UPDATED: Daryl Hannah, Climatologist James Hansen and 94-Year-Old Former Congressman Arrested at Coal River Protest
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Note: This blog will be updated during the day, with dispatches, video and photos being filed by Stephanie Pistello.
UPDATE: 6 pm EST. Goldman Prize Award Winner Attacked. During the rally in front of the Massey Energy coal property today, Coal River Mountain Watch co-director (and 2003 Goldman Prize Award winner) Judy Bonds was reportedly assaulted by a Massey supporter. While Bonds was engaged in a nonviolent protest, the Massey supporter lunged from the line without any provocation and roughly slapped Bonds on the head, ear and jaw. The Massey supporter also attempted an attack on another protestor, Lorelei Scarbro, a coal miner's widow and local community organizer. The Massey supporter was immedidately apprehended by the police and charged with battery, according to news reports.
For more information on Judy Bonds, go here.
The crowd included dozens of Mountain Justice participants who have been active in similar protests since 2005, including getting arrested at the same site.
UPDATE: 2:30 EST: 94-year-old Ken Hechler, the legendary West Virginia congressman and coal miner hero who has been battling mountaintop removal since 1971 was arrested in a non-violent protest with NASA's celebrated climate scientist James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, Michael Brune, the executive director of Rainforest Action Network, and Goldman Prize winner Judy Bonds. Vietnam veteran Bo Webb, and dozens of other coalfield residents were arrested by crossing onto the property of leading mountaintop removal coal mining company, Massey Energy--purposely trespassing to protest the destruction of mountains immediately above the Coal River Valley community.
In the face of recent Obama administration actions to regulate and not abolish mountaintop removal, which has wiped out 500 mountains and destroyed historic communities, the action launched a yearlong national campaign to bring mountaintop removal to an end.
"I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen," said Dr. James Hansen. "Politicians may have to advocate for halfway measures if they choose. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient. Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, should be abolished."
In an interview posted on Huffington Post last month, Hechler made a special appeal to President Barack Obama to stand by his word and end mountaintop removal.
As a massive turnout of state troopers and hundreds of protesters pour into the Coal River Valley, here is today's scene for the historic nonviolent direct action and march in West Virginia: A 2.8 billion gallon toxic coal sludge impoundment behind the earthen Shumate Dam hovers just a couple of football fields above the Marsh Fork Elementary School, while massive mountaintop removal blasts boom daily within a few feet, and where hundreds of concerned parents, families and citizens from around the country have gathered to call to an end to mountaintop removal--for the sake of the children, the coalfield communities, and the Appalachian mountains.
UPDATE: 1:30pm EST: The state police allowed the coal supporters to line up along the road and then to proceed into playing field to intermingle with activists. The coal supporters are generally being aggressive towards other rally participants and chanting slogans such as "this is our state." The state police have general allowed aggressively (shouting, physical intimidation, standing very near/sitting on vehicals/equipment) activity and only intervene when asked to (including allowing power cords to be ripped out of the wall to silence the PA system). There are around 10 local media outlets on the scene including 2 live broadcast trucks. Several old time bands played from 11 to 12. Speakers started around noon and include Rev. Jim Lewis (who coal supporters taunted and tried to shout down), retired coal miner Chuck Nelson and Appalachian Voices biologist Matt Wasson (NASA scientist James Hansen, former US Rep. Ken Hechler and Daryl Hannah will speak later.)