better through their work, including those who commit acts of non-violent civil disobedience for the common good. Don Blankenship and men of his ilk are the fiends of America who profit from the violation of our rights of organized labor, clean air, clean water, health and the pursuit of happiness. Mountaintop removal and Massey Energy violate all of those rights, and we intend to take them back,” Munn said.
Massey Energy has paid the largest fines for environmental and worker safety violations of any coal company in the United States. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency fined Massey $20 million for 4,500 violations of the Clean Water Act. In the same year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined Massey $2.5 million for the death of two workers and 1,300 safety violations in two of their underground mines. In the first quarter of 2009, Massey revenue increased 25 percent. Yet, Blankenship announced an average six percent cut in worker’s wages and benefits to investors in the same quarter.
Micklem, a military veteran, is organizing a 25-mile senior citizen’s march against mountaintop removal for early October.
For more information on the march call Climate Ground Zero at 304-854-7372.
Pictures and updates available at www.climategroundzero.org